The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 30
December 31, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 Happy New Year!
As so often before my source for information regarding Icelandic customs and folklore is the book High Days and Holidays in Iceland by my good friend Dr. Árni Björnsson and with his permission, and for that I'm very greatful.
"In the old Icelandic calendar, there is no indication that a year was counted as beginning on any particular day, but the First Day of Summer (sumardagurinn fyrsti) seems the logical equivalent.
In the 12th century it seems that Ari Þorgilsson the Wise regarded September 1 as the beginning of the year, following the example of Pope Gregory VII. By the almanac of the Icelandic Church, however, the year began on Christmas Day.
By the early 16th century, January 1 seems to have been established as the beginning of the year, and the word nýársdagur (New Year's Day) first appears as a marginal note in the first printed version of the New Testament in Icelandic in 1540. Gamlárskvöld (New Year's Eve, literally Old Year's Evening), on the other hand does not appear in print until 1791 and gamlársdagur (Old Year's Day) not until 1862. Various aspects of folklore have become attached indiscriminately to Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and even Twelfth Night. No doubt the confusion arises because New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve were for many centuries one and the same. The dead were supposed to rise from their graves, cows to receive the power of speech, and seals to take on human form, while the óskastund (wishing moment) was also supposed to occur on this night; water might also be turned into wine.
The elves, or "hidd- en people," beauti- ful beings who lived in splendid homes hidden within rocks and crags, were reputed to move house on New Year's Eve. Since the elves might call in on their travels it was regarded as necessary to sweep and thoroughly clean the house before New Year's Eve, as "the hidden people" had high standards of cleanliness. Once all was clean and tidy, the lady of the house would walk about her home, reciting a protective incantation:
Komi þeir sem koma vilja,
veri þeir sem vera vilja,
fari þeir sem fara vilja,
mér og mínum að meinalausu.
Come all who wish to come,
Stay all who wish to stay,
Go all who wish to go,
And do me and mine no harm. "
That was then . . . .

About 10.30 pm New Year's Eve people gather in front of the TV to see the annual Áramótaskaup (New Year Revie), a satirical extravaganza, mostly on politicians and how they behaved throughout the year. After that - it takes about an hour - people flock outdoors to set off the fireworks and ...... what a show! We are almost world famous for our fireworks this evening. People come from abroad, single or in groups to take part and this time the conditions are very good, much snow and the meterologists have promised clear sky. So, why ain't you here?!

 They went to Utah
Many left Iceland for Utah, USA in the nineteenth century. Especially from Vestmannaeyjar, the Westman islands, just south of the mainland. You know why the islands are called Vestmannaeyjar? Well, it all started with your ancestor Ingólfur Arnarson. When he decided to emigrate from Norway in 874 to Iceland, his best friend and brother in law, Hjörleifur (married to Ingólfur's sister), decided to go with him. Well, they were actually forced to leave Norway. But Hjörleifur needed some low wages workers on his future ranch, so while Ingólfur took a short trip to Iceland just to check on the guardian spirits of the country, Hjörleifur went west (from Norway) to the Hebridge islands to get himself some slaves. Now we need to shorten the story and skip some chapters. Ingólfur and Hjörleifur are now in Iceland, Ingólfur seeking his high-seat pillars he had thrown into the waters, determined to settle where the pillars were driven ashore. Hjörleifur had made his temporary farm on the south coast and one day, one of his 10 slaves tells the story that a big brown bear has killed some farm animals. So when Hjörleifur and the free men went to the woods to search for the bear, the slaves attacked them and killed them all. After that they fled the scene, took all the women and on Hjörleifur's ship they sailed to some islands not too far from the mainland. Again we shorten and simplifies the story. Ingólfur and his men had found the pillars in a small bay where the land had many and various natural advantages. One of the advantages was an abundance of natural hot water in open pools that steamed and smoked under the summer skies. A phenomenon that inspired the name Reykjavík - "Smoky Bay" (Today, 1100 years later, this natural hot water provides the capital city with central heating, this "Smoky Bay" city is probably the only smoke-free capital in the world). Well, on with the story, Ingólfur and his men went back to search for Hjörleifur and found him and all his people dead. Ingólfur's instinct told him that the slaves had fled to the islands he saw not too far from the coast. And he was right, he found them there and all the slaves were killed. After that Ingólfur gave the islands the name Vestmannaeyjar (Westman islands), because the slaves were Westmen, men from islands west of Norway.
Oh yes, Utah! I had almost forgot! I was doing some search in connection to a querie from my friend Gordon in Lethbridge, Alberta. His people came from Vestmannaeyjar and settled in Utah. His grandfather's third wife was Jóhanna Jónsdóttir, born 1849 in Vestmannaeyjar, who emigrated with her small daughter in 1891. She was a widow then, had been married to a fisherman in Vestmannaeyjar with the name Guðmundur Guðmundsson. I found that Guðmundur's sister Jóhanna Guðmundsdóttir (1841-1935) had emigrated with her husband, whos name was also Guðmundur Guðmundsson (a tricky name when researching Icelandic genealogy), and their seven daughters, 1) Sólrún (1867-1949) married Jóhann Pétur Jónsson, 2) Jóhanna (1870-1892) married Edward King, 3) Ragnhildur (1873-1891), 4) Ingveldur (1874-??) married John James Carrick, 5) Guðbjörg (1876-1962) married Jeremiah M. Davis, 6) Maria (1878-1951) married Julius Whitmore and 7) Jónína (1880-1963) married Angus Lee Harmer. And now the question, does anyone recognise these names? The families?

 Thirty numbers
Hey, just wanted to have thirty numbers this first year of my Newsletter. I also wantet to see what the heck I have been writing so I printed it out, all the numbers. This is almost a book!
Heaven knows how many the numbers will be in the year 2004. We'll have to see. It may depend on many things, my health (I'm OK right now!), other things I have to do in my spare time from work (well, the Newsletter has a priority in my mind, but I have a family, you know, hehe!), and last but NOT the least it depends on you. If I don't hear from you I might get the feeling that I'm writing to the wind. That may be allright for some time but not too long.
Anyway, I'm not complaining
Have a prosperous year 2004!
Settler of the Week

Björn Mathews

Guðrún Lundal Mathews

Björn Mathews was born 19 Aug 1871 in North-east Iceland. His parent were Jón Methú- salemsson and Stefanía Ste- fánsdóttir. They emigrated in 1887 to Canada and settled in the wilderness near lake Mani- toba. An area called Álftavatns-settlement (Lundar). In 1898 Björn married Guðrún Guð- mundsdóttir Lundal. She was born 8 Dec 1875 in Borgar- fjörður county, west Iceland and had emigrated with parents, Guðmundur Bjarnason Lundal (1834-1901) and Guðrún Gísladóttir (1835-1906) in 1887 from their farm in the valley called Lundarreykjadalur, hence the name Lundal. (LUNdarreykjaDALur, dalur=valley). Björn Mathews and Guðrún lived in Oak Point, Manitoba most of their live. They had five children: 1) Otto Wathne, married Emelia Skagfeld, 2) Sigurður Jón, married Dora Skagfeld, Emelia's sister), 3) Aðalbjörg, married William Lockhart, 4) Guðmundur and 5) Margrét.
Björn died 6 Sep 1948 and Guðrún died 1961.

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