Researchers

Researchers

Archival Database

Check out our online database. Here you can access finding aids that describe manuscripts, photographs, and recording collections that are stored in our archives as well as all of the art/ethnographic objects. Learn more about setting up a reference appointment to view any of these materials, contact our archivist at SHIArchives@sealaska.com.

Tlingit Clan Registry

Sealaska Heritage Institute established the first-ever registry of Tlingit clan crests — the most important symbols of the history and identity of Tlingit people. There are many Tlingit clans and crests, and SHI will continue to raise funds to document additional clans and crests. Furthermore, most clans have more than one crest, and the registry will also be expanded to include as many crests as can be documented.

Genealogy Research

We encourage the study of Alaska Native genealogy and clan history and receive numerous requests from people who want to learn about their ancestors and clan membership. 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. We suggest researchers also seek genealogical and clan information from family, clan leaders, and other clan members. Southeast Alaska Natives trace their clan membership through the maternal line.

How to Conduct Basic Genealogy and Family History

1. Identify what you know about your ancestors You have 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 history. Collect and compile all this information as a starting point. 2. Decide 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. 3. Select 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 will need to determine what entity keeps these records, whether library, archive, city office, or other. 4. Obtain 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.

Researching and Sources of Interest

It is 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 wi™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 here. The 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, The Thlinget, 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 here. 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 here. 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 koosteeyee aye¡, as well as books on Southeast Alaska Native history and life. Contact us to inquire about researching at our facility, and about donating genealogical resources to our library.

Sources for Additional Study on Southeast Alaska Native Genealogy

In addition to the above, there are many places where researchers can look to find genealogical information. Some of these are listed below. 1. Kim Lea's Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Genealogy This genealogy contains the most comprehensive collection of genealogical information on Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people. It has been compiled by Kim Lea and is regularly updated. Researchers can search for individuals alphabetically by surname or by keyword. This resource is only available in the reading room for in-person reference use. To see this resource, contact our archivist at SHIArchives@sealaska.com. 2. Alaska 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. 3. Family Search This is a free genealogy cite, with some indexed Alaska names. Credits: Compiled for Sealaska Heritage Institute summer 2009 by intern Whitney Schaeler.

Indigenous Intellectual Properties

Sealaska Heritage seeks to promote cross-cultural understanding, and one of the issues that arises time and again is cultural appropriation. SHI offers the following educational materials to help people understand Tlingit property laws.

Lectures

SHI sponsors lectures by students and scholars researching Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian languages, cultures, and history. Lectures are generally held in Juneau in conjunction with Native American Heritage Month in November, SHI's Visiting Scholars Program, and Celebration. They are also streamed live through SHI’s YouTube channel. The lectures at the Walter Soboleff Building are free and offered as a public service. Videos of past lectures can be viewed here. See our calendar link below for upcoming lectures.

Visiting Scholars

SHI sponsors a Visiting Scholar Program for graduate students enrolled into an accredited educational institution or professors engaged in research that advance knowledge of Tlingit, Haida or Tsimshian culture, language, arts, or history. We provide visiting scholars with logistical support, access to our library, archival collections, and ethnographic collections, and the support of our staff for the scholar's research. In some cases, we may provide an honorarium and support toward a book publication. Scholars who participate are required to adhere to traditional protocols and laws in respecting clan ownership and clan attribution. Scholars will be required to provide a gratis copy of their final research paper, dissertation, or publication, as well as provide one public lecture at Sealaska Heritage or in Southeast Alaska on their research. To inquire about being a visiting scholar, contact chuck.smythe@sealaska.com.

Publications

SHI works with researchers to develop and publish books on topics pertinent to the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian, and to the public at large. SHI also conducts its own research on topics germane to Native cultures and has published many books, including children's books. It also publishes the Box of Knowledge series, consisting of essays, reports, and books that the institute considers should be made available as a contribution to studies on Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures, history and languages.

About the Library

The Sealaska Heritage Library houses over 4,500 historical and contemporary books and periodicals on Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian culture, history, and language. These books include the works of scientists and scholars in art, history, anthropology, ethnology, archaeology, and social and natural sciences, as well as historical and descriptive accounts and observations by explorers, missionaries, travelers, and naturalists. The collection includes historical and contemporary educational publications, curriculum materials, language texts, and translations. SHI houses many rare and out-of-print books, trade books, and publications by university presses and museums. While the collection focuses on the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples of Southeast Alaska, historical and contemporary publications on other peoples of the Northwest Coast in Canada and the United States are also collected and maintained. Furthermore, the institute gathers important publications related to salient social and cultural issues facing Alaska's Natives and Native Americans in the continental United States.

About the Archives and Collections

SHI's Archives and Art/Ethnographic Collections are stored deep in a large, climate-controlled, protected room at our headquarters in Juneau. Our archives, named in honor of the late Tlingit lawyer and activist William L. Paul, Sr., houses 3,100 linear feet of historical and cultural material documenting the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian language, culture, and history. It contains historical documents, manuscripts, personal papers, and more. It includes 60,000 photographs and 5,000 audio and audiovisual recordings, most of which cannot be found in other libraries or archives. We also care for more than 900 art and ethnographic objects, both ancient and modern. In addition, SHI serves as a repository on behalf of clans and tribes for cultural objects repatriated under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) for the Native people of Southeast Alaska. Many of SHI's holdings are available to the public for educational and research purposes.

Accessing the Library

You can search our library online. SHI's books and archival collections are cataloged in OCLC WorldCat, the Capital Cities Library Information Center, and the Anchorage Consortium Library. Member libraries of the CCLIC include the Alaska State Library, the University of Alaska Southeast's Egan Library, and the three branches of the Juneau Public Libraries. The Anchorage Consortium Library catalog showcases our library's holdings to all libraries in the Anchorage area and those outside of Anchorage via the University of Alaska Anchorage/Alaska Pacific University extension campus libraries in places like Kodiak, Kenai, and Eagle River.

When you know what library books you want to access, please write down the details of the materials (library call number) and make an appointment to visit our facility by contacting archives staff at SHIArchives@sealaska.com. The reading room is open to researchers Monday through Friday from 10 am-4 pm (closed 12-1) by appointment.

Conducting Research

SHI’s collections are searchable in our online database. Our database is similar to a regular library catalog in some regards. Still, it is designed to be user-friendly for archival research by allowing you to find materials by the creator, subject, type of record, or keyword search.

For tips and tricks for using the database, this video series goes over the different elements of global searching, exploring the archives directory, and exploring the art and ethnographic directory. When you know what archival documents or museum objects you want to research, please write down the details of the materials (collection number or object ID number) and make an appointment to visit our facility by contacting archives staff at the email address listed below. Patrons unable to visit our onsite facility should contact the Archives for information about obtaining digital reproductions or photocopies. For more information, please contact our archivist at SHIArchives@sealaska.com. To request archival materials or ask a question, submit this form. The reading room is open to researchers Monday through Friday from 10 am-4 pm (closed 12-1) by appointment.
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