The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 7
April 12, 2003   Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 The search for Zion
When talking about the Emigration from Iceland to North America we usually refer to the period of 1870 to 1914. The reason is that during this time the emigrants usually enlisted groups organized by special agents and on ships made available for that purpose. It's estimated that roughly 20.000 people left the homeland, about one fifth of the country's population and searched the fortune in a new one. And why did people emigrate? Well, we can come to that later. But first to another story.
Prior to the massive emigration mentioned above in the year 1870 and up to the 20th Century, caused primarily by natural hardship, a migration some fifteen years earlier, due to causes of a different nature, actually led to the establishment of the first (permanent) Icelandic settlement in America.
People of the Mormon faith had settled in the territory of Utah in the year 1847.
These Mormons, as they are often called, were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had left previous settlements in Ohio and Illinois due to persecution and had travelled west where they would be able to form zion, or a peaceable community. The community was small in number at first, but grew as missionaries sent to other countries shared their gospel with others and many were converted. Converts, primarily from European nations, began arriving in Utah in great numbers, adding to the community of Mormons already there.
In 1850, two Icelandic students in Copenhagen, Þórarinn Hafliðason and Guðmundur Guðmundsson, met Mormon missionaries from Utah. In 1851 they were baptized members of the Church and shortly returned to their homes in Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland, where they shared their new faith with neighbours and friends. Just as the early American Mormons had experienced persecution, the early Icelandic Mormons also found it difficult to practise their faith. Many of the early Icelandic converts decided to emigrate to the gathering place of the Latter-day Saints in Utah.
Samuel Bjarnason, Margrét Gísladóttir Bjarnason, and Helga Jónsdóttir, were among the first to leave their homeland for Utah. They left Iceland in the year 1855 and arrived in Utah in 1856, settling in the town of Spanish Fork, where a Danish settlement already existed. Other Icelanders soon arrived in Spanish Fork, including Þórður Diðriksson and Guðmundur Guðmundsson, Loftur Jónsson, Magnús Bjarnason and his wife Þuríður, Ragnhildur Stefánsdóttir, Vigdís Björnsdóttir, Jón Jónsson, Anna Guðlaugsdóttir, Guðrún Halldórsdóttir, Guðný Hafliðason, and many others, along with members of their families. Many of the early Icelandic settlers later became missionaries and went back to their homeland of Iceland, which contributed to both the establishment of the Mormon faith in Iceland and the eventual emigration of new converts to Utah.
The Icelanders contributed greatly to the Mormon community of Spanish Fork. Their skills in carpentry, metal working, painting, stone masonry, watchmaking, dressmaking, weaving, and farming, helped create a thriving town. These settlers formed an Icelandic Library Association which continued for many years through the contributions of Icelandic books of literature and other texts. The books now form part of a special collection of Icelandic books at nearby Brigham Young University. Emigration from Iceland to Utah would continue throughout the late nineteenth Century, bringing the rich traditions of Iceland to America.

Read about Þórður Diðriksson's voyage to America and travel through the prairie to UTAH. And remember the book: The Icelanders of Utah.

 The Emigration ships
Since the launch of my website The Emigration from Iceland to North America midsummer 1996 I have received thousands, yes - thousands of all kinds of queries regarding the emigration. The ancestral lines of "grandparents" or "great grandparents" is usually the primary question but vital questions are of course: What about their families left in Iceland? Are there living relatives? Where did they come from in Iceland and when did they emigrate, not only the year is of interest but also the date of departure. Unfortunately there are no official records regarding the ships which is often the most difficult case when tracing the people. We have of course the "Emigration records", Vesturfaraskrá, the work of late Júníus Kristinsson, in which you find the records of nearly 15000 emigrants but unfortunately in many cases the ship is not known and never the date of departure. Well, we know in few cases the day of departure. The knowledge has then come from newspaper articles or the emigrants correspondance.
Vesturfaraskrá is still available here in Iceland and can be ordered from bookstore. The price? 2070.00 Ikr. Approx. 26 USD + shipping of course. This book is a must.

 The Database
Thanks to those of you who have now forwarded informations through the form in Newsletter #5 to the database. The informations already gathered have now been transformed to a webpage which URL will be sent to all those who have participated. The page will be updated with new additional informations when they are given and any sender will be informed where to find the page.
Many of you may think like: "I don´t have to fill in the form, I have already sent all I know." That's right, I have through the years corresponded with many of you so I know alot about you :-) but a database like the one we are now compiling is very handy for all of us, so please, fill in the form and spare me to do it.
Take a look at a sample from the database (don't click, just hover).

 The Mail list
I have been bragging before of this Mail list and all of you, my List members. And I do it again. We are now more than 230, all listed since 28 February this year! But we know there are thousands of people "out there" who SHOULD be on the list. People who can add a lot of knowledge of the settlers and the settlements to our knowlwdge - so, why not try to reach them? Some of them at the least. If each of you could acquire one new subscriber - of Icelandic origin - it would be fantastic. Give it a try - it shouldn't be so difficult.
Further, you can help me to improve the Newsletter. I would be happy to receive from you small articles of people (settler of the week) and places related to the emigration or whatever that might be of interest for the Newsletter.
Give it a thought and then . . . drop me a line .

Settler of the Week

Þórður Diðriksson

Þórður Diðriksson
Þórður was born at the farm Hólmur in Rangárvallasýsla, South Iceland 25 Mar 1828. His parents were Diðrik Jónsson (1794-1841) and Sigríður Árnadóttir, farmers at Hólmur. He became a member of the LDS Church, and in 1855 he emigrated to the United States. He arrived in Utah in 1856 and settled in Spanish Fork. In 1858 he married Helga Jónsdóttir. They didn't have any children. In 1866 Þórður married Mary (Maren) Jacobsen, a Danish lady who became mother of Theo Dedrickson and Inger Grace Dedrickson Taylor. In 1880 Þórður married Rannveig Jónsdóttir, who became the mother of T.O. Dedrickson of Bakersfield, Cal., John Dedrickson of Salt Lake City and Helga Dedrickson Grant.
Þórður's home was noted for it's generous hospitality. He was a gifted poet, and some of his writings became a part of the Icelandic litterature in Utah. He died 9 Sep 1894 in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Is Þórður Diðriksson and his family in your family tree?

The Distribution

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The Icelanders of Dakota and Thingvalla Township - an Icelandic Settlement
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The pictures in this and previous Newsletters are not mine. They have been taken off the Net and will be removed from here if the right owner claims so.
 You are obliged to visit my Emigration from Iceland to North America :-)