Anchorage Genealogical Society celebrates 40 years of service

Forty years ago, a group interested in family history gathered at the Anchorage Museum to talk about creating a genealogy society in Anchorage. In February 1983, they officially created the Anchorage Genealogical Society, with Joe Gallant as the first president. By July, they had grown to 47 members.

In May 1983, they began creating a newsletter; later they created a quarterly. Over the years, publications have been produced that members and others have enjoyed. In recent years, Peggy Hempelmann has produced the AGS Digest.

In 1984, AGS organized their first annual seminar with an Outside speaker. This started four decades of bringing some of the most well-known and knowledgeable family history and genealogy speakers to Alaska. Through the years, they have brought an amazing array of national and international speakers to Anchorage, annually except for several COVID years.

An early project included checking every grave in the downtown Anchorage cemetery against the cemetery records. They undertook a project identifying and recording Angelus Cemetery grave markers. They expanded to include the Fort Richardson National Cemetery, the St. Michael Eklutna and Girdwood cemeteries. After four years of work, they published “The Cemetery Book, A Recording of Cemeteries within the Municipality of Anchorage”.

In 2004, they started a family history cookbook project, collecting their favorite old-time recipes with short bios of those connected to the recipes. The AGS “Genealogy in the Kitchen” cookbook was published in 2009 and included recipes, helpful household hints, family histories of their loved ones, and old photographs.

Barb Samuels started the “Volunteers in the Loussac Library” to help others learn, find materials, and work on their family history. As the new Loussac library came into being, there were the AGS members, helping to assemble shelving and creating a genealogy area at Loussac. Over the decades, AGS donated many thousands of dollars and numerous genealogy books to the library. They donated hundreds of volunteer hours.

The organization has collaborated with other organizations and community resources. Ralph Howes and others at the LDS Family History Center on Maplewood Street are an invaluable local resource. Cooperating with other genealogy organizations in other towns in Alaska, groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, and other historical groups has been helpful. For over a year, AGS was a supporter of the PBS program, “Finding Your Roots.”

What changes there have been in how one can find family history records! Those seeking information about their families went from times of tedious record collecting, to researching on microfiche and microfilm, to learning the magic and ease of using computers. By the mid to late 1990s, AGS was involved in sharing information and offering training on internet research, an exploding opportunity in the area of genealogy and family history. The latest has been offering sessions on DNA and how this can be used to further your family history.

Past AGS president Nancy Ferko was active for decades. She was a force behind the Library Volunteer program and a tireless worker on the wonderful seminars. When she passed away in January 2022, her family donated her large collection of genealogy and family history books. Proceeds from the sale of the books at the upcoming Spring Seminar on April 22 will go toward the Nancy Ferko Scholarship Fund.

Bonnie Jack was involved from the beginning and over 40 years has held many positions and roles. When asked for her reflection on four decades of the organization, she said, “AGS has had so many talented and generous members over the years, and I expect that will continue into the future. I have so many great memories and so many new friends.”

The Anchorage Genealogical Society meets on the third Wednesday of each month, for now by Zoom. Their website is You can find current events, research hints and information, current and past AGS Digests, Pioneer Pages of their past members, and much more.

Genealogical seminar returns

We are excited to meet again face to face for our all-day Spring Seminar, Saturday April 22, 2023. This year, our speaker is Devon Noel Lee of Family History Fanatics, raised in Texas and coming from New Mexico. She will offer four sessions: A Recipe for Writing Your Family History; Downsizing with Family History in Mind; Organizing Your Files for Genealogy Success and Legacy Preservation; Digitizing Your Legacy Without Feeling Overwhelmed.

You can register for the seminar and find more information on the AGS website. Seminar rates include full and half day registration. It will be held at the ChangePoint Church. Walk-ins are welcome. You can register for the seminar and find more information on the AGS website or call 907-278-1300.

Gretchen T. Bersch is the AGS board president.

Rendered 07/22/2024 18:56