The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 24
November 15, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 The discovery of America
History books tell us about the discovery of America in 1492 and about the great Italian discoverer Cristofer Columbus, whos voyages were "sponsored" by King Ferdinant of Spain and his queen Isabella. We
Leifur Eirķksson
Icelanders accept this fact with tounge in cheek. We know better
The Saga of the Green- landers (in Flateyjarbók) relates that Bjarni Her- jólfsson was first. Norse discovery of the New World and attempted coloniza- tion appear in two sagas: the aforementioned, written about the mid-12th century, and Eirķk's Saga from the 13th century. They differ in many respects, but if the earlier saga is accepted on the point in question then Bjarni Herjólfsson was blown off course in 986 when sailing west to the Icelandic colony in Brattahlķš in Greenland founded by Eirķkur "rauši" Žorvaldsson (Eric the red) in 986. Bjarni refused to explore this unknown land at three specified locations which, as the saga says, earned him no credit among his fellow countrymen.
Leifur Eirķksson, son of Eirķkur rauši, bought Bjarni's ship and sailed with a crew of 35, probably in 990, retracing Bjarni's uncertain route. He succeeded in finding the three locations mentioned by Bjarni Herjólfsson, often given as Baffin, Labrador and Newfoundland. Leifur and the others built houses, explored the country, found grapevines and spent one winter in this new country. They sailed back to Brattahlķš the following spring laden with timber and dried grapes, and a great name for attracting would-be colonists (and drinkers) — Vķnland, or Wineland. On the way back home Leifur rescued some shipwrecked seamen and thereby earned his nickname of "the Lucky".
Žorfinnur Karlsefni
Žorfinnur Karlsefni, who had arrived in Greenland shortly after year 1000, led the only known attempt at coloni- zation. Sixty men, 5 women including Žorfinn- ur's wife, Gušrķšur Žor- bjarnardóttir who bore the son Snorri Žorfinnsson in the New World, livestock and the necessities for permanent settlement were aboard three ships — an estimate based on what one Knörr (a special type of ship) could hold for the cargo and number of passengers involved — which sailed somewhere and established a colony that survived for three years. Extensive archeological digging at l'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland turned up a complete Norse settlement; scientists agree that this site was not Leifur Eirķksson's winter resort, but was it Karlsefni's?
The tiny colony fared no better with American Indians than any future settlers and eventually returned to Greenland laden with valuable cargo.

Icelanders today comment wryly that although they ķn fact discovered America some 500 years before Columbus they had the good sense to lose it — thereby saving the world a lot of trouble for another five centuries!

I have been reading a book full of memories. Memories from Osland. I received it about four years ago and occasionally I take it from the shelfe and read one or two articles. Maybe three. I have read it all before but that doesn't matter, the book is full of sweet nostalgic and I like such feelings. Osland - a community located on Smith Island near the mouth of the Skeena River, Prince Rupert, B.C. - now abandoned - was a tiny Icelandic settlement in the beginning of the twentieth century. Well, not entirely Icelandic, there were others too,
but it seems to me that the majority were Icelandic settlers with their families.
Many have contributed to make the book so interesting. As a matter of fact there are 38 contri- butors who provided input with their memories to make this book so interesting. The editor or "compiler" was Frances Olafson Hanson, a des- cendant of Hallvaršur Ólafsson and Sigrķšur Žorsteinsdóttir, who emig- rated in - well, Hallvaršur emigrated in 1909, acco- rding to the Emigration records, and Sigrķšur two years later with their three children - from Vestmanna- eyjar, the Westman Islands, just south of the Icelandic mainland.
In a previous letter I gave you an idea of a Christmas present, a photo from Mat's gallery. Here is another idea, I strongly recommend this book as your gift to yourself although I cannot tell where to get it!
If you want it, which I hope, just try: Prince Rupert, B.C. Canada V8J3G1 - (1-800-667-7764) and the ISBN number is 0-9682992-02.

 Ram's mass
November 11, the day of the funeral of Bishop Martin of Tours in 397 is commemorated as Martinmas. St. Martin was, in Iceland as elsewhere, one of the most revered saints of the medieval period.
Little is known of Martinmas customs in Iceland, but there are indications that social gatherings were held, and alms may have been distributed to the poor. Feasts of goose, such as in Germany and Scandinavia, are unknown in Iceland.
However, Martinmas had its place in the agricultural calendar until the early 20th century, as this was the time when rams were separated from the ewes, in order to prevent the ewes being ķmpregnated, and lambing inconveniently early the following year, while winter conditions prevailed. Martinmas was thus known as hrśtamessa (Rams' Mass) in the west of Iceland.

 Our Family Tree
The Family Tree is growing. And be aware, this is not only my family tree, it's our tree and now there are more than 5000 names in it. Just click the GenWeb icon and search the data base. You might find the name of one of your ancestors there. If not, and if you want to, I could connect you to the database. Just let me know.


Leif the Lucky
abt 940 - abt 1020

Some people claim to be descending from Leif the Lucky, the discoverer of America. Well, it would be fun - for them - but in short, this is how it is: A source mention his wife Thorgunna, who came to Iceland with Leifur in year 1000 and died shortly after. Their son Thorgeir, born about 990, is also mentioned, but that's all. No other descendant of Leifur is known and no descendant of Thorgeir is recorded.

Gušrķšur Žorbjarnardóttir
abt 980 - ??

Leifur's brother, Žorsteinn, was married to Gušrķšur Žorbjarnardóttir, but died shortly after the marriage and left no descendant. Gušrķšur married then Žorfinnur Karlsefni and went with him to America where she gave birth to Snorri Žorfinnsson, the first white baby born in the new world.
In my last letter (#23) I mentioned the Norwegian Viking Naddod who was storm-driven to the east coast of Iceland. when he was on his way home to the Faroes. He was Gušrķšur's Great great great grandfather. It's interesting to see the relation between one of the discoverer of Iceland and one of the discoverer of America. Isn't it?

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