Article by Steinþór Guðbjartsson
Cathy Ann Josephson, genealogist living at Refsstaður 2, Vopnafjörður is always ready to assist without taking a "króna" in payment. She has been on the board of Vesturfarinn since it was founded in 2002 and is also the chairman of this group of volunteers since 2012. Vesturfarinn is known as "Vesturfaramiðstöð Austurlands" - East Iceland Emigration Center - and has its home in Vopnafjörður.
Cathy is from Minneota, Minnesota in the United States. She visited Iceland in 1994 with a group of relatives and found her roots in Vopnafjörður. "Six months later I had sold, tossed, or given away all that I didn't want to keep and was back in Vopnafjörður to live. Afi and amma were from here, so I had come home."
Vopnafjarðarhreppur founded Vesturfarinn and told Cathy that she had to be on the board. "Our members decided to call our group Vesturfarinn and they wanted me to 'bridge the gap' between East Iceland and the Western Icelanders; from Vopnafjörður emigrated about 300 people plus more from other parts of Iceland to Minneota."
Icelanders emigrated west from about 1850 until the first world war, but they were not alone as many from Great Britain and Europe traveled the same route. "I receive questions from all directions, not only from people in Iceland and Scandinavia," says Cathy. She emphasizes that many volunteers work together and therefore all goes well. "'Can you make coffee,' I ask as I call someone when guests are on the way, but in the beginning, I promised to take care of the genealogy and finding relatives and do that still."
Cathy says she does genealogy as a hobby, but has worked for pay in various ways, but is now retired. "I am happy when I help people and have never sought after money. We owe nothing, have no need for an expensive vehicle, own that which we own and need little to meet our needs. I have a good man and our retirement funds are enough. If someone asked for help, I meet cheerfully and pleased. I am happy with what I have but have no idea what I will do when I am old."
Connecting via the internet service is quick and easy and Cathy says contacts with people have greatly increased. In quiet moments some years ago she typed Ættir Austfirðinga into a file and this has been very helpful for in her research.
While Cathy lived in Minneota she collected information about people, living and passed, whose families were from the Vopnafjörður area. "I brought these memories with me and saw that they were all my own people; the puzzle pieces came together here."
Cathy volunteers with Icelandic Roots and leads the team members living in Iceland. (Icelandic Roots is a generous supporter of Vesturfarinn.) Icelandic Roots volunteers in the Reykjavík area met in Hafnarfjörður on August 29, and this evening, September 6, there will be an introduction of Icelandic Roots in Egilsstaðir from 4:-6:00 pm. Anyone interested in helping as volunteers in genealogy is welcome.
Once when Cathy was putting together a genealogy for someone, she discovered that she had ancestral connections with Refsstaður, where she lived with her husband, Sverrir Ásgrímsson. "My great-great-grandmother* was born and grew up here at Refsstaður, so I have completed the circle."
*The Morgunblaðið article did not include this correction about my gr-gr-grandparent born at Refsstaður, who was Oddný Sigurðardóttir. Her husband and my gr-gr-grandfather was Sigurbjörn Kristjánsson born at Síreksstaðir, grandson of Júdith frá Ljósavatn Sigurðardóttir.) -Cathy Josephson
The full article in Icelandic: