Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush Participants

Can you find an ancestor in this list of over 24,200 Gold Rush participants?

This list originally supplied to the former Family Chronicle (now Your Genealogy Today) by the Genealogical Research Library for the September/October 1996 launch issue.

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One hundred years ago, on August 17, 1896, American George Carmack and his Tagish First Nations friends Dawson Charlie and Skookum Jim panned for gold on a small tributary of the Yukon River called Rabbit Creek. According to legend, Carmack dreamed of salmon with gleaming gold nugget eyes in blue- green water and was led to the creek, where he and his two friends discovered a huge quantity of gold. They quickly staked their claims and renamed Rabbit Creek, "Bonanza."

Greatest Gold Rush in History
Their discovery was to be the beginning of the greatest gold rush in history. It was by no means the first gold find in the North but it was the largest. By modern measure, the threesome stumbled on a billion dollar bounty.

Word of the treasure -- and gold rush fever -- spread quickly throughout North America. The harsh Yukon winter that was approaching, though, forced most people to wait until the following spring to make their journeys to fortune. More than 100,000 people swarmed towards a land they had heard nothing about and endured hardships they could never have imagined. They were greeted by obstacles created by both nature and man.

"Neither law nor order prevailed, honest persons had no protection from the gang of rascals who plied their nefarious trade," wrote mounted police officer Sam Steele, describing the scene at the base of the treacherous Chilkoot Pass. "Might was right; murder, robbery, and petty theft were common occurences."

Avalanches, drownings, typhoid, spinal meningitis, and scurvy claimed many lives.

Of the tens of thousands who actually made it to the Bonanza, only a handful found fortunes.

The Klondike Gold Rush had an immediate and lasting impact on Western Canada and the United States. Seattle became a major staging point for fortune hunters headed north and the populations of Vancouver and Edmonton doubled and tripled respectively. Canadian author Pierre Berton described the Gold Rush as "the most concentrated mass movement of American citizens onto Canadian soil in all our history."

Soon after "Discovery Day," Dawson City sprung up at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers. It quickly became the most populous place west of Winnipeg and north of San Francisco, with a population of 40,000. The natives who used the area as a summer fishing camp moved downstream to Moosehide. With the stream of people coming into Dawson City came the construction of hotels, theatres, and dance halls. Almost as quickly as it grew, however, Dawson City dwindled. By 1899 the gold rush was over and people left in large groups, leaving the town with a population of less than 1,000. (Today about 2,000 people live in Dawson City, which attracts 60,000 tourists a year).

On the US side, the Gold Rush brought thousands by boats to the docks of Skagway and Dyea. While the Mounties kept the peace on Canadian soil and tended to the sick and injured, Alaska was home to gunslingers and thieves. Stampeders were forced to punish lawbreakers in their own ways.

To mark the centennial year of the Klondike Gold Rush, Family Chronicle is publishing a list of names of people who remained in the area at the turn of the century. Perhaps you will be able to find a connection.

The list was compiled by a Mrs. M.L. Ferguson of Los Angeles, who first visited Dawson City in 1899. She had with her letters to persons living in the Yukon but had a difficult time delivering them since there were no street names or addresses. Ferguson was inspired to publish the Directory and Gazetteer of the Yukon Territory and applied to Yukon Council for the right to number houses and erect street signs on corners. While compiling the directory, Ferguson fell ill and was forced to return to California. She handed the project over to Barnes & Baber, who published it as "The Only Yukon-Alaska Directory for 1901".

Use the list to find a specific name. Beside each name is a name or code representing the area wherein the person resided. You will see: Skagway, Nome, Council City, Juneau, Whitehorse, Teller City, and others. Also included beside each name is the individual's listed occupation at the time the information was compiled. Most, as you will note, are miners.

This complete list was featured in the September/October 1996 launch issue of Family Chronicle.

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