The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 25
November 23, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 Fighting for the Emigrants
As we know, the first Icelandic emigrants to North America were the so called Mormons who went to the promised land in Utah. It was already in the years just before 1860 the first Mormons left the Westman Islands in their search for Zion. And there were many to follow.
Many years later, in 1870, a group of seven people left Eyrarbakki in South Iceland and settled on Washington Island (Newsletter #8). The following years individuals and small groups began to venture west across the seas in hope for a brighter future.
As the number of emigrants increased, emigration agents appeared in Iceland and notification of their services soon began appearing in Icelandic newspapers.
These agents were paid a commission for each emigrant they recruited for the shipping lines resulting in a heavy "fight" for the emigrants as can be seen in the poster above. There, Jón G. Bergmann, a passenger of the Ancor line praises the food and condition provided by the company and advises his contrymen to rather travel with ships from that company than the Allan line which he had done six years earlier. Jón G. Bergmann's praise was written on board SS Circassia harboring New York 1 July 1884 and verified by six Icelandic fellow passengers, Sveinn Sveinbjörnsson, Sigurjóna Jóhannsdóttir, Hafliđi Guđmundsson, Una Ólafsdóttir, S.V. Sveinsdóttir and Sćunn Sigurđardóttir.
Who were these people? Sveinn Sveinbjörnsson was S(igriđur) V. Sveinsdóttir's son. Sigríđur's husband Sveinbjörn Sigurđsson had emigrated one year earlier from Ós in Eyjafjörđur and the family settled down in Gardar, N-Dakota. Hafliđi Guđmundsson settled down in South Cypress, Manitoba. He took the family name Goodman, married Halldóra Stefánsdóttir and they had seven children: Kristján Sveinbjörn, Sigrún Margrét (married Felix Friđriksson in Edmonton), Ţorbjörg in Regina, Sask., Guđmundur in Broadview, Sask., Rosant Jón in Glenboro, Sveinbjörg Sólveig in Belmont, Man. and Kapitola in Winnipeg. Sigurjóna Jóhannsdóttir, 21 and Jón Guđjónsson Bergmann emigrated from Eyjafjarđarsýsla. Not yet quite sure about them. Una Ólafsdóttir was 20 years old when she emigrated. She was from Thingeyjarsysla. Many of her half-siblings had already emigrated to Canada. Sćunn Sigurđardóttir was 20 when she emigrated, her husband Ólafur Árnason emigrated one year earlier from Eyjafjarđarsýsla.
Do you know any of these names? Please let me know.

 Icelandic names
You know of my "Forefather Finding Facility" page. You don't? A lot of people do. I get a lot of queries where people ask for assistance in finding their Icelandic family tree. And I must tell you right away that I'm way behind with my replies. So sorry. But I'm working on it! But what I'm about to say is that many ask for the impossible by asking for information about "the Gudmundson family" or "the Sigurdson family" or something similar. Unfortunately, as I said, that's impossible. There is no specific Gudmundson family or Sigurdson family in Iceland. What I mean is: we don´t have family names. Well, there are indeed some few exception. The patronymic sistem we follow and have done since the early beginning is simply as follows: a child's last name is derived from the first name of the father to indicate that the child is the son or daughter of the father. The mother does not change her name upon marriage. So let's take my name: Hálfdan Helgason. My last name, Helgason is because my father's first name is Helgi. His full name is Helgi Hálfdanarson and his last name is because his father's first name was Hálfdan (I took my grandfather's name). My mother's name is Lára Sigurđardóttir. Her last name is because her father's first name was Sigurđur. Sigurđur's father was Lárus Stefánsson, so Sigurđur's full name is Sigurđur Lárusson - son of Lárus.
As I said, there are some exceptions. A few families have inherited family names like Scheving, Schram, Zoega, Long, and others. These names usually descended from people who immigrated from another country. Other family names like Stephensen and Thorlacius have been changed from Stefánsson and Ţorláksson (Thorláksson).See further in my Newsletter #18.
I also think you should take a look at my page Icelandic names
Those who emigrated to North America soon started to use family names to match the customs of their new homeland. They often took the father's last name. Some chose names that were shorter, easier to spell and pronounce, or names that appeared more English. Thus Sumarliđason became Summers, Jónsson sometimes became Johnson and Guđmundsson became Gudmundson, Goodman or Goodmanson. The changes most often makes it very difficult to find the family roots.

Names can have different endings depending on the case of the word. Thus Hof, Vopnafjörđur and Hofi í Vopnafirđi are the same place.

 What is an Icelander?
Genealogical search can be - it is - a difficult task and most often it is necessary to search through many sorces. Fo me, sitting here in Iceland, it's very difficult to find people of Icelandic orign "over there". People from the last century is more difficult than people from the cencury before. Then books like Icelandic River Saga, Reflections by the Quills, Veterans of Icelandic Descent World War I (Minningarrit Íslenskra hermanna 1914-18), Veterans of Icelandic Descent World War II, the Icelandic books Vestur Íslenskar ćviskrár and many others are invaluable. By the way, Minningarrit Íslenskra hermanna 1914-18 is now accessible on the Web. Search the Database here.

The other day when I was searching through the book "Veterans of Icelandic Descent World War II I came upon the following rather amusing submission, to the book, submitted by (Mrs. B.) Elva Barnson, entiteled What is an Icelander?
"Bert Barnson's Induction into the Canadian Army (ROCT) took place at the army base in Old Hotel Vancouver in March, 1944. When asked his nationality his reply of course was Icelandic. He was told there was "no such thing". When asked his racial origin, he replied that "according to legend dark Icelanders originated from Irish slaves and those who were fair, from Norway". Explaining that his father was dark and his mother fair, he was listed as an Irish Norwegian! We were amazed to think that an officer would be so ill-informed. The mistake proved to be detrimental. Following promotion to the rank of Sergeant, plans for him to be examined for a commission were postponed on several occasions. We were puzzled until a friend working on army records suggested that he have his records corrected. He was listed as "Irish Norwegian, coming from enemy occupied territory, not to be trusted with documents"!
My husband was living in Calgary, Alberta, when he was naturalized. It was suggested that he make his name "easier to pronounce", so Engilbert Bjarnason became Bert Barnson. I am sure this would not have happened had he been living in Manitoba at that time."

I was not searching for Bert Barnson in that book but my curiosity was awaken, who was he? In the book, his parents were given: Bjarni Hannesson and Guđrún Eyvindsdóttir, both from the South of Iceland, later of Selkirk, MB. But that's all. Neither Bert (Engilbert) nor his parents are listed in the Emigration records and I haven't found anything about them. Do you have any information?

Settler of the Week

Halldór Jónsson

Kristín Sigurrós Magnúsdóttir

Halldór Jónsson was born at the farm Kirkjuból in the county of Skagafjarđarsýsla in 1854. His parents were Jón Jónsson and Signý Jónsdóttir, farmers hands at several places. In 1880 Halldór married Steinunn Jónsdóttir and together they had five children. But happiness vent by and they lost three of their children before Steinunn died in 1888. Halldór then emigrated with two young daughters and went to Argyle, Manitoba. In 1891 he married Kristín Sigurrós Magnúsdóttir from Dalasýsla county in West Iceland. She had emigrated in 1889. They had three children, Steinunn Ásta, b. 1892, Kristín Magnúsína, b. 1895 and Viktoría Jóhanna Guđrún b. 1900. Steinunn Ásta married Jón Eyţór Erickson newspaper editor in Selkirk. They had five children. Kristín Magnúsína married Jón Markússon John- son. Need more information. And also regarding Viktoría Jóhanna Guđrún.
Halldór's two daughters from his first marriage, who emigrated with him, died unmarried before 1910.

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