The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 13
June 14, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 Icelandic Place Names in North America
When searching for Icelandic emigrants who settled in North America in the decades before and after 1900 I repetedly come across Icelandic place names. Not only in the area of New Iceland, Manitoba, Canada, where it was almost mandatory to give the farms Icelandic names, but also in other settlements in US and Canada, though obviously on a much, much smaller scale. And again, not only farms got Icelandic names, also areas like Thingvalla in N-Dakota (after Ţingvellir in Iceland), Post offices like Kristnes in Saskatchewan (after a well known farm and settlement place in Iceland from around year 900) and towns like Árborg, Manitoba (who gave the town that name, and why Árborg?). This is just to name some places.
What kind of names could there be except for names of farms, areas and post offices - in use or not in use any more? Are there names of mountains, hills, valleys, lakes, rivers, creeks, plains, churches, towns, villages, streets, houses, etc., etc.??
What about Icelandic names on Washington Island? in Minnesota? in Washington? In Utah? Alberta? Br. Columbia? There must be some.
I think it would be a very interesting task to collect as many names as possible that reminds us of Icelandic traces around in N-America.

So how about taking part in the search for Icelandic Place names? You all originate from some Icelandic settlements in Canada or US. Search your mind and/or ask relatives. Then submit to me by filling in the form below:

Name of place (or whatever it is):

Background information to find the place:


State or Territory:


City or Town:

Other geographical information:

Origin or explanation of place name:

Other information:


The subject's name is in use: Yes Not any more I don't know

Name of submitter:

E-mail address of submitter:


Submissions can also be sent by e-mail to Hálfdan Helgason.

 Naming a town
Many of the Icelanders who intended to settle down in New Iceland, Manitoba, in 1875 came from Kinmount, Ontario, having emigrated from Iceland the previous year. When the group left Toronto they were almost 300. After a voyage along the Great Lakes, they finally reached Duluth, Minnesota and were greeted by some Icelanders from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who joined the groop. They now went by the new Northern Pacific Railway to Glyndon, near Moorhead, where they were all crowded into some type of factory.
The day after, they reached Fisher's Landing near Grand Forks, North Dakota. Here they again boarded a ship, an old-fashioned sternwheeler called the "International", then on its last voyage, with two barges ín tow. On these the people with their baggage were huddled together for several days under the open sky down the Red River to Winnipeg and onwards to place where the new settlement was to be established.
During conversations that enlivened their depressing voyage came a proposal from Ólafur Ólafsson from Espihóll (Aspen Hill) in Iceland, the leader of the Milwaukee group, that the first Icelandic town built in America, which was then expected to be on the banks of the Whitemud (Icelandic) River, should be named Gimli. This suggestion received unanimous support, and the name was later given to the town established that fall where the Icelanders first landed, in the south part of the colony.
According to the ancient Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress), found in the Elder Edda, our earth is destined to vanish, completely destroyed in the flames of war. Thereafter will rise a new and better world, inhabited by just and good people, who will live forever at peace in their heavenly abode of Gimli.
Text with ref. to: "Gimli Saga", The History of Gimli, Manitoba 1975.

Settler of the Week

Ólafur Ólafsson frá Espihóli

Ólafur Ólafsson
from Espihóll (Aspen Hill)

Ólafur Ólafsson was born at Espihóll in Eyjafjarđarsýsla in the North of Iceland 1835. His parents were Ólafur Gottskálksson and Kristín Sveinsdóttir, farmers at Fjöll in Kelduhverfi, Thingeyjarsýsla north.
In 1873 Ólafur emigrated with his wife Ólöf Jónsdóttir and two fostersons, Ólafur Pá Friđriksson and Friđrik Sveinsson and settled at first in the Icelandic settlement in Markland, Nova Scotia; the following year they moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That year Ólafur went along with Jón Ólafsson and Páll Björnsson on an expedition tour to Alaska (see: Icelandic Settlement in Alaska in Newsletter #9). In 1875 Ólafur moved with family to New Iceland, Manitoba where Ólafur's wife died. In 1879 Ólafur moved to N-Dakota and settled down in Gardar. In 1888 Ólafur was on the move again and this time he moved to Alberta, Canada, where he lived until he moved once again and now to Winnipeg where he died in 1919. Ólafur's second wife was Anna Sigríđur Jónsdóttir. They had two daughters: Ólöf Goodman and Friđey Ólafsdóttir.

If you want further information on Ólafur Ólafsson's family, write to Hálfdan

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