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Ragnar Karlsson


Álftanesi, ÍSL

Ragnar was born in Norðfjörður in Iceland’s Eastfjords. His family mainly stems from eastern and southeastern Iceland, though his great-grandmother was from Skagafjörður and his maternal grandfather from the Reykjanes peninsula. Ragnar’s parents moved to Reykjavík and later to Keflavík. He has an older sister who lives in California.

As a child, Ragnar would spend his summers at his uncle’s farm, Stóru-Lág, in Hornafjörður. His uncle, Sigfinnur Pálsson, was a self-taught geologist, phytologist, and glaciologist, and Ragnar credits him with sparking his interest in genealogy. Ragnar describes those summers in the countryside as a treasure for a curious boy, as he got to meet all sorts of scientists who came to visit his uncle and stay on the farm, and he learned a great deal about geology, glaciers, plants, and more. Ragnar also spent two summers living in a turf house in Haukadalur, Dalasýsla, which he says was a very different experience: no electricity, no running water, no toilet facilities - not even an outhouse - and everything like skyr and butter made the old-fashioned way.

Ragnar has been married to his teenage sweetheart, Málfríður Jóhannsdóttir, for over 50 years. Together they have two daughters and four grandchildren. One of their daughters is a teacher like her mother and works at an international school in Iceland, while the other daughter is a school librarian. Ragnar spent most of his career working for the US military in Iceland, serving as director of the Comptroller and Information Technology Departments. Once the military left Keflavík, Ragnar was involved in leadership training for the YMCA/YWCA in Iceland and later managed a hotel in Reykjavík.

Ragnar and Málfríður have dedicated their lives to serving children and youth and have worked with vulnerable populations in Kristiansand, Oslo, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam. He has also recently worked with homeless individuals in Nuuk, Greenland. Ragnar says all of this service, while challenging, has given him and his family valuable experience.

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