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How do you Unlock the Stories of Your Emigrating Family Members?

By Beth Finnson

Samtal Hour on September 26, 2022, was so usual.

Judy Dickson and Dave Jonasson co-hosted. They posed these questions: What do you know about your ancestors’ travels to North America? Did they travel with friends, family, or neighbors? Or maybe some of them even traveled alone. But then they weren’t really alone, as most likely, all the other passengers on the ship were Icelandic.

In fact, my great-grandparents, Pétur Finnsson and María Stefanía Jóhannesdóttir met on their ship-the SS Buenos Ayrean, arriving in Quebec in 1890. They eventually married and had 7 children. Talk about a shipboard romance.

Photo of SS Buenos Ayrean
SS Buenos Ayrean

So, “How do you Unlock the Stories of Your Emigrating Family Members?” That was the topic of Dave Jonasson’s Tuesday Tips on September 20th. He explained and demonstrated new features of the database. You can look at your ancestors’ emigration records and the passenger details for their ship. You can find out if you have other relatives on the ship (within 3 generations) or if your ancestors traveled with neighbors (within 5 kilometers).

As a follow-up to Dave’s tutorial, Judy Dickson hosted him on the Samtal Hour on September 26th. Those who attended Tuesday Tips were invited to research some details about their families and then come to Samtal Hour and report what they found.

Prior to Samtal Hour, Dave posed these questions: “Did you find any surprises? Did all your family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc) emigrate at the same time or did they come in smaller family groups? What years did they emigrate? Were any of our ancestors on the SAME boat?”

Well, I discovered that Sunna’s great-grandparents Ólafur Ólafsson and Friðrika Steinunn Friðriksdóttir and my 2x great grandfather Jón Jóhannes Jónsson were on the same ship-the SS Buenos Ayrean arriving in Quebec in 1883. Did they know each other beforehand? Did they plan to travel together? The more answers and information I get, the more questions I have.

Sunna’s family ended up in North Dakota and mine finally traveled on to Blaine, WA.

Although, Pétur and Mariá were married in the old Gardar, North Dakota church before they went to Blaine via train. Yet another adventure!

Finnson family in 1899 L-R Jacobina, Pjétur, Maria and baby John

Personally, I think it’s fascinating to explore our database. It is so robust. And, genealogy is so much more than birth and death dates. Our ancestors were people struggling to survive and to find a better life for themselves and their children. Their travel adventures to North America were not easy. They were full of hardship but, also hope for the future. If they had not taken the chance to leave their farms and board those ships, where would we be now? How did they decide who stayed and who left?

The Icelandic Roots database helps us tease out those details.

Icelandic Roots members can review Dave’s Tuesday Tips from September 20th if they wish. It is available online and the link was in a September 20 email sent to all members.

And, if you want to learn more about the new features of the IR database sign up for Dave’s next course. It is 4 sessions starting October 20th. This will be an in-depth overview of the database and it is fun too.

IR members will get email notices about registration and sign-up. If you are not a member and would like to join, here's how.

How many new details will you find out about your families?


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

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