Alaska Immigration

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This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Alaska Family History Research series.
History of Alaska
Alaska Vital Records
Census Records for Alaska
Background Sources for Alaska
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Alaska Land Records
Alaska Probate Records
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Alaska Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Alaska Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Alaska Immigration
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Alaska had six major ports of immigration: Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Nome, and Sitka. No passenger arrival records have currently been located. The 1898 gold rush to the Yukon, along with the impending Yukon-Alaska boundary disputes, prompted the Canadian government to send two divisions of the mounted police to the Yukon. These divisions, headquartered at Dawson and Whitehorse, maintained registrations of persons and boats entering and leaving the Yukon at various ports. Many of those registered came to Alaska. These records are held at the Public Archives of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, and the Glenbow-Alberta Institute of Archives, Calgary, Alberta. These have been indexed on various databases including on the Yukon GenWeb Project.

Many people who came during the Alaska Gold Rush in 1898 were never heard from again. Often families were left behind with no knowledge of a husband’s or father’s whereabouts. One valuable source for locating missing immigrants to Alaska is the Pioneers’ Home. Many of these people lived and died in the various Alaska Pioneers’ Homes, the Sitka Home being the oldest institution. Other homes were located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, Palmer, and Sitka. The Alaska Pioneers’ Homes were state agencies and thus transferred permanent records to the state archives. Many of these records are currently on file at the state archives. A listing of the residents as well as the deaths at each home up to 1 October 1920 has been published in Joe H. Ashby, “Alaska’s Greatest Institution, The Pioneers’ Home,” Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly 13 (Winter 1981): 221–24.

One historical migration from the lower forty-eight took place in 1935. This migration, known as the Matanuska colony, was a government-sponsored relocation of 200 farming families from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to the Matanuska Valley near Anchorage. Orlando W. Miller, The Frontier in Alaska and the Matanuska Colony (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1975), provides an excellent account of this colonization experiment. The National Archives—Pacific Alaska Region has many documents relating to the Matanuska colony. A list of the colonists and their origins in the lower forty-eight can be found on the Internet website “Explore North”. has a database of Alaska Alien Arrivals, 1906-1949. This database is an index to aliens (and a few returning U.S. citizens) arriving at various Alaskan ports, between 1906 and 1949. Subscribers can search the database at Alaska Alien Arrivals, 1906-1949.