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West of Akureyri

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

Most of my ancestors and most of the Icelandic pioneers to America came from north Iceland. When leaving Akureyri, there is this lighthouse to the west.

And a fish drying area along the beach.

Continuing on the #1 road heading west, you drive through the beautiful Hörgárdalur and Öxnadalur valleys. There are many small glaciers on the tops of the tall mountains on each side of the valley along with the ever-present waterfalls of Iceland.

The farmers were busy putting up hay and this farmer was harvesting his field.

Of course, I had to take photos of some beautiful horses.

Jónas Hallgrímsson wrote this poem (it was written in Icelandic but here is a translation of the poem).

Hillocks steep and stately stride across the valley. Dimly and sedately dawn begins to rally:

Sunlight rakes the summits — smoking darkness plummets down into the deep dreaming its green sleep.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong also mentions this mountain. The mountains are a beautiful view across the valley from a farm of our ancestors, Engimýri, which is now a guest house. Sigfús Jónsson (1747-1829) and his wife Rósa Jónsdóttir (1745-1835) lived at Engimýri and had nine children along with my great great great grandmother, Rósa Sigfúsdóttir (1777 – 1859). Rósa died at the home of her son, Ólafur Guðmundsson, at Hvammur in Eyjafjörður.

Sigfús Jónsson was born and worked on the farm of his birth, Efstaland, with his father, Jón Jónsson, who was a very wealthy and outstanding farmer. He also was a parish magistrate, parish clerk, and a well-known person in the Öxnadalur Valley.

On June 8, 1783, a great fissure with 130 craters opened and spewed forth lava and ash. It is called Laki and is in the Eldgjá volcanic canyon. Eldgjá means ”fire canyon” in Iceland. This is the largest volcanic area in the world.

The summer of 1783 was known as the ”sand summer” in Great Britain due to the ash fallout. Even in North America, the effects were felt as the winter of 1783-1784 was the longest and coldest in American history. New Orleans froze over and even the Gulf of Mexico had ice floes.

The eruption continued until February 7, 1784. This time period in Iceland was known as the ”Mist Hardships”. An estimated 20-25% of the population died in the famine and fluorine poisoning after the fissure eruptions ceased. Around 80% of the sheep, 50% of the cattle, and 50% of the horses died because of dental and skeletal fluorosis from the Hydrogen Fluoride that was released.

Our ancestor, Sigfús Jónsson, ended up moving around a bit during his life and working on various farms. Sigfús sheltered his father when farming at Auðnir and Jón Jónsson died there on Nov. 10, 1798. Sigfús´ mother, Ingibjörg Sigfúsdóttir, died at Engimýri in 1803. Sigfús died at his daughter Ingibjörg and her husband Ólafur Jónsson´s home in 1829. Sigfús was known to be a man of honor.

(Thanks to our cousin, Kristján Helgi Sveinsson, from Eyjafjörður for part of this information).

Kristján Helgi Sveinsson og Gigja cousins

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