Legacy: A Tribute to George Freeman

Updated: Feb 8

Losing a long-time friend, faithful teammate, and dedicated genealogist of the Icelandic Roots Team is really tough. With this post, we honor one of our own who has recently passed away.

George Freeman, IR #I19672876, has a wonderful biography on his page in the database. I encourage you to go read all his short stories. He tells these lively, funny, and sometimes serious stories about his life. I just reread them and I hear his voice and his wonderful, hearty laugh. I cry tears of sorrow for missing my friend and tears of joy that I had the pleasure to know him. George and I began working together in 2003 at The Deuce of August Genealogy Center. Here is a link to the story, “Icelandic Cousins Across the Ocean Project – The Beginning.” 

Since that time, our IR team has grown and grown. We now have almost sixty volunteers who live across Canada, Iceland, the United States, Australia, and Brazil. Many of the IR Team and many of our supporting IR members have received genealogy assistance and information from George. He was an important part of our team. He worked on emails in our shared support inbox, the “Cousins Across the Ocean” forms, entered biographies, obituaries, and stories about people and places into the database, and worked on genealogy research to make the database better.

George began working on genealogy in 1993. He printed over 200 family history books, mostly as a volunteer. He compiled and published the three-volume set “Pembina County Pioneer Daughter Biographies.” In 2014, he and his sister published their mother’s recipes in a book named, “Fed With Love.” He was working on the “Mouse River Saga” and the “Vidalin Cemetery” compilation. He was active in the Icelandic National League of North America and was a proud Founding Member of the new Icelandic National League of The United States in 2019. He was an important part of the Icelandic Communities Association of Mountain, ND serving many years on the Board of Directors and founding the Genealogy Center in 2003 which continues to be a highlight of the annual summer celebration.

The North Dakota National Guard had George as their unit commander from 1969-1971 of the Support and Maintenance platoon, 188th Mobile Assault Bridge Co., 231st Engr Bn, 164th Group. He graduated from the Engineer Officer Branch Qualification School at Fort Belvoir, VA, and was attending War College when he decided to retire. He was a member of the ND National Guard for seven years and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. George said, “The Army chose to put me in an Army Officer Pool in St Louis, MO. As far as I know, I am still there. I will have to check that out because I have never received a discharge!”

In the 2002 Minnkota Power Cooperative Newsletter, they write the following. “George Freeman is calling it quits after 31 ½ years working at Minnkota Power. George was very instrumental in getting a lot of great things going in the Transmission Engineering Department. His best work was the creation of a database of information for every line and structure in our system. This comprehensive database is the envy of many of our neighboring utilities. This work will certainly be George’s long-lasting legacy….”

George loved working with the Icelandic Roots team. Each year, we were even included in his Christmas letter! He always would say:

“I find joy not in the end result but in the journey. It is such a pleasure to be on this dedicated and expert team. I consider you all to be a part of my family.”

IR volunteers, left to right Ron, Cathy is sitting in a chair, Sunna, Kristy, Geroge is sitting in a chair, Thordis Edda
IR Volunteers - Left to Right: Ron, Cathy (sitting), Sunna, Kristy, George, Þórdís Edda.

The Icelandic Roots family will miss George at our weekly Wednesday meetings. Cathy, the IR Genealogist, and Membership Director reminded me of one important task George had with IR. Each week, he would report to the team if there were any birth date discrepancies in the database using a module test set up by the IT guys. Sometimes it was a missing space between the month and year or a misspelled month. George checked the dates every week. Most of the time, he would say, “There were not any mistakes this week. You guys are all getting pretty good!” Or he would say, “Well, there was just one this time. It was one of my own.” And he would chuckle and give us a big grin. He would quietly fix new editor’s mistakes but this weekly reminder helped us all.</