How to Find Archived Obituaries in Alaska Step-By-Step

Updated

Are you looking for an obituary of a person who had connections to the state of Alaska? We’ll walk you through the process of how to find an obituary from the comfort of your own home. However, if your online search doesn’t yield results, you might need to prepare yourself to visit “The Last Frontier.”

Jump ahead to these sections:

Hopefully, you won’t be forced to board an expensive flight to Anchorage. Here are some strategies for finding archived obituaries from Alaska newspapers. 

How to Find Archived Obituaries in Alaska

If you are trying to find an obituary of someone who passed during the internet era, you can probably find the article with a simple Google search. Most modern obituaries end up online because most funeral homes and newspapers publish obits on their websites. 

To find an obituary for someone who died within the last 20 to 30 years, search the person’s full name, the word “obituary,” and the town and state of the death. If the person had a common name for the area, you might need to add additional keywords, such as the year of death or the names of other family members who might be listed in the obituary.

If you are trying to find an obituary from previous decades (or centuries), you might need to go through additional steps to find the obituary. Here are some strategies to try.

Step 1. Gather information about the deceased 

Maybe the only information you have about your great-great-grandfather is that he died in 1842 and had a wife named Mary. If you are looking for an obituary, you are probably doing so because you want to learn a bit about the deceased’s personalities and interests. 

However, to find the story of the deceased, you need to know facts about their lives to aid your search. Some of the most helpful pieces of information can be found on a person’s death certificate, so let’s learn how to access this critical document. 

Alaska began to keep records of births, deaths, and marriages well before it became a state. These vital records go back to 1913. However, local governments may have been keeping track of deaths in previous decades. If you think the person whose obituary you are looking for died after 1913, keep reading this section to learn how to obtain a copy of the death certificate. 

Alaska’s Department of Health Analytics and Vital Records offers an online form for those wishing to obtain a death certificate. However, you’ll need to prove that you are the next of kin unless the death occurred 50 years before the current year.

Ancestry is another valuable source for death records. You can access Alaska’s vital records from 1818 to 1863 through Ancestry’s website. The death records may include the name of the deceased, the date and place of death, the date and place of burial, the cause of death, and the parents’ names. 

Using this information, you might find the obituary of the deceased from one of the following online resources.

Step 2. Use an online obituary website

There are several websites dedicated to obituaries. However, most of them only include recent obituaries from the past several decades. If you are looking for an older obituary, you will probably need to access newspaper archives, which may or may not be available online. 

Here are the websites to visit when trying to find the obituary of a loved one or ancestor. Please note that some of these sites require a paid subscription to use. Before you submit your credit card, finish reading this article because there might be ways to access that content through other means. You may also be able to gain access to information on these sites from your local library or genealogical society.

Legacy

Legacy is the worlds’ largest provider of online obituaries. The website says that the company publishes memorials for almost 70 percent of all U.S. descendants. Legacy partners with over 1,200 newspapers across the country to obtain the content for the website.

The website is particularly helpful. Even if the obituary you seek isn’t available through Legacy, the website might link you to other resources to aid you in your search, including Find a Grave or Ancestry

One of our test searches could not find the obituary we were looking for, but the website gave us the name of the funeral home that serviced the deceased. Therefore, we were able to find the obituary on the funeral home’s website. 

Tributes

Your search for an obituary may lead you to Tributes, another website dedicated to honoring the deceased. Unfortunately, this website may not help you find an obituary of your ancestor or someone who lived before the online era.

Tributes offers you a place to create an online memorial for a loved one who recently died. We also appreciate Tribute’s resources for those who need assistance with their grief. 

Ancestry

While the previous two resources may help find an obituary from the online era, Ancestry is the go-to source for those wanting to learn more about their ancestors.

There are several ways Ancestry can help you with the obituary search. The website allows you to search two obituary collections: Newspapers.com’s Obituary Index, which covers the 1800s to current day, and the U.S. Obituary Collection, which covers 1930 to current day.

Of course, you can also search other users’ public family trees. For example, your second cousin (twice removed) may have linked a copy of the obituary on your common ancestor’s profile. 

Newspaper Archive

While we don’t have any experience with this website, you might consider using Newspaper Archive to find the obituary of your ancestor. Newspaper Archive offers a seven-day free trial. However, you’ll have to pay $139.90 per year for access after your free trial expires.

Genealogy Bank

Geneology Bank is another paid site that has more than 260 million obituaries. Genealogy Bank gives you access to 72 Alaskan newspapers’ archives

Step 3. Search Alaskan newspaper archives  

There’s great news for those of you looking for free Alaskan newspaper archives. Consult the website of Alaska’s Digital Newspaper Program. While not every newspaper can be accessed from this website, the available content is growing all the time.  

From this website, you not only gain access to newspapers from Alaska. You also can access major newspapers from across the country. And, the content is searchable! 

Other Methods to Find Archived Obituaries From Alaska

We hope you were able to find the obituary from an online search. However, not all Alaska newspapers and records have been digitized. Here are some other ideas on how to find an archived obituary from Alaska. 

Step 1. Talk with extended family members 

Call or visit the oldest person in your extended family. This person may be able to provide you with a copy of the obituary, and they may also be a wealth of knowledge about your family’s history. 

Step 2. Visit Alaska historical societies and libraries

We understand that visiting an Alaskan historical society or library may be a considerable undertaking unless you already live in Alaska. For that reason, you might consider calling a local historical society or library to seek the assistance of a helpful employee or volunteer. 

Some newspapers may be available on microfilm or microfiche, which means you will need to narrow down your in-person search of newspapers from a specific area and time. You might also have to look through bound periodicals to find the article about your ancestor.

While this isn’t the most convenient way to research your family’s history, you might feel even more connected to the individual if you hold the original newspaper obituary in your hand.

Step 3. Hire a genealogist from Alaska

If you haven’t uncovered anything about your family member from your online and in-person research, consider hiring someone skilled in family investigation. Of course, since Alaska covers such a vast geographic area, it will be necessary that you hire someone who works in the region where your ancestor lived (or died).

A local might be able to access records not available to the average person, such as non-digitized church or cemetery records. They may also know people in the community who kept their own private archives of old newspapers and documents. 

Reasons You Might Not Be Able to Find an Obituary

If you have looked through all the newspapers in the area where your ancestor lived or died, and you haven’t been able to find an obituary, it’s logical to assume that the obituary was never written.

Obituaries aren’t legal documents. Families aren’t required to submit obituaries to newspapers or websites after someone dies, so sometimes it doesn’t get done. 

There could be a variety of reasons that an obituary doesn’t get written. For example, modern families may not publish obituaries in the newspaper because it adds to the funeral cost. Some families don’t write memorials because no one in the family knows how to write an obituary. Other families may avoid the task because they have questions about obituary etiquette. 

Keep Your Family’s History Alive

Hopefully, if you’ve learned anything from the experience of trying to find an obituary in Alaska, you have discovered the importance of recording your family’s history for your children and grandchildren.

Be the family archivist for your generation. Keep an updated family tree online and archive photographs and family documents (including your loved one’s obituaries.) Tell your own story by writing your own obituary

And, of course, write and publish an obituary for your close members after they pass. Tell their stories. Keep their memory alive by paying for the obituary to be published in a local newspaper or find a website that allows you to submit obituaries for free

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