The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 9
May 10, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 "I sure read the Newsletter"
My "fear" (hahaha!) that you more or less neglect to read my Newsletters was wiped out right after I sent you my product #8 last Saturday. During the weekend and throughout the last week I received a great number of E-mails stating that "sure I do read the Newsletter", "I eagerly wait for your Newsletter", "Not writing, does not mean that I don't read your Newsletter" and so on and so on. Well, thank you all who wrote, don't stop writing, and thank you all who intended to write but suddenly had other things to do.
That's what happens to me all the time

 Just my opinion
Today, May 10th, we vote in Iceland. We choose 63 representatives to the Althing, the Icelandic legislative assembly, which we do every fourth year, normally. Aren't we lucky to have the right to vote for our future? For good, and this right goes even for the worse. It all depends on our vision but it's up to us to choose. Every vote is a power, and even so small it counts. In some countries people does not have the right to choose, they just have to take orders. In some other countries a lot of people don't even care to vote which is beond my understanding. I think it's my civilian duty to take part in the election - even though I might dislike all the parties or their cause which isn't very likely! If so, I would simply leave in my ballot "blanco", but by leaving it in, I have shown that I care for my right to take part in democracy.
The Icelandic settlers in North America cared for this right. They wanted their voice to be heard. Many (relatively) of them became congressmen and senators or ran for other important posts which depended on the votes of the citizens. This people cared for and counted on democracy.

 Icelandic Settlement in Alaska?
In 1872, a young Icelander, Jón Ólafsson, a poet, journalist and politician of note, fled from Iceland and headed for Wisconsin. Through the efforts of Willard Fiske, then a Professor of Cornell University, and others, the U.S. President Grant was persuaded to send this young man, with two companions, his nephew Páll Bjarnarson and Ólafur Ólafsson from Espihóll, to Alaska, to see whether this new possession of United States, bought in 1867 from the Russian Czar, Alexander II Nikolaevich Romanov, for $7.200.000, might not furnish desirable homes for Icelandic emigrants. Jón Ólafsson made an enthusiastic report on Alaska.
Jón Ólafsson
It was printed in Icelandic by the United States government and Jón Ólafsson was sent to Iceland with thousands of copies of this document to distribute among the inhabitants of Iceland and organize emigration on a grand scale to Alaska. But the people of Iceland responded to Ólafsson's proposals with ridicule and not a single Icelander emigrated to Alaska.

Many years later a lot of people, among them members of some settler's families, sought fortune during the Gold Rush in Klondike, Alaska. It would be interesting to know if any of you can inform of anyone in your family who did so. You don't have to tell about the fortune brought home, but that wouldn't spoil the story at all

Jón Ólafsson was born at Kolfreyjustađur in the East of Iceland, where his father was a clergyman. At a very early age he became interested in literary work and politics. He was an ardent and outspoken lover of freedom; in fact, he twice had to leave his native land because of his political utterances in newspaper articles about the Danish administration and the highest government representative in the country (remember: Iceland was under Danish administration at that time).
The following is from his poem: My Kingdom, translated by Vilhjálmur Stefánsson, the world famous Canadian/Icelandic Arctic Explorer.
- - -
"An exile, I pine for the heaven-blue fountains
Of my island-home's snow-capped and green-bosomed mountains;
But a land even fairer than it you will see
If you come over seas to my dreamland with me."

Though to prison the courts of our lords may consign me,
Though the Danes may exile and their puppets malign me,
I know an asylum where all men are free,
And my cottage stands waiting in dreamland for me.

- - -

Jón Ólafsson became a member of the Althing, the years 1880-1885, 1886-1890 and 1908-1913. His parents were Ólafur Indriđason (1796-1861), clergyman at Kolfreyjustađur and Ţorbjörg Jónsdóttir (1830-1910) who was Ólafur's second wife. Ólafur's first wife was Ţórunn Einarsdóttir. Their children were Páll (1827-1905), a beloved poet and also as Jón, a member of the Althing for some years, and Ólavía (1825-1884) who married Björn Pétursson and emigrated with him and their children in 1876. See the Settler of this week.

 Thanks Ferne!
Those of you who have been at my site may have noticed my query entitled "The Search - Johannes Gudmundsson and Olof Asgrimsdottir". Jóhannes and Ólöf emigrated in 1888 with their one year old son, Ásgrímur. In the new country the family name became Goodmanson or Goodman.
Gudmundur is one of the most common name in Iceland and has been so for centuries. The surname Gudmundsson (son of Gudmundur) is therefore one of the most common as well. The Gudmundssons who emigrated were numerous and a way to distinguish oneself from the others was to take a new surname and for a Gudmundsson the easiest way was to take the Goodman name. But the "problem" persisted. Too many took the Goodman name!
Many have responded to this query but none of the Goodman names given have been the right one.
Click in the letter to see
an enlarged picture
You may ask: Why this search for Jóhannes and Ólöf? Are they related to you? No, they are not related, but here comes the story: As a young clergyman my grandfather, Hálfdan Guđjónsson (1863-1937) served the Parish of Ábćr (Ábćjarsókn) along with the parish of Gođdalir in Skagafjörđur county for few years and in 1887 (nearly 116 years ago) he received a letter from Jóhannes Guđmundsson, then a farmer's hand at Merkigil. In the letter Jóhannes ask my grandfather to arrange for a certain day for his marriage to Ólöf. The letter, beautifully written, has been in my possession (so far) and I wanted to give it to a descendant of Jóhannes and Ólöf, though on one condition. The descendant must be interested in Genealogy and feel for the ties to the Icelandic roots. Difficult?
And now to Ferne Gudnason's part of the story. She has found a Goodman for me, descendant of Jóhannes and Ólöf, who fulfills the requirements and the "marriage letter" is now on it's way to Gail, Jóhannes and Ólöf's great granddaughter, in Canada.
Thanks a lot Ferne

A little bit more on my Grandfather Hálfdan Guđjónsson. As mentioned, he served the Parishes of Ábćr and Gođdalir in the years 1886-1893, then in the parish of Vesturhópshólar in Húnavatnssýsla county the years 1893-1914 when he became clergyman in the parish of Reynistađur with his home in the village of Sauđárkrókur. His father, and my great grandfather, Guđjón Hálfdanarson, was also a clergyman. He served Flatey island in 1860-1863, Glćsibćr in Eyjafjörđur 1863-1867, Dvergasteinn in Seyđisfjörđur in East Iceland 1867-1874, Bergţórshvoll in Rangárvallasýsla 1874-1882 and in Saurbćr in Eyjafjörđur from 1882 until he died in 1883.
These two clergymen have for sure christened and married a great number of emigrants from the mentioned parishes in Iceland.

Settler of the Week

Björn Pétursson

Björn Pétursson

In 1876 Björn Pétursson emigrated with his wife Ólavía Ólafsdóttir (1825-1884) and five children to Canada and later to N-Dakota, U.S. Their eldest son had emigrated three years earlier. Björn had been farmer at several places in the East of Iceland and a member of the Althing (the Icelandic legislative assembly) the years 1859-69. Björn and Ólavía were married in 1850.
Their children were:
1) Páll, who vent to Alaska with Jón Ólafsson, later a medical doctor in Minnesota, married to a Norwegian woman,
2) Ţórunn, married Stígur Ţorvaldsson, merchant and a farmer in Akra, N-Dakota, later in Los Angeles, they had many children,
3) Anna, married Jakob Júlíus Jónsson in Pembina, N-Dakota,
4) Halldóra, married Páll Sigurgeirsson Bardal in Winnipeg, their son Paul Bardal in Winnipeg,
5) Sigrún, married Lars Hogan, a Norwegian in Pembina and Leslie, Sask., they had many children,
6) Ólafur, medical doctor in Winnipeg, married to Sigríđur Elínborg Jónsdóttir, three children (at the least).

Björn Pétursson was a well known figure in the Icelandic communities in North America, mainly, I believe, through his religious position. He became an Unitarian and founded the first Icelandic Unitarian convergation in North America.

Is Björn Pétursson and his family in your family tree?

If you want further information on this family, write to Hálfdan

The Distribution

This Newsletter is sent to you and 265 other subscribers by
Hálfdan Helgason
Reykjavík, Iceland.

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