Lost Alaskans Project Update

Happy Holidays!

2010 was an exciting year! Among the milestones this year:

  • The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority granted us funding to support research and travel. The grant is being administered by Access Alaska.
  • We did well received presentations at the Alaska Historical Society Conference and the First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth Conference
  • Work on the patient database has begun.
  • Progress was made in identifying Morningside Hospital patient burial sites (cemeteries), including locating a few patient graves.
  • New territorial court records were located, providing insights into the commitment process. The documents included commitment orders, jury records and medical assessments.
  • Research continued at the National Archives II. Most of the documents referring to individual patients are now scanned. Current research is focused on hospital inspections and investigations.

The first few months of 2011 promise to be nearly as exciting as 2010. Niejse Steinkruger, Meg Greene, and Robin Renfroe are going to Juneau in January to dive into the Alaska State Archives with our Juneau-based researcher, Deborah Smith. Deborah has done some preliminary research there and found some interesting documents. We’re hoping to get a better idea of the types of materials there, and, of course, hoping for more patient records.


Our patient database designer, Don Keily, will have the first version of the database done in January. Once the database is completed and online, we expect it to look and operate much like ancestry.com, with patient names linked to source documents (PDFs).


And finally, we located another National Archives record group which includes correspondence about Morningside Hospital between the Department of the Interior and the Alaska territorial governors. Some of these documents appear to be copies of letters we found at the National Archives II, but there are a few potentially exciting letters relating to the detention hospitals in Fairbanks and Nome. The best part of the find is that the record group is located at the Pacific Alaska Region, Anchorage Archives.


Thanks to everyone who offered advice and encouragement this year. We expect great things in 2011!

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2 Comments

  1. Dean R. Johnson
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    My father was a “lost” alaskan. Had a history of alcoholism and was committed. Never heard anything else. Never knew what happened, when it happened, when he died or where his grave site is.
    Tough part of Alaskan history. Thanks for your hard work recognizing and recording a sad part of Alaskan families history. His name was Leonard A.
    Johnson and he was born in Washington State about 1900

  2. Robin Renfroe
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    There are two Leonard A Johnson’s who died in Oregon

    Date of Death Dec 19, 1963, age 63, death certificate #17625
    Date of Death April 21, 1985, age 84, wife Mytrle (doube this is it since this is prior to Morningside.

    If you think the first is your grandfather contact Oregon vital records and request his death certificate. He was buried in the Multnomah area, which is where Morningside was. The death certificate should have the cemetery name. Let me know what you find if you think this is him. Since you list him as being born around 1900, I bet this is him. Any idea what year he went there?

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