British Columbia, CAN
Judy was born in Wynyard, Saskatchewan, once an active Icelandic community. Her mother, Fjola Arnason, was born in Upham, North Dakota, and her father, Thorfinnur Thorfinnson, was born on the family farm near Wynyard. Judy grew up close to family and friends who spoke Icelandic and prepared Icelandic dishes. Her parents instilled in her a pride in being Icelandic, and even as a child, Judy was intrigued by her family tree and eager to explore her heritage.
After finishing high school in Wynyard, Judy attended the University of British Columbia, graduating with a BA in English and French. She traveled for a year, then completed additional studies at the University of Victoria to qualify as a teacher. She spent most of her career teaching English and French in secondary schools, in between raising her family.
Judy has always been an eager traveler, especially in retirement, and has made three trips to Iceland. The first was in 1967 during a break from her university studies, when she stayed with a second cousin on her mother’s side. Then, in 2012, Judy had a small Icelandic tour company organize a custom trip for her Thorfinnson cousins. Packed into a 15-seater bus complete with a driver/guide, they toured around in search of their ancestors’ birthplaces. Judy recalls the emotion of visiting Stóru-Tjarnir, once the home of her great-grandmother Thorlaksson and now a thriving dairy farm. The current owner showed them a wooden cabinet made by their great-great-grandfather, which was still on display in a farmhouse. On Judy’s third trip to Iceland in 2019, she was able to meet her Arnason cousins, who still live on the same sheep farm from which her maternal grandfather had emigrated. They had corresponded for years but never met before.
After 50 years in Kamloops, Judy and her husband Ross recently relocated to Squamish to be closer to their son, two daughters, and seven grandchildren. As an IR volunteer, Judy hopes to learn more about her ancestors’ homeland and encourage connections among IR members.