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My Roots Have Grown but I Don´t Know Where They Are

My first memories of learning about the Snorri Program were when I was 6 or 7 years old. My mom told me about this amazing trip in Iceland with other North American Icelanders that was six weeks long. I remember my immediate reaction was, “No way! I couldn’t be away from home with strangers for so long; besides I want to go to Iceland with you!”

Góðan daginn, My name is Alyssa Cartwright and I participated in ‘The Snorri Program – 2016’ this summer. I am writing about my time in Iceland this summer to thank and bring awareness to both The Snorri Program and The Icelandic Roots Foundation. They are each incredible at what they do and I would recommend both to any north American Icelander. My dad is of English heritage and my mom is half Scottish and half Icelandic that makes me only ¼ Icelandic by blood, yet I feel like my childhood was built mainly on Canadian and Icelandic Canadian traditions. I always thought it was a phenomenon of living in such a multicultural country, most people like to emphasize the most interesting side of their ancestry, as if they have to make themselves more interesting, but I have started to notice that the importance of preservation of history, heritage and culture seems to be very common in Icelanders and those with Icelandic ancestry. This sentiment is exemplified in the Icelandic Roots Foundation whose mission is “to educate, preserve, and promote Icelandic Heritage.”

I would like to take this time to thank Sunna Furstenau and the entire Icelandic Roots Foundation for choosing to grant me one of their scholarships. I was overwhelmed by their generosity, as I never imagined I could be awarded a scholarship that would cover nearly half the cost of the program. This incredible gift alleviated much stress and enabled me to save some money to better appreciate Iceland and all of its wonders during my time there.

Since receiving this gift and joining the database I have looked up my relation to every Icelandic person I know and every famous Icelander I can think of, and then some! And not only have I found some amazingly close connections, I found that one of my emigrating ancestors had only one sibling stay in Iceland Guðrun Jonasdóttir, and that she had a total of 17 children, only 4 of whom died in childhood, which I believe to be an impressive feat for the late 1800s early 1900s. When I arrived in Akureyri for the 3 week family and volunteer period, I found out that the cousin I would be living with was in fact one of Guðrun’s descendants. I have also started documenting my own family tree which currently only includes me and my direct ancestors; none of my cousins, brother, or aunts and uncles.

Last year the Snorri West Program 2015 came here to the West Coast, with the four participants staying Victoria for 5 days. After hosting Anna Lísa, Guðmundur, María, and Vala I didn’t want to just go to Iceland on a short vacation; these were four of the kindest and coolest people I had ever met and if even half of the people in Iceland were as awesome as them then I wanted to be friends with all of them!

That experience reminded me about the Snorri Program, and after looking at their website I knew it offered exactly what I needed, mainly: