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Barnasaga-Stories of Women and Children

by Doreen Kristjanson Marston and Þórdís Edda Guðjónsdóttir

One of the many special features Icelandic Roots volunteers are working on is the Women and Children's Stories Project. A small team of volunteers is putting the focus on the voices of women and children, their lives and experiences, to preserve the story of Icelandic women and children in North America.

This project started in 2018 and since then, we have received close to 70 stories of women and children. These stories are accessible for members in the Icelandic Roots database to read.

The stories give us much information, not only on individuals’ personal history but also details on the way of life back then: the work and life of women, children's education, travel between the two continents, family life, children's games, and much more. These elements all combine to reveal to us the important history of our ancestors, our heritage, culture, and traditions.

With Mother´s Day upon us, we want to share with you a few tidbits from various stories we have received.

Canadian Widower and Icelandic Widow Unite

Photo of Sigurdur “Sam” Grimson and Ingibjorg Bjarnadottir
Sigurdur “Sam” Grimson and Ingibjorg Bjarnadottir

Ingibjorg Bjarnadottir (IR #128438) had been widowed twice in Iceland by 1915. Both husbands were fishermen and drowned. Ingibjorg had four children (ages 7-13 years).

An Iceland emigrant, Sigurdur “Sam” Grimson (IR #186084) in Alberta, Canada, was also widowed twice. Sam had three children (ages 6-10 years) yet at home. He wrote to a friend in Iceland and asked him if he knew of a woman willing to come to his home in Canada. She could bring her children along and he would pay the fare for all of them. Ingibjorg and Sigurdur were married one month after she arrived in Canada.

Lost Children in Nova Scotia

1875 Iceland immigrants in Markland, Nova Scotia, allowed their children to round up the cattle from the woods at the end of each day. One day as they enjoyed the forest, they became lost. As they did not return by sunset, one can only imagine the mother’s anguish and perhaps a search for the children. When daylight arrived, the children found their way home once again.

 Painting - Lost in the Woods
Painting - Lost in the Woods

Memories of Emigration from Iceland & Life in America

This story was gathered in a 1966 Interview of Sigurbjorn “Barney” Bjornson/ Gudnason (IR #243634) at the home of his son.

Photo of Sigurbjorn “Barney” Bjornson/ Gudnason
Sigurbjorn “Barney” Bjornson/ Gudnason

Many Icelandic families decided to emigrate and the father would go ahead of time to find a home and often to send back the money for his wife and children. Barney’s father and elder brother left in 1898. His wife, Sigríður Þórðardóttir (IR #243630) and sons, Kristinn and Barney, emigrated in 1901. Sigríður is ill and had to stay in Scotland to recover. The two boys went on their own and their mother followed about six weeks later.

Photo of Sigríður Þórðardóttir
Sigríður Þórðardóttir

1914 Voyage on Gullfoss & RMS Grampian

Stories of the voyage as told by two sisters. The sisters met and made friends with a single mother, Júlíana (Diðriksdóttir) Goodman (IR #264523) and her 17-year-old daughter Guðrún “Dima” Goodman (IR #502094). Júlíana sees her daughter’s biological father, who is traveling with his wife and ten children. She tells her daughter and asks if she would like to meet her father. Júlíana and Dima walk over and Júlíana introduces Dima to her father and half-siblings. All the while, his wife is crying bitterly.

Photo of Guðrún “Dima” Goodman
Guðrún “Dima” Goodman

The Child Left Behind

Jón Jónsson (IR #499253), wife Jóhanna Ebenesersdóttir (IR #513138) and son Ebeneser, six years old, (IR #651466) decide to emigrate to Canada in search of a better life. They register a year ahead.

Photo of the SS Camoens
SS Camoens

In 1887 they boarded the SS Camoens in Dýrafjörður. At the last minute, Jón backed out and took Ebeneser with him back to shore, leaving Jóhanna alone on the ship. Ebeneser never again saw or heard from his mother and ended up in foster care.

Photo of Ebeneser Jónsson
Ebeneser Jónsson

All these stories, and more, can be found in our database.

Do you have a story about a family member you would like to share with us?

If you do, or have further questions, please send them to with the subject line “Women and Children's Stories.” In this previous blog post, you can find questions to help you with your writing.

All stories of women and children are appreciated. Please help us let the voices of women and children be heard!


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

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