The Emigration from Iceland to North America
20 April 2006   Newsletter - Nr 52
Keeping in touch as often as possible!
 Happy Summer!
Today, Thursday April 20th is the first day of summer according to the old Icelandic Almanac. To old Icelandic tradition it may be counted the beginning of the year. Falling on a Thursday between April 19 and 25, this day, The First Day of Summer, is known from the earliest Icelandic records. The year was divided into summer and winter, and people counted their ages not in years but in winters. A boy or a girl of seventeen e.g., were - not seventeen years, but seventeen winters, they had survived seventeen winters. Actually it was quite an achievement in the old days when children's death was so awesome.
The First Day of Summer is also the first day of the month of Harpa. The derivatíon of this name is not clear; it may have been a reference to harsh spring weather, but was traditionally interpreted as the name of a young girl. While the month of Þorri was a man and the month of Góa was a woman, Harpa was sometimes called their daughter. Since the month of Harpa was widely believed to be a reference to a girl's name, it is not surprising that the First Day of Summer became attached to young girls. On the first day of Harpa, also known as "yngismeyjardagur" or "Maiden's Day", young lads were supposed to welcome the "maiden," Harpa, and to be particularly courteous and attentive to young girls. They, the girls, gave their compliment on "yngismannadagur" (Lads' Day), the first day of the month of Einmánuður. While St. Valentine's Day (February 14) was not known to Icelandic lovers, Maiden's Day and Lads' Day performed much the same function.
Beloved harbinger of summer.
Gifts were given on the First Day of Summer — the earliest evidence of this custom is from the 16th century. In the 19th century, Summer Gifts were still far more common than Christmas presents. These were usually gifts from parents to children, from husband to wife or vice versa, or from master to servant. While this custom has grown less common with the proliferation of gift-giving days (birthdays, Christmas etc), Icelanders still invariably exchange wishes for a "happy summer."
The various migratory birds have commonly been regarded as harbingers of summer in Iceland, e.g. the golden plover and the whimbrel. Although the golden plover might arrive before the last snow had fallen, the consensus was that summer had arrived in earnest when the whimbrel or snipe was seen.
It was commonly regarded as a good omen if summer and winter "froze together," i.e. if there was a frost on the night before the First Day of Summer. A dish of water was usually left out in a sheltered place, to show whether the temperature dropped below freezing.
A light-hearted tradition attached to the First Day of Summer was to tell one's fortune from the summer moon (i.e. the next moon after the Easter moon). After seeing the first new moon of the summer, one had to remain silent, and wait to be addressed. What was said could bode either good or ill. The most famous story of this kind is of a young, newly engaged girl, who saw the summer moon. When she sat down in a decrepit chair someone said to her. "Watch out, he's unsteady" (chair is a masculine noun in Icelandic). Her sweetheart jilted her that summer.

Ref.: "High Days and Holidays in Iceland" by Dr. Árni Björnsson, published by Mál og menning 1995.

 Reykjavik, Manitoba
It's fun browsing the WW Web. The other day I found the following about Reyjavik, Manitoba, when reading pages from the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.

Reykjavik, Manitoba
Reykjavik, Manitoba in Canada was founded in 1883 by Gunnlaugur "Gódi" Úlfsson. He and his faithful companion, Orn "Eagle" Arnaldsson fled their native Iceland after escaping captivity, after having been arrested for murder. They settled with their families in the current region of Reykjavik, Manitoba. They were both farmers and dear friends with the famous poet Stephan G. Stephansson.
Addition: Orn "Eagle" Arnaldsson was also known for his famous dancing skills - mainly in native icelandic dancing as seen in the epic Egils saga

Hehehe!! It's interesting browsing the Wikipedia pages but don't take anything you read there for granted. Whoever can write or edit whatever he/she wants.
These two characters mentioned, certainly never existed and the Reykjavik area, originally The Bluff, was settled around 1900.
The first settlers on The Bluff were the brothers Ingimundur and Guðjón Erlendsson. They were both born at Böðmóðsstaðir in Árnessýsla county in southern Iceland, Ingimundur 12 Aug 1855 and Guðjón 25 Dec 1858. Ingimundur's wife was Valgerður Kjartansdóttir and Guðjóns wife was Valgerður Jóhanna Jónsdóttir. Their parents were Erlendur Eyjólfsson and Margrét Ingimundardóttir, farmers at Böðmóðsstaðir. The children of Erlendur and Margrét were many, 18 actually, nine of them reached to be adult, and others than Ingimundur and Guðjón who emigrated were the brothers Eyjólfur, Eiríkur, and Erlendur and the sisters Margrét, Kristín and Sigríður. Maybe these siblings will be mentioned later.

 My Mailbox
"In my Outlook Express' Inbox is a folder especially for mail related to the Emigration. Questions about ancestors, descendants, places in Iceland and - just whatever people want to know regarding their Icelandic ancestors. At the moment there are about 6200 messages in this folder and the time period is the last 5 years which means about 3,5 messages a day. Believe it or not :-) And I'm not counting the five years previous to the period mentioned. Yes, it's true, I haven't replied to all of the messages in my Emigration folder - not yet. 303 are "unread", meaning unreplied to; haven't yet found the answers to the questions raised. Giving you this "secret" I really hope you will not stop writing to me, rather incresing the flow of information regarding your ancestors and families, thus helping me to help others.

 My view
The view from my window the First Day of Summer 2006

 My online database
Just click in the GenWeb-logo below and check on your Icelandic ancestors. As I have told before, the database is partly locked, so if you see a lot of Xs it means that you need a password to search further. Right now the database holds 518.653 names and it's constantly growing. Get a password and chech your family tree. I'm sure you can help me with some additions to my database!

 Pictures from Iceland
Mats Wibe
Click on Mats Íslandsmyndasafn and browse through what is just a tiny bit of Mats Wibe Lund's huge picture gallery of places all over in Iceland. If you really want a fine picture of where your ancestors lived, just contact him.