In case you don’t already know, I am completely fascinated by my Alaskan roots.
Here’s a quick rundown. My 3rd great grandfather Henry Hyde settled in Alaska sometime between 1885 and 1895. He started a homestead but died before he could complete it. His second wife, my 3rd great grandaunt (he married his first wife’s sister after wife number one died), Alice completed that homestead in 1918 – ten years after Henry’s death. Henry’s daughter Alice was raised in Alaska. She met her future husband, Frank Duval, when he got to know her father in Fairbanks. She went to Dawson with Frank before the gold rush had started. She was about fifteen, he was about thirty-two. (?!) They married in Dawson after the gold rush had mostly finished in November of 1897. They started their own homestead in Fairbanks and lived there for many years, wintering in California. They gave up their homestead before it was complete and moved to Vancouver between 1910 and 1911.
My great grandfather, Frank and Alice’s son, was raised in Alaska until he was about ten years old. I recently listened to an interview my mom conducted with him in the early 80s. Listening to this great grandfather that I knew and loved recount his Alaskan homestead stories made this branch of my family really come to life.
This summer I discovered the Discovery Channel show Alaska: The Last Frontier. I watched the free season on Netflix. I am in LOVE with this show! I thought that hearing my great grandpa tell his stories made this branch of my tree come to life, but watching this show kicked it up a notch for sure. Suddenly, I was thinking more of the everyday tasks, skills, hard work, and challenges that three generations of my family faced for several years. As always, I have more questions. Like how did Henry’s widow Alice complete that homestead? Homestead work in Alaska is hard, like really hard. I am so excited to order the homestead documents. Hopefully they will give me more insight into their work and life in Alaska.
I love it when I find a book, film or other media item that helps me make a deeper connection with my ancestors. Something that helps me understand their life just a little bit more.
How about you? Have media items ever helped you understand your ancestors better?