This website helps you travel in the footsteps of Icelandic immigrants to North America through histories, stories, letters, videos and photos. It will help you learn more about the ancestral Icelandic farms, the people who lived there, how they survived and the fate of those who emigrated
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Team

Jonas Thor

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Further Information

The donations will be used to bring the North American emigration to life. Initially the funds will be used to design the website. I will be combing through my documents, letters, and photographs, creating the content that will fill the pages. The plan is to have the website focused on locations and to include not only the history of the point on the map but also the stories of the people who settled and lived there. The letters and photographs will give context to the history. Most of the documents and letters are in Icelandic, but over time, both will be translated into English so that both Icelanders and Western Icelanders are able to experience life in the emigration period. These location packages will be added to the website as they are finalized, adding new information and stories that highlight this important period. Contributions, stories, photos etc. from families both in Iceland and North America will keep the website growing for years to come

Icelandic Settlement in Ontario

I took this photo in 2008 when I brought a group from Iceland to Ontario in Canada. The main purpose of the tour was to visit settlement sites and significant places in the History of Icelanders in North America. We traveled to Gravenhurst where a group of descendants of the pioneers greeted us and showed us the settlement site. Jakob Einarsson, a pioneer in the Muskoka district wanted a post office in the colony and asked for it to be called Hekla. His wish was granted but authorities misspelled the name, adding an extra k.

The lady posing with me here in the Hekkla settlement in Muskoka in Ontario is Edith Smith.
Her father, Jakob Einarsson was born at Maskoti in Reykjadal in S. Thingeyjarsysla on November 16, 1865. His father, Einar Kristjansson, passed away in 1873 but his mother, Maria Magnusdottir, moved with her three children to Holtakot in the same county. Following a few difficult years, this family boarded the Camoens in Akureyri in 1878 and emigrated to Canada. The early settlers in the Hekkla settlement in Muskoka were making progress in their adopted country and news of the settlement reached Iceland. A few families from S. Thingeyjarsysla had left in 1873, and was undoubtedly was the reason Maria and her family decided to head for Muskoka in 1878.
Several years earlier, a young single man, Bjarni Snæbjornsson left his home in Hunavatnssysla and was one of the first to claim land and build a hut. He was reasonably well established in 1878 when Maria and her children arrived. Still single and in need for a housekeeper he offered the job to the widow who accepted. Maria's oldest son, Gisli was 29, already married when they emigrated, Jakob was 12 while the only daughter, Arnbjorg was 9. Years went by and Jakob gradually came to terms with the new environment and became Bjarni´s assistant.
Bjarni had a brother back in Iceland who for some time considered emigration and eventually decided to emigrate in 1888. Pall Snæbjornsson arrived with his two grown up daughters Solveig and Jorunn. Later that same year Jakob and Jorunn got married and had 9 children in the years to come. One was Aldis Anna, born in Muskoka, September 26, 1898 and she gave birth to Edith Smith (photo above) June 3, 1924.

Pioneer in Ontario
Jakob Einarsson

Pioneer in Ontario
Jórunn Pálsdóttir

Icelanders at Big Point in Manitoba

Guðrún Tómasdóttir

Above you see two photocopies from the Vesturfaraskrá by Juníus H Kristinsson. The top one shows that Ingibjörg Böðvarsdóttir, a 39 year old widow emigrated from Iceland in 1886 from Reykjavik along with her daughter, Gudlaug Jonsdottir at the age of 10 aboard the immigrants ship, Camoens. They had been living at Auðsholt in Arnessysla. The farm Egilsstaðir was in the same township, same county from where farmer Tómas Ingimundarson, his wife Guðrún Eyjólfsdóttir along with their 8 children emigrated the same year on the same ship as did Ingibjörg Böðvarsdóttir. Böðvar Jónsson, a 17 year old farmhand had lived and worked for the Ingimundarson family and he went along. He was the son of Ingibjörg Böðvarsdóttir introduced above.
Böðvar had settled with his mother and sister but always kept in close contact wit the Ingimundarson family, especially the older Guðrún whom he married in the early 1890s. A careful study of the bottom copy above shows that Tómas Ingimundarson had named two of his daughters Guðrún. Böðvar married the older one.
Böðvar was prepared to bring his family to a different location and chose an area called Big Point on the eastern shore of Lake Manitoba. (see map below) They arrived in 1894. Böðvar and Guðrún had seven children; Jónas, Ingibjörg, Kristín, Thomas, Jónína, Archibald and Haraldur. The new colony was quite large and the town Langruth became it's center. This website will offer similar information about thousands of Icelandic immigrants in North America.

Settlement in Wisconsin

Stefan Gudmundsson (Stephan G Stephansson) had known Helga Jonsdottir for some time, seen her enter her teens and watched her mature as a young woman in Wisconsin. Rev. Thorlaksson married them in August of 1878. Below is a copy of the marriage certificate. It is an interesting document for various reasons. The ethnicity of the couple had to be made clear, occupation of Stefan Gudmundsson was provided and the father of the groom and the bride are witnesses.

Settlement in Shawano, Wisconsin

Here is a photo I took when I brought a group from Iceland to visit some of the earliest Icelandic settlements in North America. This one is from the small Icelandic colony in Shawano.

Stephan G Stephansson in Shawano

The photo below shows the first settlement of the great poet Stephan G. Stephansson in Shawano, Wisconsin.

In order to become citizens of United States of America all immigrants had to fill in and sign a certain document in Court before an official clerk. The Icelanders were no exception and in doing so they renounced their Icelandic citizenship and all allegiance to the King of Denmark. (Iceland was a Danish colony at that time.) One fine day in late 1874, three farmers from the small Icelandic settlement in Shawano County, Wisconsin, walked to the village of Shawano in order to complete their emigration from Iceland. They were Þorlákur Gunnar Jónsson, Jón Jónsson and Guðmundur Stefánsson. I purposely wrote their names in Icelandic so you can see what had to be changed. The Icelandic alphabet was of no use on this October day in 1874. The law only required the Head of the family sign such documents which explains the absence of women and children on the document. In the copy below you see that they arrived in North America in August of 1873 and landed in Quebec in Canada.
Notice how Þorlákur becomes Th. G. J. Thorlakson (he chooses the family name Thorlakson) and that is how he signs it. Jón Jónsson from Mjóidalur becomes J. Johnsson but when he signs his name the old habit is too strong; he uses the Icelandic ó in Jóhnsson. Finally old Guðmundur Stefánsson becomes G. Steffenson.

Icelandic settlers in the One Six area in Manitoba

Sigfus and Carolina Anderson

Vellir in Thistilfjordur

This is where Sigfús Árnason lived before he moved to Krossavik from where he emigrated to Canada in 1905. In front of the farm, down towards the ocean is no arable land. There is very little pasture land around the farm so the opportunity to increase the number of livestock was very limited. Once the number of people rose on such farms to 6-7 persons in the northeast of Iceland, numerous districts were simply overpopulated. This was often the reason people left for America.

Like most of the Icelandic immigrants in North America, Sigfus and Karolina tried their best to describe Iceland to their children born in Canada or the United States. Their only way was to describe the old farm in a rural community somewhere in Iceland. There is no doubt that Skuli and Karolina both had fond memories and the beautiful area in the photo below must have been in their memory all their life in Canada. And the sunset in Thistilfjordur in the summer is spectacular. The new website will have thousands of photos from areas all over Iceland from where Icelandic immigrants left for North America.

In the photo below, the farm is located on the shore of the mainland in the center behind the lava arch.

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