Institute seeks to encourage the study of Alaska Native genealogy and
clan history. SHI receives numerous requests from individuals who want
to learn about their ancestors and clan membership. As we are aware,
Southeast Alaska Natives trace their clan membership through the
maternal line. In
addition to seeking genealogical and clan information from family, as
well as from your clan leader or clan members, the information below is
designed to serve as a basic guide and to assist those interested in
discovering more about their ancestors and clan heritage.
How to Conduct Basic
Genealogy and Family History
Genealogy requires work, research, and patience, but given a few
preparatory guidelines an individual can often find a great deal out
about their family and clan’s history. Four general tips that apply to
those beginning to conduct genealogical research are listed directly
what you know about your ancestors
You’ve probably seen photos or heard stories about your
ancestors or concerning your clan’s history. Use this information as a
starting point. Talk to relatives, clan leaders, and people who may
recollect information about the family and clan or those who have family
records in their possession documenting your family and clan’s history.
Collect and compile all this information as a starting point.
what you want to learn
After you have learned
all you can from family and clan members, you will next need to decide
what you desire to know. Some people interested in genealogy often
desire to create pedigree charts, such as a family tree showing a family
line going back generations. This is largely a matter of collecting
names, and birth, marriage, and death dates. Others are interested in
stories about family and the lives of their ancestors, as well as clan
history. If not learned about from family members and clan leaders,
information of this nature will often be found in published works held
in libraries or in unpublished records kept at archival repositories.
which records to search
Your questions will be
answered more fully if you choose the right records to research. If you
want to know when a person passed away, search newspaper obituaries,
cemetery records, death certificates, and other similar documents to
determine this information. If you want to know about clan history visit
libraries and archives and inquire about rare publications, Alaska
Native periodicals, or audio recordings. To obtain access to these
records you’ll need to determine what entity keeps these records,
whether library, archive, city office, or other.
and search the record
Contact the research
entity that may have the records you desire to view. Examine their
website for tips on how to find the resources you need. Plan your visit
and search the records for pertinent information. Take notes and
understand that conducting genealogy and researching clan history takes
time and effort, but it can be very rewarding.
Sources for additional
introductory genealogical research
Starting Genealogy and Family History Research (National
Research Outline: Indians of the United States and Canada
Researching and Sources of Interest
important to understand the nature of the records you will be working
with and the rules governing their use at archival repositories or
libraries. Most archival repositories will not let you check out
archival materials, but in most cases photocopies of records can be
generated for a fee. Libraries and archives will generally have
resources that assist you in searching their numerous collections, such
as finding aids (descriptive inventories) for archival collections.
It is also important to know the history of the organization or state
where you’ll be researching. For example, Alaska was purchased from the
Russian Empire in 1867, it became a U.S. Territory in 1912 and a state
in 1959. Most U.S. records will not start until at least 1867.
Jurisdictional Districts in Alaska were created between 1897 and 1901,
the first territorial censuses for Alaska were taken in 1870 and 1880,
and the first federal census was taken in 1900. According to privacy
laws, census records are only available to the public 70 years after
they were taken. Thus as of 2010, available census records for Alaska
are for the years of 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940.
For researches interested in information on Alaska Native birth, death,
and marriage records, in some instances these can be found at the
Alaska State Archives, which contains official state records of
Alaska. This repository also stores historic church, school, court, and
other state records of interest to genealogists. Overall, the Alaska
State Archives has a large and impressive collection of records and it
is best to visit the archive in person to inquire about their collection
holdings. The Alaska State Archives does, however, host a website
specifically tailored to assist genealogists with research, which can be
found by clicking
Alaska State Library seeks to collect materials that document all
aspects of Alaska life, and the library is a great place for
genealogical resources. The library contains runs of all Alaska
newspapers, most in microfilm format, which can be viewed by the public.
This includes some rare Southeast Alaska Native periodicals, such as the
Voice of Brotherhood,
The Tlingit Herald,
and others. In some cases books about Alaska and certain Alaska towns
will contain information of great value to genealogy researchers. A
record of all books available in the United States can be found at
worldcat.org and if the local libraries do not own a specific book you
desire, books can often be loaned to you though a local library
(referred to as an Inter-Library Loan). The library also maintains a
webpage to assist those conducting genealogical research, which can be
viewed by clicking
The Alaska State Library’s Historical Collections Division seeks to
collect materials that document all aspects of Alaskan life, but this
department specifically stores the library’s rare books and archival
collections. They may have collections of interest about specific Alaska
Native individuals, such as in the Tlingit Indian Genealogy Notes and
Information Collection, or the AJ Mine Personnel Index which includes
the ethnicity, age, birth place, and parents or spouse of a person
working in the mine. Information about visiting the
Historical Collections Division can be found by clicking
The Sealaska Heritage Institute
seeks to collect materials that document the Tlingit, Haida, and
Tsimshian people. We have some collections on specific individuals that
may concern a family member or their role in a specific event or
organization, such as the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, as
well as records documenting the land claims struggle which are found in
our Curry-Weissbrodt Records Collection. We also have certain Southeast
Alaska Native newspaper runs, including Voice of Brotherhood,
The Thlinget, Yahkii, and
Haa koosteeyée ayá,
as well as books on Southeast Alaska Native history and life.
to inquire about researching at our facility, and about donating
genealogical resources to our library.
Sources for Additional Study on Southeast Alaska Native
In addition to the above, there are many places where
researchers can look to find genealogical information. Some of these are
Lea’s Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Genealogy
This website contains the most comprehensive collection
of genealogical information on Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people. It
has been compiled by Kenneth Lea and is regularly updated. Researchers
can search for individuals alphabetically by surname or by keyword.
Land Records: Recorder’s Office
With these records it is
possible to locate, research, and verify land ownership; users can
search by name and date.
Archives, Pacific Alaska Region Branch, Anchorage
Contains federal records
associated with Alaska.
This is a free genealogy
cite, with some indexed Alaska names.
Credits: Compiled for
Sealaska Heritage Institute summer 2009 by intern Whitney Schaeler.