Alaska History

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Brief History

The following important events in the history of Alaska affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements.

  • 1741: Discovered by Vertus Bering, a Dane working for Russia.
  • 1783: Russian fur traders established the first white settlement on Kodiak Island.
  • 1799: Sitka was permanently founded by the Russians. It served as Alaska's capital until 1906, when the capital was moved to Juneau.
  • 1804: Sitka was permanently founded by the Russians. It served as Alaska's capital until 1906, when the capital was moved to Juneau.
  • 1824-1828: In treaties with the United States and Great Britain, Russia agreed to recognize latitude 54° 40 N as Alaska's southern boundary and longitude 141° W as the eastern boundary. Further boundary adjustments between Alaska and British Columbia were made in 1903.
  • 1867: (October 18)The United States purchased Alaska from Russia.
  • 1884: Congress passed the first Organic Act, providing a governor and federal courts for Alaska. May 17, 1867 Alaska became a territory.
  • 1896: The Klondike gold strike started a rush to the Canadian Yukon Territory. Gold was discovered at Nome in 1899 and at Fairbanks in 1902.
  • 1912: Congress passed the second Organic Act, establishing Alaska as a U.S. territory and providing for a territorial legislature.
  • 1959: (January 3,) Alaska became a state.

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. Two useful guides are:

  • A Bibliography of American County Histories [1]
  • United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [2]

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the lauditory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Alaska are

An especially helpful source for studying the history of Alaska is William R. Hunt, Alaska: A Bicentennial History [3].

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available at most large libraries:

  • The Almanac of American History, [4]This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium [5] This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed [6] This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations.

To find more books and articles about Alaska's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Alaska history." Family History Library Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:


The Gold Rush

Web Sites


  1. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  2. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
  3. Alaska: A Bicentennial History (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1976; Family History Library book 979.8 H2hu).
  4. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
  5. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G&C Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
  6. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)