Journey to America

Updated: Mar 26, 2020



Þórður Árelíus Ólafsson aka Theodore Arthur Olafson (IR# I574371) wrote this story, in Icelandic, about his journey to America.

Traveling with Þórður was his sister, Kristjana Kristbjörg Ólafsdóttir, aka Christina. (IR #I574373)

Þórður and Kristjana were the children of Ólafur Ólafsson and Þuriður Guðmundsdóttir from Snæfellsnessýsla.

Theodore’s daughter, Ruth Olafson Gidcumb, had her father’s Icelandic story translated.

Any words in parenthesis ( ) were in the translated story and added by the translator. Clarifications are in brackets [ ]. Footnotes and formatting are provided by Theodore’s great niece, Christal Oliver Speer.

Journey to America

Tuesday, June 18th, 1901

We left Reykjavík for America by [the sailing ship] Laura at ten o’clock in the evening and arrived at Vestmannaeyjar the next morning, the 19th, at ten o’clock.[1] The island was beautiful, seen from [the] sea. In one place there was a very high black cliff with a grassy slope from the top and down to the sea. Then the ship’s crew was going to sell the passengers the hot water they asked for, but the passengers complained to the sheriff of Vestmannaeyjar and he said they absolutely should not have to buy the water and then gave them hot water three times a day.

June 19th

We left there at one o’clock in the afternoon [of June 19] and arrived at the Faroe Islands on June 21st at ten in the morning in Klaksvík, and later the same day we came to Tórshavn, the most beautiful part of the islands. Laura sailed on a strait between two islands, both inhabited. Most of the houses on both islands had turf roofs and the turf was nailed down with boards as if to prevent it from being blown away by the wind. The weather was bad all the way from Reykjavík and most of the people on board the ship got sea-sick.

June 22nd

The ship stayed in Tórshavn during the night, but at four o’clock in the morning of the 22nd they started to load the ship. We stayed on board. It was sunny in the morning and no wind but when the ship sailed at eleven o’clock, the weather had changed and the fog was so dim [thick] that we could barely see the land. The same day at four o’clock we came to Trangensvogur[2] and stayed there till seven o’clock at night when we started our journey to Scotland.

The Faroese people we saw were rather short. They all wore rather ugly knitted hats, sweaters, and trousers that barely came down to the knee and had a slit on the outside of each trouser-leg that was buttoned together with four golden buttons. They wore brown knitted socks that reached above the knee and shoes that looked like poorly made “hamings” shoes (which we have in Iceland) except that they were deeper and tied together with a white piece of string.


June 24th

On June 24th we saw Scotland. Outside the harbour our passports were taken and the people counted. 116 were heading for America and some other people from Iceland were going to Norway. After having waited for two hours for the flood-tide, Laura sailed into the harbour. It was windy and sunny at the time. We saw great buildings by the harbour and further away we could see great, tall woods. We also saw mountains, but they were very low. I then saw a steam-car [locomotive] for the first time in my life and I thought it looked long. It pulled 20 cars.

[This harbor may have been Leith, which is now part of Edinburgh, because later in the story he says their luggage had been taken at Leith and sent directly to Liverpool.]

Laura came to a stone pier which was taller than her deck and our luggage was unloaded. The customs officer asked if we had anything to declare and everyone said no and he marked every piece and did not look into the luggage at all. The ship sailed on with the people through a narrow lane that had a bridge over it and when the ship sailed under the bridge, the bridge went up and then came down again when the ship was through and people walked and rode horses over the bridge [a drawbridge]. Laura anchored on the other side of the bridge and many other ships were there.