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Icelandic Roots Celebrates 8 Years!

Icelandic Roots has experienced phenomenal growth and success over the past 8 years. We are thankful for all our volunteers and our All-Access Members who support the important IR Mission. We instituted Team Leaders in October of 2020 and it has been remarkable.

Our internal structures and communication have improved the collaboration and communication across our teams. Each Team Leader understands their roles and responsibilities and they are able to train new volunteers and keep connections strong with each volunteer. You can see that many of our volunteers wear many hats. To learn more, see their photos, and find out where they live, see OUR TEAM.

Below you can read some of the highlights from our past year. You will find a few statistics but what is most important is how we are engaged in something much bigger than ourselves. We are working together, building relationships, and have created an amazing community with a variety of educational and interesting opportunities.

Cathy Josephson - Iceland Genealogy Team and Memberships

If you are a member of Icelandic Roots, you have been in contact with our Membership Director, Cathy. She was born and raised in Minnesota and moved to Iceland in 1995. She is involved in many tasks with Icelandic Roots including leading all the genealogists who live in Iceland.

We have 11 genealogists who live in Iceland working on the IR Database. This dedicated and talented team is always working to improve and update family information for native-born Icelanders and connect them to the places where they lived and their final resting places.

We are also working to find and connect the many “orphaned” Icelanders with their parents, sibling, and descendants. Most of our work is done individually, but we meet regularly on Zoom to discuss new resources, new functions of the database, special reports on what’s done and what’s up next.

Doug Hanson - Treasurer, Administration, Mapping

We are always engaged in finance, education, and administration activities in support of our members and the Icelandic community. In 2021, Icelandic Roots continued to give generously to our Icelandic communities in the form of grants and scholarships. In 2021 Icelandic Roots awarded $12,000 USD in heritage/education/preservation grants and an additional $1,000 USD in Icelandic language scholarships. Our team also donates their time and talents to give presentations, create educational materials, and take part in local events.

In 2021, we increased the percentage of geotagged places in the Icelandic Roots Database from 78.6% to 91.8% (as of 11/3/2021). We also added 1,619 Saga Places to the database for the Saga Project (see information on Jason's Team below).

The Editor's Manual has been updated to its current version and is kept current by Team Member, Lorne Hallgrimson who also works on the Media and Genealogy teams.

Becky Byerly-Adamas - Fitness Challenge / Writers Group

Since before IR became an official nonprofit, we had a blog and website created by Sunna. Over the years, IR has gathered more writers. This year, we created a team for the writers and published 44 blog posts to make the total now over 440 posts! Our blogs are varied including emigration stories, found ancestors, folklore, sagas, important places in Iceland, and those famous or interesting ancestors. In addition, a newsletter was started in the second half of this year providing updates about events both public and private plus sharing relevant blog posts about particular subjects, events, places, people, and more.

Our volunteer team has a new group where they can help each other with writing, learn from each other, and meet within the special "Writers Corner." It will be interesting to see the evolution and changes of this new group. Bryndís Viglundsdóttir and Gay Strandemo have written and illustrated a new children's book, Guðríður's Saga, and coloring book about Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir. She is our famous ancestor and is in the IR# I133852 in the database. The publications will be released in the new year.

Barnasaga has evolved over the years and is officially the "Women and Children's Stories" project. This is led by writer, Þórdís Edda Guðjónsdóttir, and genealogist, Kristy Marston.

The Icelandic Roots Fitness Challenge began in 2020 as a way for people to connect to each other virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic while also raising money to support our mission at Icelandic Roots. Over 200 people have participated the last two years and we plan to continue our Fitness Challenge in 2022. This is our only official fundraiser.

Rus Magnusson - Database Media and Translations

All of our team members have expertise with media. They are busy with the media but most are part of the Genealogy Team, too. The media team meets monthly to discuss new techniques, answer questions, and other subjects of interest to the team.

Translation of the Editor's Manual to Icelandic is underway and will soon be ready for use by our volunteers living in Iceland. There are 7 team members on the Translation Team and it is led by Larry Thorderson.

During the last year, the Media team has uploaded approximately 3,000 images to the database for a total now of almost 29,000 images. This, plus an unknown number of deletions, fixes, and consolidations to media items. We worked together with Dave Jonasson to streamline and reorganize the database menu.

Icelandic Roots provided each Media Team member with a current copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 2021. We all work with the same software to manipulate photos to comply with already established parameters for the database. Rus and Christal work together to provide training for our new team members.

By recently adding more team members, we now have nine volunteers on the Media Team. The media includes documents, letters, videos, books, parish records, emigration and passenger lists, and a variety of photos including individual, family, wedding, headstones, military, and more. The team is strong and we will continue to work on the stored files in our google drive and upload member media items. Please continue to send your media items to us and we will get them connected.

Jason Doctor - Social Media Team and Saga Project

The social media team has been off to a good start this year. We have a total of 13 people on our team doing a variety of tasks. Each team member focuses on a theme for their posts: Fitness, Icelandic fauna, Sagas, history of Western Icelanders, historical portrait photography, travel, folklore, and more. Team member, Kjersent Gaminek, who is also the President of the Snorri Alumni, recently presented an interesting webinar on using social media for members.

Judy Dickson and Beth Finnson host the very popular Members-Only Samtal Hour, which is a conversation hour. They usually have a topic of interest and a guest to bring about this conversation with the members through our online Zoom platform.

Jason hosted a webinar introducing the Saga Project which integrates data from saga people, places, and events into our interactive database and mapping features.

In 2021 we also launched The Icelandic Roots Podcast, with co-directors, Natalie Guttormsson and Will Beaton. It is available for listening on most podcast apps or through our website So far, episodes have focused on the poet Káinn, Bill Holm, and Wayne Gudmundson, with upcoming episodes featuring author Nancy Marie Brown, and Winnipeg musician Jodi Dunlop of Mise en Scene.

Will Beaton organized our 55 videos on the IR YouTube channel and now it has specific playlists including a private playlist that hosts our Members-Only videos.

We are expanding our multiple platforms Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram through new software and have started integrating newsletter items into our posts. We look forward to another great year fulfilling the Icelandic Roots mission to educate people about Iceland, our shared history, and the Icelanders who went west and how all this connects with our shared Icelandic culture and heritage.

William "Butch" Thompson and Dave Jonasson - IT Team

New / Improved Genealogy Database functionality

  • Added "Advanced Family Search" capabilities and improved other methods for searching people in the database.

  • Added information, images, and links for the old Icelandic sagas in English and Icelandic. The farms and places referenced in each saga were connected to our interactive maps.

  • The entire menu was revised. We created a "Quick Start Guide" to help people understand all the features within the database.

  • Added new functionalities for members to bookmark their favorite people in the database which is synchronized across all their devices and browsers.

  • Upgraded our genealogy package to TNG 13 which added new functionality and improved some screen flows along with updating all the special functions our team has created over the past 8 years.

  • Implemented processes to quality check on many items within the database and also through our regular website.

  • Solved several software bugs in our genealogy software and were able to get those changes incorporated into the base TNG package.

Helping Members, Volunteers, and Genealogists

  • Improved the quality and processes for all our mailing lists.

  • Improved member experiences by creating new reports and checks to identify any potential issues with their emails, logging in to the database, and communications.

  • Held monthly sessions for new members and two 6 hour advanced training sessions for members to show them more database functionality and tricks.

  • Improved the processes for our volunteers utilizing our shared drives, calendar, and support mailboxes.

  • Resolved many issues after our computer hosting service changed data centers.

  • Synchronized Cathy's membership list with the LGL database. Developed a method and support program that cross-checks all IR lists to identify discrepancies between Membership, LGL, and TNG.

  • Developed a methodology to monitor and distribute alerts coming from Social Media sites, TNG, and Website integrity.

  • Maintain and improve our regular website, with our team member, Richard Ingimundson.

  • Keep accurate Team Meeting notes with our team member, Susan Huff.

Emigration Team - Dave Jonasson, David Johnson, and Willie Engelson

  • David Johnson has completed his first analysis of the resource, Vesturfarskrá, to verify and connect every person who emigrated is in our database. With the help of Willie and other genealogy team members, he is now is working on a small percentage that he was unable to connect. We now have 96.68% of the 14,268 people connected!

  • We have also have uploaded passenger lists documenting 14,892 of the almost 15,000 Icelandic emigrants. We have identified these emigrants and linked them to their passenger list.

Jody Arman-Jones - Snorri Project Liason and Public Outreach

Jody is the newest addition to our Leadership Team. She is on the Board of Directors for the Snorri Foundation and is our connection to help with "everything Snorri." She has taken on the task of "Public Outreach" and we will be seeing more from this new team in the future.

Sunna Furstenau - Admin, Education, and North American Genealogy Team

Sunna is the founder and president of Icelandic Roots. It has been extremely gratifying and inspiring to see how the dedicated and talented Team Leaders have distributed the various tasks within the Icelandic Roots community to create such an efficient and dynamic organization.

There are now 13 principal genealogists who manage genealogy, take member emails, and connect with each other to create an amazing database. We have 10 additional associate genealogists who attend meetings and work on the database. There are also 6 more genealogists in our support team and we are thankful for their assistance. Besides all the other features in the database, the team has added about 30,000 people and updated about 85,000 individuals over the past year. We continue to receive many "Cousins Across the Ocean" emails so we can keep connecting the living people of today to the site. This is a free service.

Make sure you subscribe to all our social media channels, the event calendar, blogs and newsletters, and more. Come and join us as a member and see all the fun and varied activities, events, seminars, webinars, and more. We hope you enjoy all that IR offers from the All-Volunteer Team! By going to the website, you can read more about our volunteers.

We value 7 Board Members, 9 Team Leaders, 68 Volunteers, 695 Members, and over 15,000 followers of our blogs, newsletters, and social media. Thanks for being here to celebrate 8 years of Icelandic Roots!

If you feel inspired and see a place where you could fit in, send us an email.


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

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