The Introduction to Alaska Digital Resources: Opening Your Info Conduit program developed by members of AkASL and the Juneau chapter of AkLA to introduce you to the statewide electronic resources available through SLED and the Digital Pipeline.

This is your chance to Explore...Discover...Play!...and Learn about the statewide information and research tools and how they can be useful to you both personally and in your library or classroom.

To get started, see the lesson list on the right of this screen.

Need an an id/password for the Digital Pipeline? Call 1-800-440-2919.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lesson 2 : Genealogy

Getting Started with Genealogy Resources

You can access several History & Genealogy Resources such as Heritage Quest Online, via the Digital Pipeline Databases, here http://sled.alaska.edu/databases/ .  This lesson will focus primarily on Heritage Quest Online.

  • Choose the History & Genealogy tab, and select Heritage Quest Online.

 Heritage Quest Online is a comprehensive treasury of American genealogical sources—rich in unique primary sources, local and family histories, and finding aids. 18th Century or 20th Century. European or Native American. Farm or Factory. East Coast or West Coast. Where does your American past begin?

The collection consists of six core data sets:

  1. U.S. Federal Censuses. 
  2. Genealogy and local history books. 
  3. Periodical Source Index (PERSI). 
  4. Revolutionary War records. 
  5. Freedman’s Bank Records. 
  6. LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set.

Those conducting family history research often seek assistance at their local libraries as they don’t now where to begin and seek the guidance of library staff or the special collections our organizations may have available.  Whether these are physical local genealogy collections or subscription databases, the assistance of a trained library professional can be useful in getting oriented to the search methods needed to track down family history records.   

In addition to Heritage Quest Online I suggest you visit your local library or library website to see what genealogy resources are available.  While most search tools draw from the same core set of census and vital records, some are more robust at making generational cross-referencing easier.   I’ll highlight a few additional web resources in this week’s reading list. 

In this week’s lesson you will conduct some searches to locate one or more of your family members (trust me once you find one, you will want to continue searching for the next generation and will have a hard time stopping until you hit a dead end).  

Once you've finished your search exercise, read the two articles from American Libraries (links should take you directly to the articles in EBSCO)and review the additional resources.  When you've finished either choose one of the exercises below or a related topic that peaked your interest during this lesson and respond on your blog.  

Discovery Exercises:

  • Using Heritage Quest Online, search for a grandparent (having an approximate birth year and place of birth will be helpful).  Begin by identifying the data set most relevant to your search. For example if you know for a fact that your Great Grandfather had an account at Freedman’s Bank you might begin your search there.  However if you know little more than birth or death dates I would suggest beginning with a Census search in order to gather some additional information such as birthplace of parents, spouse's name, state of residence, family members, occupation, etc.  On your blog post an image from one of your search results and briefly state something that you discovered about a relative that you did not know.  

  • Choose the Census tab and rather than Search, choose the Browse option.  Select 1890 for the census year and then any state from the next drop down menu.  Notice there are only 1-2 counties listed for any of the states included in the 1890 census.  If you are looking for a family member, starting with the 1890 census is not likely to produce many results.  Why?  On the left hand side of the Browse the Census page you will see a link to an article "What You should know about the 1890 Census"  which will provide insight to the shortfalls of this particular data set.  Think in terms of any local genealogy collections in your community and what methods could be or are being taken to safeguard these against disaster and respond on your blog.  
  • While you are using the Browse the Census option you might find it helpful to note the first year that Alaska was included in the federal census.  
  • Patrons conducting family history research using Heritage Quest Online will likely want to either print or save copies of the records they locate.  For library staff, printing these archival images in a scale large enough to meet the desire of a patron  can be very time consuming and in many cases not done without Adobe Acrobat Professional.  For this reason familiarize yourself with options for SAVING images as an alternative and also read through the tips for printing enlarged census pages by clicking on the Print option in a record and then reading the tips for Acrobat Versions 6-8. I've also included the links here, Acrobat 6 Acrobat 7 , Acrobat 8.  Remember that in aiding patrons with their research, your assistance can only go so far, they will need to to acquire a certain level of search skills to discover their unique family history, this is their research, not yours (unless you are working/volunteering at an organization dedicated to family history research).   
  • Deciphering the actual census images can take a great deal of work as these often aren’t the greatest reproductions and the originals were handwritten by census takers.  From the image record you can Print (will include ancestor info as well as original image), Download (PDF, TIFF or View full-size in Adobe Acrobat), view Positive (default) or Negative filters of the image or Zoom (100%, 200%, 400%).  You may also take notes on the records and add them to a notebook.  Your notebook contains the citations that you have chosen from the Results and/or Citation pages for printing, emailing, or downloading.  Please note that there does not appear to be a way to save your notebook items or your search history once your session has ended.  While researchers will be at the mercy of the handwriting of the census takers to discern added entries, even the type written forms can be difficult to read and for that reason, this is a handy guide for figuring out exactly what was recorded in each census year, http://persi.heritagequestonline.com/hqoweb/library/help/censusbook/Section%205.pdf

Additional Genealogy Resources on the Web:
This isn't required reading, just some good sites to bookmark for referencing later as you begin to assist patrons with their family history research.

“Alaska Genealogy Guide” published by the Alaska State Library and familiarize yourself with regional/local resources as well as a great bibliography of Alaska genealogy resources.  http://library.state.ak.us/pub/online/akgene.html 

Parham, R. Bruce. (1997) “How to Find Your Gold Rush Relative: Sources on the Klondike and  Alaska gold rushes, 1896-1914”. National Archives and Records Administration-Pacific Alaska RegionAnchorage, Alaska

Heritage Quest. Printing Enlarged Census Images with Adobe Reader

Cook Inlet Region Inc (CIRI) Genealogy Resources,

Sealaska Heritage Institute Genealogy Resources,  


  1. I am enjoying this course so far. My only frustration is the inability to be able to post comments on some of the other students' blogs. It seems some are set up to allow a comment if I supply my name and URL; others want an ID and then will not accept anything I try. Hopefully someone will come up with a solution to this issue!

    1. Hi Sadie, We sent out a student e-mail showing them how to change their settings. If people don't change their settings, I'd suggest leaving a comment here at the ADR Intro blog and reference the classmate's entry you're commenting on.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sadie, it sounds like Daniel is working through this with participants. Also, I'm not sure how many folks make it way down here to the comment area but it would really help the Teaching Team know which participants have finished the week's lesson if they posted a comment down here to the lesson post and included a link to their post. Just my 2cents I see quite a few have already finished and provided some great feedback. Thanks

  3. I feel as if I may be missing something - I cannot find the links to the two American Libraries articles... help!

    1. The American Libraries articles can be found on our syllabus/course readings page at http://akdigitalintro.blogspot.com/p/course-syllabus-readings.html. Apologies for not making the readings location more clear.

  4. My blog post for this lesson: http://learningtheresources.blogspot.com/2012/03/week-2-discovery-exercises-genealogy.html

  5. An update: just now I introduced somebody in Kodiak (via phone call) to the census on Heritage Quest! The call came in asking if there was a free way to access these online. Apparently she'd spent two hours on the NARA site today waiting for the first image from the 1940 census to download. Those poor people at NARA totally got whammed today with responses to the 1940 going live: last report I saw said 37 million hits since 9 am this morning (posted about 6 pm EDT).

  6. Lesson 2 completed:


  7. What an interesting lesson...I've done a lot of work on my maternal family tree, but being Alaskan Native, there is very little documentation (that is accurate, anyway) to support our family stories. I often find these types of searches to yield little information on both sides of my family, but I found a wee bit worth pursuing.


  8. I enjoyed this lesson, and found that I did all of the exercises without choosing one specific part of it. Quite a nice resource!

  9. This was my favorite