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Hofsós and Icelandic Roots

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

This article has many links to more information. Enjoy!

On Monday, April 18th, 2022, we are pleased to have Valgeir Þorvaldsson join us for a member event called Samtal Hour with host, Judy Dickson. Valgeir is the Director of Vesturfarasetrið, the Icelandic Emigration Center, in the village of Hofsós.

The writer, Bill Holm, wrote the following about Valgeir in his book, Eccentric Islands.

“Valgeir Þorvaldsson, a farmer's son from north of town, couldn’t bear to see Hofsós die. While working as a carpenter for the Skagafjorður Folk Museum’s project to restore the old Danish packhouse, he fell in love with history and the physical refurbishing of old buildings. Endowed only with a dreamy impractical imagination, his great skill as a carpenter and refurbisher, and what money he could raise from anyone crazy enough to invest in his schemes, he spearheaded the restoration of the old cooperative store, to transform it into an elegant museum of the western emigration with a genealogy center and library.”

Founded in 1996, the Emigration Center works to commemorate Icelandic emigrants to North America and promote connections between their descendants and the people of Iceland. The Center offers four exhibits in three separate buildings plus a library and store. The exhibits combine text and photographs to illustrate the conditions in Iceland that influenced the decision to emigrate, the journey to the ‘New World’, and the new way of life they encountered. The main exhibitions are:

  1. Prairies Wide and Free - the North Dakota house

  2. New Land, New Life - the historical aspects of emigration

  3. Silent Flashes - photographs of Icelandic emigrants collected by Nelson Gerrard

  4. The Story of the Brazilian Emigration

Visitors can enjoy the historic buildings and learn about the challenges our ancestors may have faced before and after emigrating from Iceland to begin a new life in North America. The village of Hofsós is located in Skagafjörður and is one of the oldest trading centers in Iceland. The experience of visiting the Emigration Center is something of great value for all and we highly recommend you put this on your "Must See" list.

An important saga connected to Hofsós is the Vinland Saga. This tells of Leifur Eiríksson who discovered America. Þorfinnur Karlsefni Þórðarson, IR# I133851, came from the area near Hofsós. He and Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir, IR# I133852, lived for 3 years in North America and had a baby named Snorri. They returned to Iceland and lived on the farm, Glaumbær, which now has a preserved turf farm in Skagafjörður. The Snorri Programs are named after this little Snorri! Check out the SNORRI website to learn about exchange and travel programs to Iceland.

Another important saga is set in this area. Grettir's Saga is about the life of an outlaw, Grettir the Strong IR# I138211. Within the IR Database, you can read his saga in English, learn more about him, and see how you are related to him.

Drangey - the death location of Grettir the Strong

The Hofsós Emigration Center and Icelandic Roots formed an official collaboration in January of 2017. Icelandic Roots has an online vibrant community but also many expert genealogists and IT volunteers who live in Iceland, Canada, and the United States work many hours a week on the IR Database. With the Cousins Across the Ocean project, a full-time genealogy team, and the online IR Genealogy Database, those wanting to learn more about their family history can easily find it online. The Icelandic Roots Database continues to grow and evolve by updates to more than 8,000 individual records and adding about 2,300 people every month!

Membership fees are low compared to all the IR Member Benefits. Proceeds are used to 'Pay it Forward' in heritage grants, scholarships, and educational endeavors. IR gives special grants to both the emigration centers at Hofsós and Vopnafjörður for their displays and educational events.

Prairies Wide and Free North Dakota Exhibit at Hofsós

People of Icelandic ancestry can join as members and enjoy a database filled with much more than names and dates. IR also keeps the connections strong offering many online opportunities along with the cooperation and support to many other Icelandic organizations, events, and programs through the Snorri Programs and other cooperative work.

With our large team of genealogists from Iceland, Canada, and the USA all working on one database, we can accomplish so much and assist the part-time staff at the Emigration Center. Working together is the key to success and is of great value to anyone searching for their Icelandic family and story.

Hofsós Emigration Center – Vesturfarasetrið

The Hofsós Emigration Center is an important and popular cultural and heritage destination in northern Iceland. Founded in 1996, Hofsós commemorates the Icelandic emigrants and promotes connections between their descendants across the globe and the people of Iceland today. The Center hosts exceptional exhibits, a library facility, genealogy information, history, guided tours, assists with room and home rentals, and souvenirs, all set on the harbor in beautiful Skagafjörður. For more information, go to the Hofsos Emigration Center Website.

Travel to Iceland

If you are planning a trip to Iceland, make sure you add Hofsós to your itinerary. It is a beautiful, serene, and historic location.

Valgeir and Gunna take care of many lodging properties. You can contact them for more information. A fabulous property is at one of the most important harbors in northern Iceland called Kulkuós. This was the main harbor for the bishop at Hólar. According to the Sagas, the first horses brought to Iceland were unloaded at this place and one young mare had jumped out of the ship and swam to shore at Kulkuós. See videos of Valgeir telling more stories about Kulkuós and the area HERE.

More stories about Skagafjörður are found HERE.

Icelandic Roots

Founded in 2013, amazing strides are continuously made to enhance our organization. As of this posting - 15 Apr 2022, we have over 65 active volunteers and many others who assist occasionally with various teams. The mission is to preserve, promote, and educate people of Icelandic ancestry about our shared Icelandic heritage. We have many public offerings and events throughout the year and the member benefits are listed in the link below. Please join us in preserving our unique ancestry and keeping the connections strong between all people with Icelandic families. We are a nonprofit, 501c3, charitable, 'pay it forward' group of volunteers who all work together for the same mission.

For more information see the following links:


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

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