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Kemur í Ljós – The Answer Comes in the Light

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

The answer has come. The death of a family member has been uncovered in an obscure newspaper article thanks to Jim Benjaminson.

31 Oct 1884 Pioneer Express newspaper

Sophronious Aulson is the name of a young Icelander who until a few days ago resided in Winnipeg, and loved not wisely but too well, a young country woman of his own, also a resident of that ambitious city, but who, alas, did not return his affections. After repeatedly urging his suit in vain, he fled the city and coming to Pembina, on Thursday of last week, he ended his earthly career by drowning himself in the Red River at a point a little above the place where the Pembina River empties its waters into the Red. Search was made for the body of the unfortunate young man without avail and up to the hour of going to press we have been unable to hear of anyone having seen the first trace of it.

Well, Sophronious Aulson would not have been the exact name of the dearly departed but the English newspapers and records often have misinformation that we must wade through. So, I began a search in one of my very favorite and valuable online resources, to search for a man with the first name of Zóphoníus or Sófóníus.

Nothing in Heimskringla. Nothing in Lögberg. Keep searching and searching. Finally, in the Leifur newspaper I find the answer. 31 Oct 1884, the article is written in Icelandic (see below) with a translation by Cathy Josephson from the East Iceland Emigration Center at Vopnafjörður:

Translated: Pioneer Express newspaper from Pembina in Dakota.

Jósep Ólafsson, who lives here in town (Winnipeg), says his brother has drowned there (Pembina) on the evening of the 23rd. It is thought likely that the man who drowned was Zophonías Ólafsson, since he disappeared from this town a few days before and has not been heard from since.

Leifur newspaper, 31 Oct 1884, page 104.

Hraðfrjett frá Pembina í Dakota til Jóseps Ólafssonar, sem býr hjer i bænum segir: að bróðir hans hafi drukknað þar að kveldi hins 23. p.m. Líkur þykja til að maður sá, er drukknaði, hafi verið Zophonias Olafsson, því hann hvarf hjer úr bænum faum dögum áður, og hefir síðan ekki spurzt til han.

So, who is this young man who loved and lost? He is my 2nd great-uncle and someone who we had "lost." Information in Iceland is sketchy with no death date known. In the Vesturfaraskrá, a book of emigrants from 1870-1914, we find Sofonías Ólafsson in 1878 leaving from the farm, Hvammur in the Eyjafjarðarsýsla, two years after his sister, Guðrún. Read her tragic story by CLICKING HERE.

Zophonías (Sófónías) Ólafsson was born 30 Jan 1847 at the farm, Hvammur, south of Akureyri. He had a son born in 1867 but Hans died in 1868. He had a daughter, Hansína Zophoníasdóttir, born in 1869 who died in 1896 but she has many descendants still living in Iceland - my cousins!

The online site with all the Icelandic newspapers is and it is a very valuable resource. It is difficult to search for names in this site and there are many tricks. Icelanders in North America wanted news in their native language and the Leifur newspaper (a short-timer published only from 1883-1886) is just one of the many papers. This paper was printed in Winnipeg and was a four-page weekly publication by Helgi Jónsson. The Heimskringla newspaper started after the Leifur ended.

  • Narrow down the year

  • Narrow down by publication - I start with Lögberg, Heimskringla, and the Almanak

  • Search by Place or Name

  • Do not use too many words in the Search box

  • Search with a less common name of a parent or spouse. Searching for Jón Jónsson is not productive.

  • Keep searching - be patient.

If you would like to find more information on YOUR family and YOUR story, visit us during the weekend in Mountain, ND for the annual Deuce of August celebration. Our Genealogy Center hours are:

July 30th - Thursday 2-5 July 31st - Friday 2-5 (Free Seminar from 1-2 on the database) August 1st - Saturday 11-5

If you cannot join us in person, come and have some fun online at and discover your story!

Hvammur viewing North

Historic Farm Photos by Mats Wibe Lund and are available at

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

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