What is Genealogy?

  • Genealogy is an ancient Greek word which means “Knowledge of Generations”. Genealogists document ancestors and descendants.

  • It is the study and documentation of people using historical records and research standards to maintain accuracy and consistency.

  • Living people and dead people are all included to tell the genealogy story for the people of today and for future generations.

  • Genealogy records include birth, marriage and death certificates; burial information; divorce records; addresses and land titles; church, cemetery, and school records; obituaries; newspaper stories; family information; and other related records.

Genealogist - David Johnson (testimonial)

Where do I start?

Fill out a

Cousins Across the Ocean form!

Talk to your family members including parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, even neighbours if possible.

Find out what they know first and record everything. 


Your information will add up quickly, so right away at the start, store and document the information including where you found the information. Some people use a binder but putting it into a software package or website is a good way to organize all the information, dates, photos, etc. Make sure you keep a backup copy of all computer generated work.


You are now an amateur detective! Collect each piece of information and store it as evidence. Track more information and record everything making sure to cite your sources. When you have researched as much as you can, the Icelandic Roots Database offers the next step in doing your own research online and as an IR member, our genealogists are available to assist you. Click here to send us a message.

Icelandic Names

Icelanders historically do not have middle names, only a given name and a surname. Icelandic first names are very important. When you search for people in Iceland, whether in the phone book or in our database, search with the first name and then the surname. Surnames are patronymic (named after the father’s first name) and occasionally matronymic (after the mother’s first name). There are some family surnames in Iceland and they usually are from notable families. It is also important to note that spouses keep their own surnames when they get married. Click here to learn more about the meanings of Icelandic names.

More Useful Information

 For a list of Icelandic genealogy vocabulary and their English translations, click here.

For a list of geography terms and place meanings, click here.

Understanding Icelandic place names, click here.

For further research into genealogy, here are some helpful links.

For a glossary of Genealogy Terms, click here.

How do I set up my Icelandic keyboard and use it: Answers here.

Icelandic Roots is a non-profit, educational, heritage organization specializing in genealogy, history & traditions of our Icelandic ancestors.

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