The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 35
February 8 2004  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 Burning Flames
Was your forefather put at the stake? Or was it your forefather who sentensed the miserable soul to the stake? Or maybe you had a forefather in both the victim and the judge. Well, the judges were not so many but the victims were quite a few. But what people were put at the stakes? Mostly (not always) common, poor people. Why? Accusation and "confession" of Wichcraft or Sorcery.
Poking the fire.
Sorcery was known in the pagan time, and the greatest sorcerer of all was the pagan god Odin (Newsletter #34), the highest of all the ancient gods. Even after the christianity, sorcery was practised for good, hea- ling, weather, crop, etc., but also for worse. In the latter half of the 14th century the church's atti- tude towards Wichcraft changed radically. The Pope in Rome himselfe issued a letter against what he called Witches, and witchcraft was defined as heresy. In 1486 or so, a manual was published in Copenhagen, Malleus mallificorum (Witch-hammer), with references on how to fight the witchcraft and instructions on all kind of punishment like torture and as a final solution, burning at a stake.
How to get a girl. You should write this sign in the palm of your right hand with blood from the tip of the thumb on the left hand. Take the girl's hand and recite: My hand I lay in yours, my will in . . . etc.
For many decades people had been accused of witchcraft and put to death in burning flames on the European continent before this besetment found it's way to Iceland. As a matter of fact it was brought to Iceland by learned men, who had been studying religion and law in Denmark or Germany. Pretty soon, people started to held their neighbours responsible for the death of a cow or a horse, peoples' sickness or simply whatever went wrong, even waking up people from death and sending the ghost on foul missions. The case was brought to the nearest sheriff who in his investigation more often than not found some suspicious items amongst the poor belongings of the victim. Mainly it was some written sign like, for instance, the one on the left, that one though rather inoffensive compared to many others. The punishment for sorcery or witchcraft was flogging and for severe or repeated crime, the stake.
The first victim for this mad witchcraft hunting was a farmhand in Eyjafjörður, north Iceland, Jón Rögnvaldsson who in 1625 was burnt for raising a ghost and possessing papers with runic characters. Of course he denied all accusations. Jón Rögnvaldsson was born around 1600
Reverend Páll Björnsson
the Witch priest.
and had no descendants but is related to us through his siblings, Jon "younger" Rögn- valdsson and Thora Rögnvaldsdottir, I'm her descendant of the 10th generation as you can see in my GenWeb. Strandasýsla county has been associated with sorcery and wizardry ever since a burning recurred there in 1654. Then a local pastor elicited such hysteria among the women and girls of the congregation that many fell to the church floor during sermons, frothing at the mouth and screaming that they were being assailed by demons or witches. In response, under the zealous direction of Sheriff Thorleifur Kortsson (1615-1698), a former Hamburg- trained tailor turned lawyer, of German origin, three men were charged with sorcery and burned as wizards. This hysteria then spread to the Westfjords, where Sheriff Thorleifur and a local pastor, Reverend Páll Björnsson of Selárdalur (1621-1706), conducted fanatical witch hunts as a result of the delusions of Rev. Páll's insane wife Helga Halldórsdóttir (1617-1704). Amongst their victim was Lassi Didriksson who was burned at Thingvellir, 4 July 1675. At that time he had one daughter, Guðrún Lassadóttir, born 1657. She had at least five children and her descendants are now thousands. I'm one of them and many from that group emigrated to North America. So check on your ancestors! And count the witch-hunters, Rev. Páll Björnsson and Sheriff Thorleifur Kortsson, amongst your ancestors too!! You can see how I'm related to them at my GenWeb. If you don't already have it clear to you how you connect these persons, we could maybe work that out - if you wish!
During the witch-hunting period in the 16th century around 130 cases of witchcraft or sorcery are found in court records both from the high court at Þingvellir and in fragments of county court records. Of the approximately 170 persons accused around 10% were women, the rest were males, mostly of the lower classes though some sheriffs and clergymen were also accused. None of the latter suffered physical punishments. Between 1625 and 1683 twenty one Icelanders were burnt alive for practicing magic.

 Icelandic Place names once again
Once again? I hope to be able to repeet this headline many times.
In my Newsletter #34, I referred to my former querie regarding Icelandic Place names in North America. Several have been in contact which shows interest for this topic. Unfortunately I gave wrong name to a park in Seattle, which I called Gudmundson Park, should have been Magnusson Park. So please, people in Seattle, search your memory, find that park for me and find out if this Magnusson was of Icelandic family, could have been a Swede, is so he does not interest me :-)
Please keep looking for information on Magnus Ave in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Helgason Ave in Langruth, Manitoba.
Gislason Ave in Coquitlam, B.C. is beeing researched and hopefully I'll get some info on that name.

Nelson Gerrard sent information regarding the name of Einarson Street.
"Hi Halfdan,
Regarding Einarson Street in Winnipeg, in 1978 I interviewed a 96 year old lady named Ina (Gislina) Bjornson, who had been raised at the corner of Einarson (she pronouced it Eenarson) and Burnell. She was born in 1882 and she died at age 97. Ina told me that Einarson Street was named for (or by) Gunnar Einarsson, who had bought an acreage along Portage Avenue before Winnipeg expanded that far west. When Ina was a girl there were still Indian tents in the area! Gunnar had a dairy there and later subdivided his property into residential lots. Like a lot of Icelanders who settled in Winnipeg early on, he caught on to the real estate speculation game. I've just been writing a chapter about Gunnar for the Hnausa history book being compiled by a committee here at Hnausa, as Gunnar once lived here at Eyrarbakki for a short time before moving to Winnipeg. In fact his first wife, Sigridur, is buried in the little cemetery nearby. Her headstone from 1879 is the oldest one in the cemetery. Gunnar Einarsson was a native of Eastern Iceland, but as a young man he moved north to Hunavatnssysla with his widowed mother, to live with a half-sister who was the wife of Rev. Hjorleifur Einarsson (father of Einar H. Kvaran). While in the North, Gunnar married Sigridur Gudmundsdottir from Manaskal (the first of his four wives!), whose sister Gudrun was the wife of poet Sigurdur Jon Johannesson. These people emigrated very early on and eventually all settled in Winnipeg. One of Gunnar's descendants is a lawyer in Winnipeg, Grant Einarson by name, and another is Jim McDonald, a college instructor somewhere in British Columbia. He was in Iceland recently as one of the group accompanying our Governor General on a state visit.
Have a good holiday, Halfdan."

From Glenice Sveinson came the following:
"Hi Halfdan
I can help!!!!
Sveinson Street in Selkirk Manitoba is named after my husband's (Keith Sveinson) Grandfather. Thorkell Sveinson was an inventor, hence, the "Selkirk Chimney" which he invented and designed in 1933 and is sold world wide or at least in North America. His father was Sveinn Kristjansson, born September 15, 1836 in Bjarnastöðum i Bárðardal i S-Þing. He came to Canada during the Gimlunga Saga. One daughter still lives in Selkirk MB. When are you planning on arriving in Canada and where do your travels take you?"
Glenice Sveinson

Thank you both Nelson and Glenice!

Regarding my trip to N-America, I'll come to that later, probably my next Newsletter. New, unexpected and exiting invitation will add some additional days and extra flavour to the trip! Can't hardly wait!!

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Settler of the Week

Björn Magnússon

Ingibjörg Hördal

Björn Magnússon was born 5 July 1856 at Grimsstaðir near Reykjavik. His parents were Magnús Þorkelsson (1830-1885) and his wife Vigdís Guðmundsdóttir (1834-1908). In 1885 Magnús died when trying to rescue people when his house burnt down. >Two years later, in 1887, Vigdís emigrated with her children, Guðrún, then 25 years old, Þorkell, 22, Grímur, 17, Ingibjörg, 16, Björn 12 years old, and settled down at Gimli. Her daughter Vigdís Magnúsdóttir emigrated in 1893 with her two children, Magnús Guðmundsson and Guðríður Guðmundsdóttir.
Guðrún Magnúsdóttir married Stefán Sigurðsson (1843-1941) farmer in Árnes, New Iceland, their daughter was Margrét Josephson, wife to Sigmundur Josephson at Gimli.
In 1899 Björn Magnússon married Ingibjörg Þorsteinsdóttir Hördal, born 18 Jan 1875. She had emigrated with her parents and sister in 1876. Her parents were Þorsteinn Jónsson (1840-1911) and Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir (1836-??) farmers at Hóll in Dalasýsla. Ingibjörg's sister was Guðrún Þorsteinsdóttir (1871-??). Þorsteinn Jónsson took the family name Hördal, the name derived from Hörðudalur, the valley where the family lived in Iceland.
Björn Magnússon and Ingibjörg had four children, two reached to be adult, Ragnhildur Ingibjörg Margrét, who didn't marry and Magnús, who married Anne Cobb. Magnús and Ann had four children, Margareth Elizabeth, Bjorn Brian, Keith Markabee and Dianne Ingibjorg. They took the family name Magnus.

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