Christal Oliver Speer
Christal knew from a young age that she is one-fourth Icelandic. After all, she was named after her Icelandic grandfather, who was born as Ólafur Kristján Ólafsson and later anglicized his name to Christian Oliver. Christian lost both his parents at a young age and ended up immigrating to Winnipeg when he was 20 along with his 10-year-old brother. After settling in Duluth, Minnesota, Ólafur Kristján married a German immigrant and became a professional photographer. During World War II, Christian and his son Vernon Oliver (Christal’s father) were civilian photographers at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, where Christal was born.
Christal grew up in Michigan and graduated from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she majored in secretarial science. With her husband, Lloyd Speer, Christal lived in Indiana and North Carolina, where the couple welcomed two kids, before settling near Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1978. Before retirement, Christal was an administrative assistant for a very large family-owned bakery with distribution nationwide and in several countries.
Both of Christal’s parents were good storytellers and she was intrigued by family history. The genealogy bug bit hard and she started doing research in the early 1990s. She was able to interview several aunts, uncles, and cousins over the years, gathering information and more stories to write about. She has written three family books with three more nearly finished. In addition to spending time on genealogy, she enjoys crocheting and is editor of her church’s monthly newsletter.
Christal believes her Icelandic grandfather would be so pleased to know that a few of his photos were included in a history book about Fort Benning. Best of all, however, several photographs Christian took of his children are on display at the Icelandic Emigration Center in Hofsós, Iceland (and on the Icelandic Roots website).