The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 11
May 25, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
Last weekend we drove up to Akureyri to visit my wife's sisters, their families and her elderly mother. Akureyri is my wife's "hometown", beautifully situated in the county of Eyjafjörður, Northern Iceland. The population is about 16.000 in this thriving town,
From Akureyri
a popular tourist goal with easy access to many interesting places, such as the Lake Myvatn region with it's unusually rich birdlife, the Dettifoss waterfall, the largest one in Europe, the village of Húsavík, my old home town, more and more popular for the Whale watching boats going from there, the river Laxá, one of the most popular and most expensive(!) salmon river in Iceland and I could ramble on and on. Don't miss Akureyri next time you visit Iceland.
The trip to Akureyri from Reykjavík (where we live) takes about 4 to 4½ an hour by car and at the same time you drive and admire the landscape (we had unusually beautiful weather), your thoughts goes back more than 100 years when people left the countryside and flocked to the New World to start a new life. We drive through the county of Borgarfjarðarsýsla from where 299 people emigrated according to the Emigration records. Many of the farms from that time have vanished, others have not. On our way up north we pass the farm Leirá. In 1888 Gunnar Árnason emigrated from there with his wife Guðrún Einarsdóttir. What happened to them? Are they the couple that settled down in Sheverville, Indiana? Unusual destination at that time. Anybody related? A bit from the "highway", near the coast, is the farm Melar. In 1886 Siggeir Þórðarson (Thordarson) emigrated from there with his wife Anna Stefánsdóttir and their four children, Kolbeinn, Ólafur, Lárus and Stefán.
Well, in about 2 hours we are in Húnavatnssýsla county and just before we take a rest at "Stadarskáli", a small restaurant by the road, to have some coffee, we pass the abandoned farm Foss, from where Finnbogi Finnbogason and his wife Agnes Jónatansdóttir emigrated in 1883. We are up in Northern Iceland now and though the sun is shining from clear blue sky, we feel the chilly wind from north, from the Artic ocean. It's always windy in Hrútafjörður :-) Emigrants from Húnavatnssýsla were 1361 (Emigration records)and we think of them as we drive from "Staðarskáli". On the other side of the narrow fjord is Strandasýsla county and we see Borðeyri, the emigration port, where many people from Húnavatnssýsla and nearby counties, Dalasýsla and Strandasýsla, others also, made their last footprints in Iceland. We see also across the fjord the farms Fagrabrekka and Kjörseyri, many emigrated from there, Oddur Jónsson and Ingveldur Samúelsdóttir, their sons Jón and Samúel and many others.
People emigrated from more than 260 farms in Húnavatnssýsla county and as we rush our way I mention only a handful we see: Vatnshorn (Þorsteinn Þorsteinsson and Sigríður Bjarnadóttir emigrated in 1888), Vatnsendi (Jason Þórðarson and Anna Jóhannesdóttir and four children in 1874, they eventually settled in North Dakota), Hnausar (Björn Stefán Jósefsson and Margrét Stefánsdóttir and their children in 1883) and as we leave Húnavatnssýsla we look into the Svartárdalur (Black river valley) to see the farm Skeggstaðir. Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson and Þórunn Ólafsdóttir and their many children emigrated from there in 1874 to eventually settle in N-Dakota.
And then we are in Skagafjörur county. Hey! what a sight! My father, now 92, grew up here and he is positive on one thing: this is the center of the universe, and at least in such a nice weather, I agree! Nevertheless, people emigrated from here. Not less than 1422. We are eager to get to Akureyri so we rush on and leaving Skagafjörður county we see Flatatunga not far from the road, eleven people emigrated from there in 1883, Jón Gíslason and Sæunn Þorsteinsdóttir with many children and others. We climb the low mountains and on the other side is Eyjafjörður county. At least 1024 emigrated from this beautiful area. We pass the farm Bægisá, Gamalíel Þorleifsson and Katrín Tómasdóttir emigrated from there in 1891 and many others. Now we approach Akureyri and cannot dwell any more in the past.

 Washington Island (again)
In Newsletter Nr 8 I mentioned the Icelandic settlers on Washington Island in Lake Michican. Maxine Capezza has sent me a very interesting Web address, Wisconsin Historical Society to share with you. It tells about one of the Icelandic settlers on Washington Island, Guðmundur Guðmundsson, and his life on the island. Just type Iceland in the Headline Search field and click Search. On the upcoming page you should see the headline: Viking spirit makes Washington Island another Iceland. Then click View at the far right.
Thank you Maxine!

 Snuff-boxes' John
Have you ever heard of your ancestor, Jón Vigfússon, better known in the Icelandic history as "Bauka Jón" or "Snuff-boxes' John"? Yes, it's more than likely that he is one of your Icelandic forefathers as he is one of mine.
A colorful character, born 15 Sep 1643 to Sheriff (sýslumaður) Vigfús Gíslason at Stórólfshvoll in the county of Rangárvallasýsla, South Iceland, and his wife Katrín Erlendsdóttir. In genealogical files, as all other files, he is called Jón Vigfússon "yngri" (the younger) since he had an older brother with the same name, called Jón Vigfússon "eldri" (the older).
Vigfús Gíslason and Katrín had three other children, Salvör, Gísli and Þorbjörg, who also are well known in Icelandic genealogy.
Jón "yngri" studied in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the years 1664-1666 and when home in Iceland again he became the Sheriff of Borgarfjörður county, Western Iceland. He was a cheeky person and his enemies didn't hesitate to accuse him for unauthorised trade and even for practising witchcraft. But Jón Vigfússon had also powerful friends and the most powerful one was no other than Count Griffenfeld, chancellor in Copenhagen, who actually ruled the state of Denmark. He was not only King Frederick III's right hand, he was the king's both hands. On Griffenfeld's order, our ancestor was ordained a bishop at Hólar in 1684 and is the only person in Iceland (to my knowledge) who has been both Sheriff and a Bishop.
Jón Vigfússon was accused for using the unlawful tobacco profit to buy himself the bishopric. Beeing now a man of God, he didn't lay off his insolent trade and speculations, he really kept on, especially with the much needed tobacco, which gave him not only profit but also the nickname Bauka Jón or "Snuff-boxes' John".
Inheritance from Snuff-boxes' John
I don't know of many palpable subjects (things) left by Jón Vigfússon. As a matter of fact I don't know of any, except one snuff-box, a 17th century baroc-masterpiece of silver with a great nacre inlaid in the lid. And this precious thing is mine! Of course, he left it for me, his descendant :-) It's great to be able to tell you that the snuff-box story is known, i.e. the owners through the centuries are known. One of the owners drowned in a river in the East of Iceland with the snuff-box in his pocet, another one sold the box for boose, the man who bought it gave it to my grandfather, so he could keep it in the family!
Jón Vigfússon "yngri" was married to Guðríður Þórðardóttir (1645-1707). They had nine children: Sigríður Jónsdóttir "eldri", Þórdís Jónsdóttir, Þórður Jónsson, Helga Jónsdóttir, Gísli Jónsson, Sigríður Jónsdóttir "yngri", her children did not reach adulthood, Vigfús Jónsson, no children, Jón Jónsson Vigfúsíus, no children and Magnús Jónsson, no children.
In my database are nearly 80.000 descendants of Jón Vigfússon "yngri" who died 1690. You can see here (the image) how I descend from him (that page is a tiny part of my Icelandic GenWeb). Do you know how you are related to "Snuff-boxes' John"?

 Your Family?
Strange connections are in many families. This is one of the most amazing. Don't you agree?

Settler of the Week

>Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson

Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson

Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson was born 14 Aug 1829. His parents were Brynjólfur Magnússon and Sigríður Magnúsdóttir, farmers at Gilsbakki in Skagafjarðarsýsla. In 1852 Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson married Þórunn Ólafsdóttir (1829-1892). Her parents were Ólafur Björnsson and Sigríður Hinriksdóttir. Brynjólfur and Þórunn farmed at first at Álfgeirsvellir in Skagafjörður and later at Skeggstaðir in Svartárdalur in Húnavatnssýsla. In 1874 Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson emigrated with his wife Þórunn Ólafsdóttir and their six children to Canada. The first year the new country they dwelled in Kinmount, Ontario, and in the spring 1875 they moved to Nova Scotia. After six years there they moved to Duluth and finally to N-Dakota in 1882. Before marriage Brynjólfur had one daughter, Sigríður, who emigrated with the family. Brynjólfur and Þórunn's children were: Ólafur Björn (1857-1921, his wife was of German ancestry, Jónas Benedikt (1858-????), Skapti Brynjólfur (1860-1914, senator in Dakota, married to Gróa Sigurðardóttir, Björn Stefán (1864-1920), lawyer and mayor in Grand Forks, N-Dakota, Magnús (1866-1910) lawyer in Pembina County, married to Sigríður Magnúsdóttir, Sigríður (1871-1918) married to Kristján Indriðason, Mountain, N-Dakota. Brynjólfur died in 1917.

If you want further information on this family, write to Hálfdan

The Distribution

This Newsletter is sent to you and 283 other subscribers by
Hálfdan Helgason
Reykjavík, Iceland.

Next number:
1 June 2003

Previous numbers
to read:
Newsletter Nr 1
Newsletter Nr 2
Newsletter Nr 3
Newsletter Nr 4
Newsletter Nr 5
Newsletter Nr 6
Newsletter Nr 7
Newsletter Nr 8
Newsletter Nr 9
Newsletter Nr 10

The Forum

Remember the Forum!
The Password is: cyber.
Be a frequent visitor!

Send me your comment on this number.
Send me "your" Settler of the Week, with picture, please!
Tell me also what you would like to see in future numbers of the Newsletter.

Some pictures in my Newsletters are not mine. They have been taken off the Net or from other sources and will be removed from here if the right owner claims so.
 You are obliged to visit my Emigration from Iceland to North America :-)