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Waterfall, Volcano, Witchcraft, Germans, and Family Ties in Iceland

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

This waterfall is called Skógafoss, which translates to Forest Falls, and it is one of the most beautiful and famous waterfalls in Iceland.


The waterfall is in southern Iceland between the Atlantic Ocean and the famous volcano, Eyjafjallajökull. The translation is Eyja – Island, Fjalla – Mountain, Jökull – Glacier. It is the sixth largest glacier in Iceland.

My ancestor (and maybe your ancestor, too), Thorleifur Kortsson, was born near here in 1615 and lived at the farm, Skógar, near the Skógafoss waterfall. Thorleifur’s ancestors were of GERMAN descent! The original Kort, Thorleifur’s great-grandfather, was a trader that came to Iceland from Germany. Thorleifur is known for causing “the burning-times” in Iceland. From 1625 – 1683 twenty-one Icelanders were burnt alive for practicing magic. Many more were whipped and beaten. About 170 people were accused during this era.

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Thorleifur was a governor, lawyer, and sheriff and he is famous for sentencing sorcerers/witches to death by burning. One person that he referred to the Parliament Court at Thingvellir was Lassi Didriksson. He was sentenced to burn at the stake but it was raining very hard that day and the rain kept putting the fire out. You can read more about witchcraft in Iceland and the confirmed burnings here:

Here is a video of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in the spring of 2010. .

Along the ring road, there are many interesting places to stop and amazing sights to see. There is a new volcano tourist center. Nearby is the beautiful Skógafoss waterfall and the Skógar Folk Museum. Visitors can learn more about how the Icelanders lived. The Folk Museum has a cafe and they serve Icelandic goodies — YUMMY!

Skógar Folk Museum

I discovered most of this information yesterday from my friend and genealogist extraordinaire, Hálfdan Helgason. Thank you, Hálfdan! Thorleifur Kortsson is my 9th great grandfather through my Amma, Lovisa, and her lineage through Guðni Gestsson’s mother and the Scheving family. If you are Icelandic and want to find out if Thorleifur is related to you, send me a message.

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