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Member Spotlight: Susan Atwood

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Welcome to our new monthly feature where we can learn about the wonderful members of our Icelandic Roots database.

Susan May Atwood - IR #526586

I was born and raised in the Ballard area of Seattle Washington. I grew up in an Icelandic community and I spent my summers with my mother and sisters in the Icelandic Community of Mountain, North Dakota. We would stay with my grandparents, Kristjan "Chris" Gudmundson and Kristine "Stina" Sigurdson Gudmundson. I now live in Kent, Washington, which is south of the Seattle area in the State of Washington

I found out about Icelandic Roots (IR) through Sunna Olafson Furstenau. I was in touch with her about Ancestry back when she was working on her "Roots to Trees" and before Icelandic Roots was even in existence. I have been a member of Icelandic Roots since it's beginning and plan to stay a member for life! I find it invaluable. I used it daily and learn so much from it!

portrait of Gary and Susan Atwood at the black sand beach in Vík, Iceland
Gary and Susan Atwood at Vík, Iceland

My favorite feature is the Relationship Calculator. I love "connecting the dots". I love seeing how I am related to other Icelanders and Western Icelanders!

I have researched all of the branches of my family on IR as I am of 100 percent Icelandic descent. It has been the most fun researching information about my Amma Stina as I grew close to her during my summer visits to Mountain and the fact that she had an interesting childhood.

Portrait of Amma Stina wearing  a fur collar and black brimmed hat.
Amma Stina

Amma Stina is in IR as Kristín Sæmundsdóttir\Sigurdson #I 215988. I regret that I did not ask my Amma questions about her childhood. Back in the 1950's and 60's, I was a child myself. I was more interested in going out to play with my friends. Thankfully, I have been able to find out some information from Icelandic Roots to help me learn a little more about her. My family was good at saving stories and photos. I knew that Amma had been left in Iceland when her parents and 4 of her siblings left Iceland in 1893. My Amma and two of her brothers were left in Iceland in the care of their grandparents, and later with Aunts and Uncles. I always wondered how Amma Stina got from Iceland to Mountain, ND. She was not listed on any ship records from 1899 when she left Iceland and came to Mountain. One of the IR volunteers (Kristy) was able to find her name on the passenger list of the SS Tainui on Oct 15, 1899. That ship took Amma Stina from Glasgow, Scotland, to Quebec, Canada. I still do not know how she traveled from Iceland to Scotland, but perhaps she could have traveled on a freighter.

I love the IR feature that shows information and photos of the ships that Icelanders traveled on to America. I had been told by friends of my Amma that she had traveled to Mountain with Rev. Friðrik Bergmann. IR was able to confirm that his name was on the same passenger list on the ship that left Scotland and went to Quebec. It was so exciting to see this proof! Amma Stina did indeed travel in the care of Rev. Bergmann.

I am still busy at work trying to scan, identify and send photos to IR, not only of my ancestors and family, but of friends of theirs who appear in group photos. I get excited to see photos appear on pages of people in the database. I thank all of the IR team for all that they are doing to help preserve our ancestry for future generations! I will continue to send photos and articles that were saved by my grandparents and great grandparents.

My ancestors originate from many different areas of Iceland. I have been fortunate to travel to Iceland (on 12 different occasions since 2007) and to have been able to visit the farms or land of some of my ancestors.

Amma Stina wearing her mother's dress for August the Deuce, Mountain ND

(The photo shows Amma Stina wearing her mother's dress for August the Deuce, Mountain, North Dakota)

My Amma Stina's mother (Steinunn Arinbjarnardottir) and her family were from the Njarðvík and Keflavík areas of Iceland that are part of Reykjanesbær, near the Keflavík airport. I have seen the family homes and have been able to go inside the home that my Amma lived in at the time that she left Iceland in 1899 for America. My Amma's father (Sæmundur Sigurðsson) was from Barkarstarðir, Flótschlíð, in South Iceland. I have been blessed to go to that farm and go into the actual home where my great grandfather was born. Relatives still own the land and have built a beautiful new home on the property. They plan to take down the old house. I am not sure if that has happened yet or not. I am thankful that I was able to go into the house before it has to be taken down for safety reasons.

My father, Steinthor Hermann's paternal great grandfather was from Brekka on Mjóafjörður on the East Coast of Iceland. This is also where Sir Magnus Olafson of Gardar also had mutual roots. (Magnus was my father's 1st cousin). A cousin in Iceland (Stefán Vilhjálmsson), took my sister and our husbands out the fjord to Brekka and showed us where my ancestors lived. It was amazing. The fjörd is often not accessible during the winter except by boat. It is a beautiful area of Iceland and definitely off the beaten path.

My father's grandmother (his mother's side of the family) came from Skálar on the Langanes Peninsula in northeast Iceland. Again, I had a cousin from Reykjavík (Elsa Bjartmar) that drove my three sisters around the Ring Road in Iceland where we met up with a cousin from northeast Iceland that drove us out to Skálar to see where that branch of my family had lived. Our visit was in late June of 2015 when the sun was shining close to 24 hours a day. I was surprised to drive across a moon type of landscape to arrive to Skálar and find a large group of my relatives that were camping there. They had a huge bonfire burning and families were singing by the campfire. My sisters and I were able to see the foundations of the homes where my ancestors had lived. They showed us how our ancestors used to gather eggs from the high cliffs. Three or more men would hold a rope and one man would go down the cliff holding on to the rope in order to collect eggs (probably Puffin) to have for food. It looked very scary to me! I have shared a story to IR that was about my great great grandfather from that area and how he gave the last of his food (mutton) to a widow and her children. He went to his nets the next day and found 14 seals in his nets! He was generous to a widow and was blessed in return! His name was Guðmundur Sigurðsson and the story can be found on his page in IR # I 231972, under the "Biography" line.

(Sæmunður Sigurðson family: Back Row - Tom, Ed, Sig, Emma, and Stina; Front row-Sæmunður, Steinunn, Martha.)

My Afi Chris Gudmundson's father was from Hóli, Fjöllum, in North Iceland. I have cousins that went in a jeep and found where the farm had been, but that has been many years ago. I have not had time to find that farm yet, but it is indeed on my bucket list!

My dad's father, Pétur "Pete" Hermann, was born in North Iceland in Raufarhöfn. He emigrated from Húsavík to Canada and then to Mountain, North Dakota. I really enjoyed seeing Húsavík and the area that my Afi Hermann had lived.

I have been blessed to meet hundreds of my cousins in Iceland! When I return from trips to Iceland, it is so nice to have IR to look up their names. It is overwhelming to attend parties with large numbers of cousins and to try to remember their names and where they live. IR makes it possible to remember just a few of them and then be able to find the rest afterwards on IR. Then, I can use the relationship calculator and see just HOW I am related to each of them! It is awesome! I don't know how I ever lived without it!

My great great grandfather, Pétur Guðjohnsen, was a famous organist in Reykjavík. He played the organ when the National Anthem of Iceland was played to the public for the first time. I have been able to meet with his descendants who have been so gracious to myself and my family. It was awesome to find the graves of him and his wife in the oldest cemetery in Reykjavík. Pétur was featured on a postage stamp in Iceland in 1979. Icelandic Roots has a lot of information about him, including a copy of the postage stamp and photos of his grave in Reykjavík. IR # I 28119.

A big thank you to all of you who volunteer for Icelandic Roots. I appreciate every minute of your time! Icelandic Roots is not just a place to FIND information about your ancestors, but a place for you to SHARE the photos and information that you have about your ancestors. It is fun to see the website grow!

Thank you,

Susan Atwood.


The Icelandic Roots team thanks Susan Atwood for her dedicated support to our organization, and for telling her story.

Thanks to Elin de Ruyter for interviewing Susan.

1 commentaire

May I add that Sue is a member of the Icelandic Club of Greater Seattle. She was a both a Club Princess and Fjallkona. We are proud of Sue’s participation.


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