The Emigration from Iceland to North America
25 May 2007   Newsletter - Nr 60
Keeping in touch every now and then!
 To my readers

"I'm always making a comeback but nobody ever tells me where I've been." I think it was the famous Jass singer Billy Holyday who, maybe jokingly, uttered these words. Maybe she wasn't always sure of where she had been. On the other hand, I'm always quite sure of where I am, and every now and then I'm trying to make a comeback as the editor and sole writer of my Newsletter (haha!!) but the result isn't always as I want it to be. Maybe it's because I┤m trying to write in a language I really don't know. Well, writing this, it comes to my mind what the "rocking" Frank Zappa (1940-1993) once said: "Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read". Saying this I'm certainly not hinting in any way to your reading ability, but I often wonder what comes to your mind when you read my English. Anyway, I like keeping it touch with you (every now and then) this way and even though I really don't have a complaint about the response to my Newsletter I certainly would welcome more of that.
Dear friends, help me to keep the Mailing list groving! Right now the number of "subscribers" is 596! Click this Tell a friend link and send some nice words to your "Icelandic" friends and relatives

As a member of Ůjˇ­rŠknisfÚlag ═slendinga (The Icelandic National League in Iceland) I receive the exellent newsletter L÷gberg Heimskringla, which is the Icelandic Community Newspaper in North America. Recently I became aware of that subscribers are only about 2000. Two thousand.
My old slide rule.
I said "only". It has been estimated that people of Icelandic origin in NA are about 200000. I find, with the help of my old slide rule, that the subscribers are consequently only about 1% of the total. I find it hard to understand that 198000 "Icelanders" (more or less of course) don't find the interest in joining the Icelandic community in NA by subscription because the paper is full of interesting articles with Icelandic connection. I mention here just the permanent columns like "From the Pioneers Daughters", which is the product of the genealogy addicted friend of mine George Freeman of Grand Forks, N.-Dakota, Icelandic for beginners, by Helga Hilmisdˇttir of the Department of Icelandic, University of Manitoba and Kristin's Kitchen (Icelandic recipes) by Kristin Olafson-Jenkins in Ontario. Those of you who have not olready subscribed to L÷gberg Heimskringla, should do it right now. You won't regret. It's "the perfect investment in your Icelandic heritage".

The Reykjavik Grapevine newspaper feature a rather long but very interesting article about Icelandic genealogy mentioning amongst others "Halfdan's website". Yes, my website! The article Share Your Ancestors is of course a must for you to read. Click here!

 The Emigrant

Stefania and Jˇn Met˙salemsson.
This Newsletter's emigrants are Jˇn Met˙salemsson and his wife StefanÝa Stefßnsdˇttir from M˙lasřsla, East Iceland. They had been farming at Fossvellir when they emigrated in 1887 with their six children: A­albj÷rg (17), Bj÷rn (15), Sigur­ur (11), Jˇn (10), Met˙salem (2) and Ragnhildur (0). The emigration port was Sey­isfj÷r­ur (click!) where they boarded s.s. Miaca, with destination Winnipeg. In the new country the family moved right away to the wilderness by the Lake Manitoba, later called the Swan Lake settlement. The journey through the wilderness was very difficult in an ox-drawn wagon. The summer heat was merciless and one of the children died during the journey. Probably the youngest one, Ragnhildur, because my sorce tells that the first year (1887) in the new country they had the daughter Ragnhildur. As many Icelandic settlers the family changed their surnames and took the name Mathews as a family name. In 1898 the oldest son, Bj÷rn (1871-1948) married Gu­r˙n Gu­mundsdˇttir Lundal ((1875-1961); they lived in Siglunes, Manitoba and had at least five children. Sigur­ur, b. 1874 and Jˇn, born 1877, both downed in Lake Manitoba 3 May 1900 and Met˙salem, b. 1885 was killed in action in France 1918 during the WWI. I don't have any information of A­albj÷rg or Ragnhei­ur.
Gu­r˙n and Bj÷rn Mathew's children were 1) Otto Wathne Mathews (1899-1977), he married Emelia Skagfeld (1902-1942) daughter to Andres Skagfeld and his wife Steinunn ١rarinsdˇttir. 2)Sigur­ur Jˇn Mathews, b.1900, who married Dora Skagfeld, Emelia's sister, 3) MargrÚt Mathews b. 1902 4) A­albj÷rg (Alla) b. 1904, married William Lockhart in Winnipeg and 5) Gu­mundur (1908-1928).
Befor marriage Jˇn Met˙salemsson had the daughter MarÝa (Kristbj÷rg StefanÝa MarÝa Jˇnsdˇttir), b. 1866. She married Gu­mundur Hßvar­sson (1859-1942). Together they emigrated with three young sons in 1905, Jˇn A­alvar­ur (Var­i), Sigur­ur and Gunnlaugur Howard.
If anyone can give me further information regarding this family, please drop me a line.

If you want your Icelandic ancestor to be the Newsletter's emigrant, please send me a line with some information and a photo if possible.

 Icelandic Street names . . . .
In my last Newsletter I fantasized about street names on Point Roberts. One of the names was Simundson Drive. My guess was that it might have been named after Jˇnas SŠmundsson (1867-??) who came to the Point in 1904. Well, it was a miss. From Jona Aldridge I received the following message: "Simundson Drive was named by my cousin Ronald Simundson who owed the marina at one time (He passed away March 31, 2007 in Point Roberts Washington). He is a descendent of Benedict Saemundsson who immigrated to Canada in 1925. Ronald's father was Martin Simundson. His death notice is in the Calgary Herald on line. Thank you for all your hard work, sincerely Jona."
Thank you so much Jona Aldridge.

On the City-map of Marietta in Washington, US, I found the street name Hoff Road. One Icelander with the name Hoff settled down in Marietta at - or shortly after - the turn of the century (1900 of course). He was Bergvin Jˇnsson who moved with his wife Saeunn Jˇnsdˇttir from Minneota in Minnesota. Bergvin had emigrated from the farm Hof in Vopnafj÷r­ur, East Iceland, in 1879 and from that farmname he took the name Hoff. Whether the street name is in honour to this gentleman is not for me to say.
Many English words are difficult to write - if you want to do it correctly - as it doesn't always follow the pronounciation as Icelandic does in most cases so when I wrote the last sentence I hesitated a bit, and asked myself: "Should I write weather, whether or wether"? I had to consult my dictionary to find that whether the weather is nice depends on whether it is raining or not. But a wether is just a castrated sheep. So you see, a dictionary is a must for me :-)

If you are searching your ancestors who settled on the wst coast, you may find them in the book Icelanders on the Pacific Coast, published in 2004 by The Icelandic Club of Greater Seattle. This book is a must for everyone interested in the history and genealogy of the Icelandic settlers on the West Coast. Click the Club's link, find a contact and try your luck. Some few books might be left.

 Old Icelandic Church
The old turf church, built 1834, at VÝ­imřri in beautiful Skagafj÷r­ur where my great grandparents on my father's side are buried. You can see my family tree if you have access to my online database :-) Photo Courtesy: Mats Wibe Lund

 My Online Database
Just click the GenWeb-logo below and check on your Icelandic ancestors. The database is locked, so you need a password for your search. Right now the database holds 520.374 names and is constantly growing. Get a password,, and check your family tree. Also I'm sure you can help me with some additions to the database!
Remember: When you apply for passwords, you must inform me of your Icelandic ties with names of your ancestors, when they were born (at least approximately), when they emigrated, where from, their children and whatever you may know about them. That will help me to prepare for your visit if necessary.

 Pictures from Iceland - Your ancestors homeplace!
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.