Alaska Emigration and Immigration
The earliest European inhabitants were Russian fur traders who first came to Kodiak Island in 1783. After Alaska was purchased by the United States, mineral deposits replaced furs as the chief economic attraction.
Juneau and Douglas were gold-mining camps that sprang up in the 1880s, but a greater boom was the Klondike gold rush of the late 1890s. Most of the miners who headed to the Klondike in the Yukon Territory of Canada were Americans, and most of them passed through Alaska. Gold miners founded Nome in 1899 and Fairbanks in 1902. Anchorage was founded in 1915 as the headquarters of the Alaska Railroad, then under construction, and has since become the center of population.
Some people who arrived during the gold rush stayed on in Alaska, but many returned to the "lower 48." Homesteading was not legal in Alaska until 1898, and those filing homestead claims after that date did not have to remain on the land in order to retain their rights.
The Alaska population has increased steadily since 1929. The Great Depression and World War II brought many people seeking employment. The United States government settled about 200 families from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin in the Matanuska Valley, fifty miles from Anchorage.
The North Slope oil discoveries of the late 1960s brought another wave of immigration. When Alaska became a state in 1959, half of the state's population had resided in the state less than five years. Many residents were from western states. Only about one-fifth of the white population was born in Alaska.
Native peoples (Eskimos, Aleuts, and other Indian groups) constitute about one-sixth of Alaska's present population. Some records about them are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under ALASKA - NATIVE RACES. Additional records are listed in the Subject Search of the catalog under ALEUTS and ESKIMOS and other Indian tribes and language groups. Other ethnic groups in Alaska include Scandinavians, Japanese, and Filipinos.
Passenger lists for Alaskan ports are not available. More information on U.S. immigration sources is in the United States Research Outline.