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Matthew Henson family genealogy
There is no official family tree for the American Henson family because Matt had no children by his wife Lucy. His only descendents are Inuit in Greenland (Wikipedia)
Laila Henson / Aviaq Henson / Henson's grandson / More photos
I do not know of a Henson family tree other than the one I made on the next page. Any American Henson relationship, or family tree, would not link directly to Matthew. It would link to his sisters, mother, father or half brothers. So far I have not heard from anyone with proven maternal lineage other than the ones in Dr. Counter's book. However, dozens of people have emailed claiming that a grandparent once told them they were related to Matthew Henson. But they must instead be linked to one of Matt's sister's children (see the tree on next page).

Genealogy is based upon factual documents and records such as birth certificates, copies of marriage licenses, census records, etc. Sometimes graveyard markers mention birthdates, marriages, etc. that provide more clues which can then be researched. To create a family tree you have to become a detective and obtain copies of public documents, etc. A family tree is not simply a story from grandma.

Nothing can be established without copies of original marriage records, birth & death certificates, etc. Genealogists search old public records at the courthouse, visit gravesites to read and photograph inscriptions, locate where old documents are stored. It can be difficult and require clever detective effort. A family tree to connect your family to Matthew Henson means searching for 100–140+ year old documents. Matt's sisters were born almost 140 years ago, his mother over 150 years ago. Who were his mother's sisters, brothers, and their offspring? They were slaves. We have no information about Matt's sisters, or his mother's family, or his wife Lucy's family.

Most people simply tell stories passed down by family members now dead that cannot be verified. Many who contacted me had no interest in actually performing any real genealogical record collecting. SOme claimed that having Henson as a last name proved they were "direct descendents of Matthew."

The next page contains a reconstruction of Matthew Henson's Inuit descendants. Matt had a poor memory of his childhood before age 12 and could not remember all his siblings, but I started this tree with his biography Dark Companion. There is, additionally, information from the 1871 census records that we've reconciled with Matt's remembrances in Dark Companion
Basic facts of Matt's family
  • Matt divorced his first wife for infidelity because she became pregnant while Matt was away in Greenland. They had no children together.
  • Matt also had no children with his second wife, Lucy Ross. They were married before Matt reached the Pole and lived together for almost 50 years in New York. A plaque marks the apartment house where they resided. Lucy Ross died after Matt. Both were buried in her family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York. Now their bodies rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Matt conceived a single son, Anaquak Henson, with his Eskimo lover Akatingwah in 1906. After Matt left the Arctic in 1909 he never returned and thus never again met his son, although later explorers relayed reports about him to Matt.
  • Matt's son, Anaquak Henson, is fully documented in Allen Counter's book. Anaquak and his wife Aviaq had five sons in Greenland. Grand-daughters Laila Henson, and 2 of the 5 Aviaq Henson's are on the Internet and email us occasionally. Since Aviaq was the mother of the Henson she is revered by the descendants, thus 5 daughters have been named in her memory. 
  • All of Matthew Henson's descendants are Greenland Inuits. One son, Vittus Henson, and his family moved to Denmark in 2000. But the other 4 brothers still live near the area where Henson & Peary once based their operations around Smith Sound. Here is a link to the Greenland Henson families.
Is our family related to Matthew Henson?
Do you want to trace your family tree? Study Genealogy by buying a book. There are special ones for blacks that deal with the unique problems of finding records and documents. You may enjoy Dr. Allen Counter's book that traces the Matthew Henson lineage. His North Pole Legacy: Black, white, and Eskimo is essential. There are emails from various Henson's that we intend to post on a web page in the future. This may help some locate their Henson relatives. 

Realize that thousands of African Americans have Henson as their last name. Records are so rare from the late 1860's that it may never be possible to trace Matthew's sisters families, his mother's family, or his father's relatives. Such information may be lost to time. DNA samples will eventually be used, one may suppose, to verify and find relatives. No effort in this direction is currently underway.

There is no one to contact
to help you find out if your family is related to Matthew Henson's father, sisters, or his mother's family. To learn who one's relatives are requires that you study genealogy and fill out your family tree. A family tree must be documented with records of birth, marriage, etc. This is a hobby many enjoy. So far none of the American Hensons (not descendant from Matthew) have done this.  A professional genealogist would be useful, but again no one has taken the initiative. 

Matt's only direct descendants are Inuits
in the Arctic. He had no American children. All Matt's descendants are alive and well in Greenland. But if you or any other American Henson has a family tree we would be happy to start a web page for that topic. So far (4 years) no one has offered one.
(above) Dr. Counter's book is excellent.
Family Pride by Donna Beasley is out of print but easily available - try bookfinder.com

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