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Alaska Digital Resources – Week 2 – Genealogy

The preliminaries

First off, yes, I know that we’re well into Week 3 already. Er. Week 4. But that’s what “self-paced” means, right? If I finish by the end of May, it counts, and I get some sort of color certificate or something! (I didn’t sign up for the credit course, so there might not even be a certificate?) I’ll catch up quickly, I think: after all, pretty days when I can’t concentrate on “actual work” are MADE for efforts like this, right?

Second, I put genealogy off for a reason, besides general busyness. Professionally, it’s something I have no experience with, but I find it really intimidating. I’ve never had a patron ask me for help with it, though I have dreaded that eventuality for quite some time. And personally, well, I don’t want this post to get too LiveJournally, but suffice it to say, my family history is neither particularly comprehensible nor a source of pride for me. (And because I hate it when people are vague and leave me wondering what’s the story, I’ll add one clarification: there’s nothing interesting, at least that I know of. No mass murderers, no sociopathic royalty.)

But I’d really like to be able to help any patrons who come in with these questions, so off I go!

The exercises

  • First off, I started searching for my maternal grandmother, but she wasn’t born until 1933 or so and didn’t show up in any of the article searches. So I went back a generation, to her dad, Elmer. It turns out, he was a machinist (assuming I read that right – how I hate cursive and welcome its demise!) – any idea what the box next to that says, anyone? His wife, rather than “homemaker” or any other term we might use now, was just given “none” as her profession. I didn’t know she was from West Virginia, but it turns out, she was.
  • Most of the 1890 census was lost in a fire. That’s sad. As of the beginning of my process of writing this, I don’t know what local genealogical collections Anchorage has, besides what is no doubt available in the UAA Archives (protected from fire by a sprinkler system?). So I browsed around Anchorage Public Library’s site, figuring they would have a page about genealogical resources, which they do, sort of (I’m really not sure why it would be a PDF instead of a web page; it’s full of links, after all). The Alaska Room at the Loussac Library is apparently a good resource (again, protected by sprinklers, I imagine). And I didn’t think about it, but according to the Anchorage Genealogical Society, “One of the thirteen National Archive Centers (NARA) is located in Anchorage,” which would of course also house a lot of good local genealogical information. I’m not sure how that is protected from fire, probably also sprinklers. One hopes we’re digitizing all of this stuff? (Yes, yes, I know that digitization != preservation, but it also doesn’t hurt to make a copy!)
  • 1900 was Alaska’s first year in the census.
  • To get an image for printing, you click the “Download” button, or right-click on the image and choose one of the “Save” options. Then you go do clever things in Adobe. (Figuring out the technical side is not my hurdle.)

I don’t remember seeing this on the APL PDF. That’s too bad.

Anyway, I’m no expert, but I at least have a better handle on where to go if I get a genealogical question. Bonus: I can now spell “genealogy,” which I could not, before I started this lesson. ;)

Published in#adrinfoalaska


  1. rebecca

    Could the box next to ‘Machinist’ say ‘Repair shop’? I must admit, I do not welcome the demise of cursive … I’ve always been pretty good at deciphering it. I also noticed that sometimes wives were listed as homemakers (or something along those lines) — I wonder if it varied from census taker to census taker. ‘None’ is (obviously) inaccurate.

  2. Coral Coral

    “Repair shop,” yeah, that could be it!

    I imagine a lot varied from census taker to census taker, yeah.

  3. Ann

    We are really lucky to have a National Archives Center in Anchorage and if you haven’t had a chance to check it out it is worth the time. They have some onsite databases for Genealogy that aren’t available from outside the building and it is a good place to suggest to people who are doing that type of research.

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