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Icelandic “Cousins Across the Ocean” project – The Beginning

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

Pride in their heritage and the significance of family history followed the Icelanders that moved to North America. I am passionate about keeping our Icelandic history and culture alive in North America.

The Cousins Across the Ocean project is a very unique endeavor that has had many successes and happy reunions over the years. Here is the story of our beginning.

We had unexpected success at the Genealogy Center during the annual Deuce of August Celebration in 2006. A visitor, Sigþór Guðmundsson, from Iceland entered the Genealogy Center and patiently waited for a volunteer genealogist. This would be either George Freeman or me. I was helping two American sisters from the Laxdal family, Laurel and Norma. These two sisters were searching for more information on their grandmother Sigríður’s family. They said that she left Iceland in 1888 and all the family ties in Iceland had vanished. After a short search, I found the baptism records of Sigríður. This gave me the names of her parents. I found their wedding records in Eyjafjörður. Additional information was found by tracing them through Hálfdan Helgason’s database.

More and more people were gathering in the Genealogy Center so the Laxdal sisters thanked me and headed out the door with their treasured information.

Sigþór then took their spot at my table and said, “I am searching for information on my grandfather’s sister that left Iceland in the late 1880s.” I quickly scanned the first page of his handwritten notes and recognized the same names!

With much excitement, I cried out to the Laxdal sisters, “Come back! COME BACK! You have a cousin here!” The sisters and Sigþór were so surprised. They were overcome with emotion. They spent the rest of the day together exchanging stories and photos of their families.

Trying to connect cousins from Iceland to their cousins in ”Western Iceland” has been one of the main purposes of the Genealogy Center. George Freeman began the Genealogy Center in 2003 and I joined him as a helper that year.

Of course, our partner in Iceland, Hálfdan Helgason deserves many thanks. Without his wonderful database and information, our successes in this project would be much less. We have made a great team. Others have joined us in planning, logistics, and research along the way. The project has grown and can get a little hard to manage with our volunteer hours but we all love it.

Recently, Leonard Bernhoft has joined our research team. If you want to know more about the Cousins project or would like to volunteer your time as a genealogist, please contact me.

Email us your questions or join the conversation on our Facebook Group.

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