Alaska Russian Orthodox Church Books (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Alaska, United States
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Location of Alaska
Record Description
Record Type Church Records
Collection years 1816-1936
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites

What is in the Collection?

The collection consists of an index to baptisms, marriages, and burials of Russian Orthodox church members living in Alaska when it was part of the Russian Empire and later, after it was sold, to the United States. The collection covers the years 1816 to 1936.

The early records of this church are the single most important source of vital records information for the state. Copies of all surviving Russian Orthodox records (in Russian) are at the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics. Learn more about Alaska Church Records Alaska Church Records.

Images of translated vital record indexes may be viewed by clicking on the first camera icon in the following catalog listing. Be sure to look at the the beginning of the images for a Table of Contents and Keys to Symbols and Abbreviations before browsing through the images. The original records written in Russian are viewable by clicking on the second and third camera icon in the catalog listing:

During World War II many records of Russian Orthodox baptisms, marriages, and deaths were sent to the Library of Congress to be translated from Russian into English and indexed. The originals are still there. Microfilm copies for 1816 to 1936 are on 25 films at the National Archives—Alaska Region, the Rasmuson Library, the Bureau of Vital Statistics, at the Library of Congress, and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Collection Content


  • Child's name
  • Birth date and place
  • Christening date
  • Names of parents
  • Birth place of parents

Death and Burial

  • Name of deceased
  • Death date
  • Burial dates and places
  • Age
  • Cause of death
  • Residence


  • Names of bride and groom
  • Residences
  • Marriage date
  • Birth date and place
  • Names of parents
  • Witnesses

In 1794 the Russian Orthodox Church established its first mission in North America on Kodiak Island in southeastern Alaska. In 1799, the Church appointed the first American Bishop. By 1808, the capital of Alaska was moved to Novoarkhangelsk (Sitka), where in 1848, the Cathedral of St. Michael was built. Original church records were written in Russian:

The keeping of metrical books was mandated by a 1722 decree of Peter the Great. A format of three parts, christenings, marriages, deaths, was established in 1724, a printed format in 1806, and in 1838 a format that prevailed until the revolution. The consistory copy was considered official record. A Russian diocese - eparkhia was coterminous with a Russian state - guberniya. The registers of each parish - prikhod in an country- uyezd were commonly filed together for a single year. Confession lists are often interfiled with parish registers. Each Orthodox Christian was to confess and partake of the sacrament at least once a year. The principal time for confession was Lent. Children of both sexes in obligatory fashion were taken to confession, beginning from their seventh year. The form of confession lists was established in 1737: the sequential number of the household, surname, given names of all children at least a year old, sex, ages, whether or not the person attended confession, and if not, why (rarely noted).

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search you will need to know:

  • The ancestor’s name
  • The approximate date of the event

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names, or variations of their name, throughout their life.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the wiki article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have found your ancestor in the records, carefully evaluate each piece of information in the record. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Use christening and birth records of christenings (baptisms) to identify a person’s birth date and place. These are an excellent substitute for civil birth records.
  • Use confirmation records to identify a person’s birth date and place and his or her age. If only the age is given, use it to calculate the person’s death date.
  • Use death or burial records to identify a person’s birth date and place. Use age at the time of death or burial to calculate the person’s birth date. These are an excellent substitute for civil death records.
  • Use marriage records to identify a couple and the marriage date and place and to begin compiling a family group. These are an excellent substitute for civil marriage records.
  • Use church records in general to identify other family members who may have served as witnesses to an event.
  • Use the date of the event along with the locality to find the family in census and land records.
  • Use the residence and names of the parents to locate church and land records.
  • You may need to compare the information of more than one family or person to make this determination.
  • An infant’s christening usually took place within a few days or few weeks of the birth.
  • Church records are considered a primary source. They are usually reliable because they were kept by the Bishop who usually recorded an event at or very near the time it occurred.
  • It is often helpful to extract the information on all children with the same parents. Or, if the surname is unusual, you may want to compile entries for every person of the same surname and then sort them into families based on the names of the parents.
  • Continue to search the records to identify siblings, parents, and other relatives in the same or other generations who lived in the same borough or nearby.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking for, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names or for nicknames.
  • Check the records of other congregations in the area or nearby communities.

Citations for this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"Alaska Russian Orthodox Church Books, 1816-1936." Database. FamilySearch. Citing Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record will be available with each record once the collection is published.

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