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Honored at Bessastaðir on New Year's Day

Congratulations to Cathy Josephson! She was awarded the Knight‘s Cross of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon at Bessastaðir on New Year's Day by President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

First Lady Eliza Reid, Cathy, and President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson 01-01-2023

The Icelandic Order of the Falcon is the highest honor that the Icelandic state can bestow on individuals. The President of Iceland typically presents Icelandic citizens and a few foreigners with the Order of the Falcon twice a year.


Cathy is a dedicated and multi-talented volunteer for Icelandic Roots. She wears many hats for various teams and projects within IR. She is the Iceland Genealogy Team Leader, the Membership Director, works with translations, helps set GPS coordinates for Icelandic farms and places, plus helps with education, seminars, lots of genealogy, and more.

Cathy Josephson at the East Iceland Emigration Center

Cathy was born and raised in rural Minneota, Minnesota. She also lived in various other locations in the United States: Thief River Falls, Minneota, and Minneapolis in Minnesota as well as Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Nashville, Tennessee. In 1994, Cathy and her cousins traveled around Iceland. The following year, she returned to Iceland and has since made her home in Vopnafjörður. Since 2004, she and her husband, Sverrir, have lived on the same farm where one of her great-grandmothers was born.


Cathy and Sverrir 2022

In 2002, the East Iceland Emigration Center (Vesturfaramiðstöð Austurlands) was formed. Cathy became a founding member of the governing committee. In the beginning, the Center had no office, no telephone, and no money. Still, Cathy and her colleagues began researching emigrants from the Vopnafjörður area and their descendants in North America, collecting photos and information. The small but dedicated group of volunteers continues to do wonderful things.

Vopnafjörður friend Jobbi, Cathy, and IR Finance Director Doug

Cathy travels to North America as an Icelandic Roots volunteer to help with seminars and presentations at INLNA Conventions, the annual Deuce of August Icelandic Heritage Celebration in northeast North Dakota, and workshops held at the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli during Íslendingadagurinn.

At The Deuce of August in North Dakota 2022 with Hulda Karen Daníelsdóttir, Hjördís Hilmarsdóttir, Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cathy Josephson, Sunna Furstenau, and Pála Hallgrímsdóttir

Cathy says her own memories of growing up in the Minneota Icelandic community, kept largely in a mental shoebox for longer than she cares to count, were a great help as she began to learn the ins and outs of genealogy research. She is a very valuable genealogist helping to create the Icelandic Roots Database and leads the team of genealogists who live in Iceland. We held two team dinners in September of 2022 and it is great to get together in person in addition to our online meetings.

IR Volunteer Dinner in Akureyri 2022
IR Team Dinner Hafnafjörður 2022

Nearly all the Icelanders who emigrated to Southwest Minnesota were from East Iceland, and easily half were from the area called Vopnafjarðarhreppur, the municipality to which the village of Vopnafjörður belongs, and she lives. Many visitors come to the area and she is always willing to help them find the farms and special locations of our Icelandic story.

IR Volunteers - Jason and Cathy

Cathy has given multiple presentations online and at in-person events. She hosts many people in northeast Iceland, taking them to local cemeteries, churches, farms, and special saga locations. Here is a snapshot of the Egilsstaðir seminar held in September of 2022.

Icelandic Roots presentation at Egilsstaðir

She created a fabulous presentation in English and Icelandic, "Sails, Rails, Rivers, and Trails," / "Siglt, gengið, riðið or rúllað í lest - ferðin vestur," that you can watch on the Icelandic Roots YouTube channel here:

In English (Icelandic below)

Or here in Icelandic:

Exploring places in Iceland and learning more about our shared story helps us all. With the Icelandic Sagas, the excellent records, and the talented genealogists to record this in the Icelandic Roots Database as well as all the other features, offerings, and connections, we are so appreciative of our team in Iceland, Canada, and the United States all working together to preserve and share our Icelandic story.


In addition to her genealogy work, Cathy is an accomplished artist creating various types of artwork with her paints, pencils, and pastels.

Other Icelandic Roots volunteers who have received this award are Bryndís Viglundsdóttir and Almar Grímsson from Iceland and Sunna Olafson Furstenau, the founder and president of Icelandic Roots from North Dakota. Sunna received the award at Bessastaðir on August 31, 2017. Read more here.

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