The Emigration from Iceland to North America

31 December 2007   Newsletter - Nr 64

My good old Christmas decoration!
 From the desk of yours truly

Well, it's the last day of the year 2007. Is this the day when one reflects and tries to sum it all up? I don't want to be tedious so I’ll just mention the highlights. This was the second year of my retirement. My wife's too. And like the first one we enjoyed it to the fullest. Well, some drawbacks but such is just to overcome. This year we travelled three times to abroad. In March to the Gran Canary island, in June to the Greek island of Crete and in November to the beautiful island of Lanzarote (Canary). So we had an unusually long summer.
My main hobby, Genealogy, took almost all my time from doing nothing and it's interesting to witness an ever encreasing number of queries from North America regarding Icelandic ancestry. In fact, I could sit all days long digging for roots if there weren't other things disturbing :-) This digging started already in 1995 and it would be fun to know the number of queries I have received since then. Must be thousands.
Yes, today is the last day of year 2007. In spite of very unfavourable weather, rain and wind, the firework has already started (forerunners the last two days) and will last for several hours into the night. In fact there will be fireworks more or less the next days culminating January 6th when the last Juletide Lad leaves for the mountains. See my newsletters #28 and #30.

I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

 Icelanders in Kansas and Nebraska
As known great majority of the Icelandic emigrants settled down in Manitoba, Canada, where the government had promised to provide land for the early settlement. From there many went on westwards, to Saskatchewan, Alberta and later to the west coast, others went south, to North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"The House" at Eyrarbakki. The boy with the buckets has been recognised as Ásgrímur Jónsson, who became one of the best known Icelandic painter.
Many spent years and years to search for acceptable land and some of those who went south, went later west and north again before finally settling down.
Some took another course. Ingibjörg Arnórsdóttir, b. 20 Sep 1827, daughter to Arnor Gunnarsson, a merchant in Keflavik who took the name Gunnarsen, to better mingle into the Danish merchants' society in Iceland - she married the Danish merchant assistent Heinrik Peter Julius Kreiser and together with their children emigrated already in 1871 from the village Eyrarbakki - which many of you know and even have been on a visit there. Known from the earliest time in Icelandic history Eyrarbakki was one of the most important commercial place, whereto ships brought "goods" from Denmark to be sold to poor peasants by the Danish monopoly merchants. The Kreiser family went to Kansas where they settled in a community called Denmark, Lincoln County's first permanent settlements.
From Eyrarbakki emigrated in 1870 as one of the first Icelandic emigrants, Jón Gíslason - also a merchant's assistent, 20 years old. He settled on Washington island in Lake Michican where he married Ágústa Einarsdóttir, the daughter of Einar Bjarnason and Helga Sigurðardóttir. Jón and Ágústa had ten children and the descendants are of course numerous.
Several Icelanders tried to settle in Nebraska. They came mainly from Milwaukee, but land was hard to get and many returned. One of the first Icelanders in Nebraska was Jón Halldórsson, b. 1838 at the farm Ytri-Neslönd by Lake Mývatn. He emigrated in 1872 to Milwaukee and two years later he went on a search for a land in Nebraska. In 1885 Jón Halldórsson married Thórvör Sveinsdóttir (1849-1912). They had three sons, Tómas (Thomas), Páll (Paul) and Hrólfur (Ralph) and one daughter, Soffía. Jón Halldórsson was called "Nebraska John". Further information regarding this family is needed.

 Beautiful Iceland
The mountain Skessuhorn in Borgarfjörður county, western Iceland.
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 521.758 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.