The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 20
October 5, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 Pirates raids the Westmann Islands
I'm not much for movies. Not anymore. I can't stand the NOICE! But recently my 12 year old grandson took me to see the film "Pirates of the Caribbean". Johnny Depp was great and a good pirate and we had a good time together. All the three of us :-) On our way home from the movie I told Halfdan II (my grandson) about the pirates who came to Iceland in the old days and that visit was certainly not a pleasant one. You know that story?
The story goes that four or five ships set sail in June 1627 to Iceland, navigated by pirates from Algerie in North Africa. Moslim people, seafarers from Algerie and Marocco, usually called "The Turkish barbarians" in the north of Europe, raided costal villages and cities where resistance was light and of course this small fleet headed for Iceland when they heard of that defendless country.
At first the pirates sailed to the East of Iceland, brutalizing peasants and fishermen; men, women and children alike, capturing 110 prisoners and killing nine people. While raiding the East fjords, another ships made their visit 20 June to the tiny hamlet of Grindavík nearby Keflavik in south west Iceland. The same barbaric deeds were done there as in the east, people captured or brutally killed. But this was not enough. The Westmann Islands, almost unprotected, was their next goal.
The people in Westmann Islands had already heard of the pirates and tried to prepare for some resistance but in vain and were outflanked by "these cold blooded murderers, who can only be likened to mad dogs" as it says in an account written by Kláus Eyjólfsson (1584-1674) on June 19 1627, shortly after the events themselves. "As they approached the settlement, they came to (the house) Ofanleiti, where they took captive the minister, Ólafur Egilsson, along with his wife, two maid servants and a small child. The priest, however offered them resistance, so they struck him down and beat him .... then wounded him and hearded both him and his householders to the Danish houses . . . On the way they rounded up yet others whom they found and set fire to every house and hut along the way." And Kláus continues: "Anyone unable to keep up with their pace as they herded these captives to the Danish houses was cut down, and in their madness for blood these villains then chopped and hacked the bodies into small pieces with the greatest of enjoyment and bloodlust."
Peuh! Not a nice story and I didn't go into details when telling my grandson about the incident. The movie we had just seen, even though the story in it had been the holy truth, was nothing compared to what the victims of the "Turks" had to suffer.
Westmann Islands
In all, some 350 men, women, and children were taken captive in these raids, mostly in Westmann Islands and the East Fjords, and of these only 27 ever saw Iceland again. Those who survived the voyage to Africa were transported in chains to marketplaces and put up for sale like livestock. However, the slaves could be ransomed out of captivity and Ólafur Egilsson, then 63 years old was actually sent on his own to Denmark where he was to implore the Danish King to pay for the freedom of his Icelandic subjects. But King Christian IV of Denmark was then at war and needed all money available for that purpose. So the following year (1628) only Ólafur and four others, who had been bought free, came back to Iceland. It was not until 1636 that the Danish King could afford to pay ransom for 37 Icelanders in Algerie. For several reasons only 27 of them came back to Iceland in July 1637, among them was a woman named Guðríður Símonardóttir, ever after nicknamed "Turk-Gudda". She became wife to Hallgrímur Pétursson, reverend and a poet. His beloved Psalms of Passion (50) have been published more than 60 times in Iceland and translated to many languages. Both Ólafur Egilsson and Guðríður Símonardóttir have thousands of descendants living today. Many of their descendants emigrated to North America. So probably some of you should try to prefigure your ancestor, standing in chains at a slave market somewhere in Algerie in 1627, stripped to the naked skin and valued as a livestock.

 The Family Tree
Most people who research their Family Tree discover something fascinating. I don't know about you. I recall the time, almost half a century ago, when I started on my family tree. I was 18, injured after a soccer game and had to stay calm at home. It was very difficult and I felt I had nothing to do, but quite incidentally I started to search for my nearest ancestors. I was lucky, my paternal grandfather had been a reverend and so had also been his ancestral line for many generations. I said Lucky, because these guys could be found in many of the books dealing with genealogy and history and in between and all around in my tree were sheriffs and other ribalds :-)
So pretty soon I had traced my ancestry back to the time of the settlement of Iceland. The next step was to consult Snorri Sturluson and his Heimskringla to go as far back as possible, to the Nordic kings and queens in ancient time. My grandmother had given me that book when I was 14. It always reminds me of her and is one of the the best books in my bookcase. This was all so fascinating. To tie my ancestry to the history of Iceland. Part of the fascination was discovering the size of families, where they had lived, what kind of conditions they lived in and even in some cases the attrition rates. I still keep that small exercise-book in which I wrote down several hundred names of Gr.....grandfathers and Gr.....grandmothers. Those were the days.
Genealogy is a particularly popular topic on the Internet. I am not sure why it is so fascinating, the premisses may be so different, but the fun, detective work and sense of history that you get from knowing who you are and where you fit in your family tree, is absolutely compelling.
Take a look at
a small Ged-file
uploaded at
as an example.
If you have done any research into your family tree, you will probably have discovered at least as much and probably more. And here comes a vital point :-) Don’t keep it all to yourself, share it with others. How? Well, there are so many choices. And it's so easy, we have got computers and we have got the Internet. The only problem is to choose the "best" software to keep the records. There are so many. But most of them have one thing in common, the ability to inport and export GEDCOM files. Once you have a gedcom file, why not make your own homesite where you publish your Family Tree? This you can do for nothing - just to mention one host of many. You can even skip that. Just go to GeneaNnet and upload your Family Tree. No charge there either. See my example.

 Tell me what you do
Just a curiousity, but I would like to know your reaction when you get the message of a new Newsletter. So, push the button below please and submit your reply. Thanks a lot. Can't wait to see how you react . . . . . . . .

Settler of the week

Ingibjörg Ögmundsdóttir

In my Newsletter #19
I mentioned some of the emigrants who left the farm Fagridalur in Vopnafjörður in 1887 and 1888. The emigrants were the family of Einar Markússon (1856-1904) and Ingibjörg Ögmundsdóttir (1865-1945). I pleaded for information regarding the family and their life in the new country. And sure I got the respond. One of their many descendants, a member of this list, sent a very good report as well as a long document giving a good information of Einar and Ingibjörg's descendants. And the picture of Ingibjörg you see above. Thank you very much Craig!

Click in the farm's name to see it's location.

More emigrants from Fagridalur: No less than 18 people emigrated from Fagridalur in 1903.
The farmer Halldór Þórðarson (58) and his son Benedikt (23) and a fosterdaughter, Ólöf Þorsteinsdóttir (11). Jakob Guðjónsson a farmers hand. The farmer Guðmundur Jónsson (40), his wife Jónína Björnsdóttir (39) and their children: Jóhanna (14), Sigríður (13), Jón (12), Björn (10), Málmfríður (7), Guðrún (6), Eiríkur (3) and Stefanía (2). Others were: Stefanía Sigurðardóttir (31), Jón Halldórsson (26), Þóra Sigurðardóttir (42) and their son Halldór Júlíus Jónsson (0).
Any information available?

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