The Emigration from Iceland to
North America
25 January 2014   Newsletter - Nr 75
Keeping in touch occationally!
 Grand Slam

Thorvaldur Stephensen
Finally a Genealogy Grand Slam!
I thought I had already written my last "Newsletter" long time ago, but I simply have to deal this with you. Ever since early 1995 when my interest for the history of Icelandic Emigration to North America became almost an obsession to me I have every now and then searched for decendants of the only relatives I know I have somewhere in North America. Two brothers of my Great grandmother emigrated with their family, Thorvaldur Stephensen already in 1873 to Chicago and Jonas Stephensen, almost 40 years later, in 1904 to Winnipeg. Ever since 1995 my search was not successful. Probably because I was most of the time busy searching quite unrelated people. It must be hundreds and hundreds more of them I searched for, I'm sure.
Grand Slam - I call it so as I received messages from great grandsons of both my great grandmother's brothers Thorvaldur and Jonas Stephensen last week! From both my fourth cousins in the same week! - almost 20 years since I first set sail in my quest. Persistence pays obviously. One lives in Chicago and the other in Columbus, Ohio. Now I wait for further information on family members. Exciting!
The family name Stephensen is an - well, I call it a distortion - from the surname Stefánsson.
It was rather common in those days that Icelandic officials, mainly those who had studied in Denmark, changed their surname to more Danish-like name (maybe they found it exotic!). Thus Stefánsson became Stephensen, Þorvaldsson became Thorvaldsen, Sigurðsson became Sivertsen and so on. These Danis-like familynames have descended along with the generation to the day today.
The head of the Stephensen kin was Ólafur Stefánsson (1731-1812). He was, as it was called, Stiftamtmaður meaning that he was the Danish King´s representative in Iceland, primarily though in spiritual matters. He was a very well educated man, poet and a writer. Amongst other things he wrote a book of Mathematic (published in 1785) for the common people, which included a chapter of Decimal fractions, which was at that time nearly unknown in books for the public in Europe.
If you search for Ólafur Stefánsson in the "Icelandic Roots" database you will find there nearly 6000 descendants of my Great-great-great-great-grandfather :-) And there are more for sure.

Dear friends, I like to maintain my Mailing list although I'm a lazy writer :-) This letter is Numero 75. Think if I would reach to 100. That would be historic, both for me and you! Haha!! No promises.

Click this Tell a friend link and send some nice words to your "Icelandic" friends and relatives

 The Emigrant

s.s. Vesta in Seyðisfjörður. Click the picture
One of the many ships (26 according to the records of Emigration - Vesturfaraskrá) that brought Icelandic emigrants either directly to North America or to Scotland, where they boardered another ship further on to the land of great opportunities, was s.s. Vesta. This ship ran regularly between Iceland, Scotland and Denmark in it's time. It used to bring mail for the Icelandic and Danish Postal Ministrations and was therefore called Póstskipið Vesta (the Mail ship Vesta).
In 1904 and 1905 - the only years this ship is recorded in the emigration business - it took several emigrants that gathered mainly in villages in northern and eastern Iceland, like Sauðárkrókur, Akureyri and Seyðisfjörður, before emigration. Out of 313 emigrants from Iceland in 1904, s.s. Vesta brought only 37 according to Vesturfaraskrá.
It is always interesting to try to follow the emigrants from their home in Iceland to their settlement either in the US or Canada. Onboard Vesta in 1904 was a young couple emigrating from Akureyri, Stefán Helgason, 32 years old carpenter and Margrét Jónsdóttir (21), with their 2 years old daughter Dagmar. The family settled in Elfros, Saskatchewan. The little daughter died in 1906. Other children of Stefán and Margrét were Sigurlaug (1904-1973) married Jay Wilson McMartin (1901-1980), Helgi Friðrik Helgason "Fred" (1906-1927), Hjalti Helgason (1908-1982) married Grace Violet Rourke (1910-1985), Kristín Ingibjörg (1909-1974)
Guðmundur Júlíus Jónasson
married Roy Parker Sherdahl (1912-1938), Friðþjófur Helgason ("Fredjoe") (1911-1978) married Evelyn Erickson (1913-??) and Sigurður Björn Helgason (1913-1992) married Phyllis Mary Rollins (1920-1967). In Icelandic Roots' database are nearly 200 of Stefán Helgason and Margrét Jónsdóttir's descendants.
In 1905 only 67 emigrants sailed on Vesta from different places in Iceland on their way to a new home in a faraway country. One of them was Guðmundur Júlíus Jónasson, 18 year old "vinnumaður" (labourer) from the farm Sjávarborg in Skagafjörður. He travelled alone. His father had died few years earlier and his mother and sisters emigrated in 1903. Guðmundur ended up in North Dakota where his family had settled. He married Elísabet Guðnadóttir b. 1889. They had five children. One of them was Robert Frederick Olafson, father of the well known "Icelander" in North Dakota, Sunna Pam Furstenau :-)

 Reykjavik in 1870

This is how the center of Reykjavik looked like, when Thorvaldur Stephensen emigrated from there in 1873.

 Icelandic Roots database

What you should know by now: The Genealogy Database I built up through many years, has been taken over by Sunna Pam Furstenau in North Dakota. If you want to trace your ancestry, you have to register through:

 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.