The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 8
May 3, 2003   Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 My lazy days
Hello good people! Those of you who actually read my Newsletters may have noticed that the last one was sent to you 12th of April (three weeks ago?) meaning that I haven't kept the pace for a weekly Newsletter. Well, I had to take a break, first to have some lazy days during the Easter with the family - children and grandchildren - and after that we (my wife and I) went to visit the beautiful city of Budapest, the capital of Hungary, for some short days. And it was worth it! The weather was very nice, sunny and warm, 20 -25°C, the restaurants and the food is very good, mmmm! and the top of it all was an evening in the grand old Opera house with Verdi's Aida. The Opera house ranks among the most beautiful in Europe with a fantastic interior, possibly the richest in the city as we were told.
Well, this it not ment to be a tourist brochure but if you have the chance to visit central Europe, don't overlook Budapest or Prague, which is still my favourit!

 Settlers on Washington Island
About the same time as the Hungarians were busy building the beautiful Opera house in Budapest many poor Icelanders saw their only chance for survival in emigrating to the New World.
In 1884, the year of the inaugural of the mentioned Opera house, 4778 emigrants had left Iceland from the first year of the Emigration period 1870-1914.
Early immigrants. On May 12, 1870, Jon Gislason, Gudmundur Gudmundsson and Arni Gudmundsson left Eyrarbakki, South Iceland, for America.
In Reykjavik, they were joined by Jon Einarsson. Jon Gislason was in moderately good circumstances and he loaned the others money to pay for their tickets. In Reykjavik various efforts were made to dissuade these four men who were bound to the far west, but without effect. They sailed about the middle of May in the mail steamer Diana by way of the Faeroe and Shetland Isles to Copenhagen. Here they remained four days. On June 3 they sailed by the steamer Pacific to Hull and proceeded then by railroad to Liverpool. From Liverpool they took passage in the Allen Line steamer to Quebec, where they proceeded by immigrant train to Milwaukee, where they did not arrive until the 27th.
The first colony of Icelanders was started on Washington Island, in the Northwestern part of Lake Michigan, north of Door County, Wisconsin, and the story of this Icelandic colony is the major part of the history of this island. Only about a half a dozen white men had settled there in log shanties before the arrival of the Icelanders. It is true that fishermen had visited the shores of the island for years, but they had made no improvements, they had simply cut down trees for fuel around their shanties and made some use of some of the pine trees for barrel staves. Jon Gislason, Gudmundur Gudmundsson and Arni Gudmundsson settled there in 1870. In 1871 they were joined by Arni Bjarnason, a merchant from Reykjavik, with his eldest son and eldest daughter, his wife and remaining children coming two years later. Johannes Magnusson and his wife also arrived the same year. In 1872 the colony received an addition of immigrants from Iceland of fourteen men and several women and children. There were fresh arrivals from Iceland in 1873, 1874, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888 and 1895. Though many of the settlers remained on Washington Island for the rest of their life, some went west to Minnesota and north to Manitoba.

 The Database once again
Thanks again 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 is updated with new additional informations when they are given and any sender will be informed where to find the page.
Unfortunately I still have to urge the great majority of the List members to send information of their Icelandic ancestors through the form - or by email if that is more conveniant - for the benefit to all of us.
Take a look at a sample from the database (don't click, just hover).

 The Newsletter
When I opened Morgunblaðið, the largest newspaper in Iceland, this morning, I found a whole page covering a very interesting subject, an exhibition to be put up in the Cultural Heritage Museum in Gimli, Manitoba. The exhibition, supported by UNESCO, is called "Full Circle: First contact, Vikings and Skraelings in Newfoundland and Labrador" and has been on show in many museums in Canada and is now in the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, Washington and will be there until 25 May.
Further, and what is even more important than the mentioned article covering the exhibition - for me! - there was a small article about my site The Emigration from Iceland to North America and our Newsletter, the one you are reading right now ;-)
My emigration site flies low in the Icelandic media (tell me why and I'll try to improve), and I think it has never been mentioned in a "Western Icelandic" media so it's a real surprice when it happens.

Settler of the Week

Jón Gíslason

Jón Gíslason was born 12 Dec 1849 at the farm Kálfholt in Árnessýsla. His parents were Rev. Gísli Ísleifsson (1810-1851) at Kálfholt and his wife Sigríður Guðmundsdóttir (1815-1896) from Mýrdalur in Skaftafellssýsla. As a young man, Jón Gíslason became a clergyman at the store in Eyrarbakki until he in 1870 emigrated and settled down on Washington Island. In 1877 Jón married Ágústa Einarsdóttir (1855-1915) who had come with her father Einar Bjarnason (abt 1824-1895) to Washington Island in 1871.
Jón and Ágústa had 10 children of which I have no information.

Is Jón Gíslason and his family in your family tree?

The Distribution

This Newsletter is sent to you and 261 other subscribers by
Hálfdan Helgason
Reykjavík, Iceland.

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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 :-)