Jackie Flaten is a North Dakota native who has long nurtured a passion for history, genealogy and languages. She grew up in the northeastern part of the state where her pioneer ancestors from Iceland, Norway and Sweden had set new roots. She always loved hearing stories about these intrepid people who had found the courage to take risky journeys across the sea, far from home and families they'd likely never see again.
Her Icelandic connection is through her paternal grandfather, John W. Swanson (born Jon Valdimar Sveinsson in Gardar, North Dakota in 1911). His parents, Kjartan Sveinsson and Sigridur Helga Hjalmarson, emigrated from New Iceland in Canada in the 1890s to Pembina County. Her great-grandmother Sigridur was born in New Iceland to Icelandic immigrants Jon Hjalmarson and Halldora Josefsdottir. Sigridur married Kjartan Sveinsson (born June 4, 1860 in Kirkjuboli, Faskrudsfjardarhreppi, Sudur-Mulasysla, Iceland), in Pembina, North Dakota, in 1898. When their son, her grandfather John Swanson, passed away in April 1990, his funeral was held in the beautiful Icelandic church in Gardar. At the time it was noted that he had been the first baby baptized there.
Over the years Jackie has read extensively about the Icelandic settlers in North America, along with the Icelandic Sagas, history of the Viking peoples and culture. However, she noted that it wasn't until she joined the Icelandic Roots community that she learned so many wonderful facts and details specific to her own family's history. Thanks to the dedicated work of the genealogists, translators, map experts and others, she is able to "connect the dots" as to where her Icelandic family line originated and the deep connections that still exist across miles and time.
Jackie is volunteering to help promote awareness and interest in Icelandic Roots. "The heart and energy in this community is truly inspiring," she said. "Icelandic Roots stands out with its dedication to helping people trace their family lines and tell their stories. I encourage anyone who has Icelandic heritage or is interested in Iceland to get involved in this organization."
Her background is in journalism and public relations. Jackie and her husband moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2001. She has worked as a public relations professional and writer for tech startups as well as a volunteer for the school system and as an English teacher for the Afghan Coalition. She and her husband have two daughters, two cats and two parakeets. Eager to travel and explore archaeology and genealogy first-hand, she's been learning to speak Norwegian, Turkish and Persian over the past few years. She is now tempted to try to learn Icelandic with her teenage daughter, who has started to learn the language.