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The Endurance and Courage of Sigurveig

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

The life of Sigurveig Sigurðardóttir was not an easy one. In 1865 on a day when she lay unconscious and low with typhoid, and her children were in various stages of recovery from it, a kind neighbour helped her sons bury their father, Kristofer Andrésson, who had just died from the disease. Sigurveig survived it and her 8 children never ceased to wonder at their mother‘s endurance and courage. She worked from early morning until late at night, at the same time training them to help as much as possible, in order to give them the bare necessities of life. In the baðstöfa of their turf house, while knitting, mending or making skör, the Icelandic shoes made from the thin sheepskins, she taught them to read, write and commit to memory, prayers and hymns.

Ytri-Neslond viewing southwest, lake Myvatn and mount Vindbelgjarfjall, Skutustadahreppur. Image is copyright protected.

Ytri-Neslond viewing southwest, lake Myvatn and mount Vindbelgjarfjall, Skutustadahreppur. Image is copyright protected. To order a copy of YOUR family farm, contact Mats Wibe Lund. He has photos of almost every farm and special locations in Iceland.

Her courage must have faltered a little in 1873 when her son, Sigurður, left for America and again ten years later when another son, Hernit, and her daughter, Sigurborg, decided they too would emigrate. In 1879, her endurance must surely have wavered when her daughter, Kristveig, died after giving birth to a baby girl.

Is it any wonder, that in 1893, Sigurveig decided to leave her home, Ytri-Neslönd (Mývatnssveit, Reykjahlíðarsókn, S-Þingeyjarsýsla), in Iceland, to immigrate to Canada? Her remaining four children – Sigríður, Lilja, Pétur, and Sigurjón, and their families, including Kristveig’s daughter, who was named for her grandmother, accompanied her on that brave voyage – brave because Sigurveig was 80 years old and blind.

When she arrived with her entourage late in August of that year, there must have been a grand celebration. It is recorded that she was so happy and cheerful to be in Canada and was delighted when taken to the garden to feel the size of the pumpkins and other vegetables. She was interested in everything, especially the oak trees that grew in the bluff at Grund. Can you picture blind Sigurveig running her hands over the rough bark of one of them, feeling the girth of the trunk? It would have been impossible for her to imagine how tall they were because there were no trees that tall in Iceland at that time.

She came down with a cold during those first days, not unusual in Manitoba, but it developed into pneumonia. Three weeks after her arrival, she died. Her funeral was held outdoors at Grund. The grounds were crowded with people, many of them just over from Iceland and still wearing their Icelandic shawls and caps.

It seems fitting that her funeral was held beneath those oak trees where her last days were spent happily with her beloved children. Today most of the giant oaks are gone, but there is a large one still at Grund and perhaps a few more in the area to remind us of one who was as sturdy as they – Sigurveig Sigurðardóttir.

The descendants of Sigurveig are scattered throughout Canada, USA, and Iceland.

From Sunna @ Icelandic Roots. Sigurður Kristofersson (AKA Sigurdur Christopherson), the son of Sigurveig who left Iceland in 1873, went first to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and stayed there until 1875. He became a well-known immigration agent as well as a leader among Icelandic settlers in Manitoba. He married Caroline Taylor, a niece to John Taylor. They are reportedly the first Icelandic couple married at Gimli.

When Caroline was nine years old, her mother died and she went to live with John and Elizabeth Taylor along with her four sisters. John Taylor was a great help to the Icelandic settlers in New Iceland. There is much written about him including this essay. Also, much information on the family is found HERE.

Besides all these stories, photos, and written information, at IR we have a very fun "Relationship Calculator." You can add YOUR NAME and a friend's name or the name of an ancestor from the Sagas, etc and click the Calculate button to see your relationship to that person. It is great fun and a feature of Icelandic Roots through the "Cousins Across the Ocean" project.

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Thanks again to Linda, for sharing Sigurveig's Story. If you have a family story that you would like featured, just send us an email.

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