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History tome is dense but hard to put down

Local author's weighty non-fiction book offers captivating insights into history

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Nov 17, 2012 06:00 am

HEFTY BOOK – Step Back in Time by Sturgeon County resident Lorraine Dreger Yackulic is a comprehensive summary of German immigration to Alberta.
HEFTY BOOK – Step Back in Time by Sturgeon County resident Lorraine Dreger Yackulic is a comprehensive summary of German immigration to Alberta.
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You don’t have to be German or interested in travel or history to appreciate a new and rather substantial historical travel guide for Albertans of German heritage recently produced by a local author.

Retired educator Lorraine Dreger Yackulic wrote Step Back in Time for everyone, especially people who love books and history, just like she does.

“I’m a reader. After I retired, I was looking for interests and this was one of them,” she began. “I’ve been reading history for 25-plus years at least. I rested for about three months and then I just couldn’t see myself sitting there and just reading.”

When the Sturgeon County woman wrapped up her nearly four decade-long teaching career 10 years ago, she soon started work on cataloguing her cousin’s extensive collection of German history books. Ewald Wuschke was a well-known genealogist and historian involved in researching German history from the central and eastern parts of Europe.

“He sent out a letter looking for someone to organize it. I said, ‘Well, I could do that’. I got there and people would come in and want to do family research,” she said.

Her own ancestors indeed had a rough road ahead of them, coming from Europe to Western Canada. Once they arrived, well, the road wasn’t any smoother.

“My family were peasants, which really meant farmers. Alberta was built on the peasants from central and eastern Europe. I can’t believe they did so much with so little.”

“The Germans … were conscripted actually to go and help the other countries – especially Poland and Russia – to help settle their unsettled areas. But then there were problems there and that’s why they immigrated to Canada.”

Starting in the 1890s, that’s exactly what happened. The hearty German farmers came at the behest of Clifford Sifton, Canada’s minister of the interior, who needed a quick and effective population program for the West, “because no one wanted to come out here.”

Those farmers came and they often came with very little, but they built their homes, tended their lands and grew their families successfully. It’s that fact that impressed Yackulic the most.

Step Back in Time is her comprehensive account of German life and influence in northern Alberta. In its very well-researched 526 pages it tells stories of the families, it shows the maps of the areas, and puts everything in very easy to read sections. It’s even fun … unexpected, but true. Frankly, it’s a glorious read and I can’t wait for the rest of the set.

While Yackulic was organizing Wuschke’s library, reading through more than 1,000 books to do so, she was also compiling and sorting the information so it would be easier for the random family tree research that she was getting involved with. This book is the result of that work.

The rich and weighty history makes for compelling reading, no matter what your ethnic background.

“It’s for people who like travelling and who like history, and people who want to remember their ancestors who came here,” she said, then joking at the sheer immensity of it. “You don’t gather this overnight.”

The self-published book costs $70 and can be purchased by contacting the author via email at or by phone at 780-973-5036.

Yackulic said that volumes II and III – Touring Northern Alberta: Trailways, Waterways and Railways, and German Place Names, Family Names and Settlement Areas – are already finished. She expects to publish them in the coming months, and she said that they get progressively leaner than the first instalment.

She’s also putting the finishing touches on a DVD project about the founding families of Galicia, Poland and Volhynia. This, as she is in the early stages of research for two future history publications, Founding Families of Alberta (1885 to 1905) – Stalwart Peasants in Sheepskin Coats and First Families of Alberta (1906 to 1915) – Tillers of the Soil.


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