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More Gems from the Icelandic Roots Treasure Chest

“Hidden Gems Part II”

-by Rob Olason (IR#I149007)

Looking through the Special Collections section of the Icelandic Roots database offers many wonderful discoveries.

Recently I found a fascinating account of the August 1873 trip of Guðmundur Stefánsson (IR# I16824) on the cargo ship S/S Queen, where 153 Icelanders shared the first leg of their journey to North America by heading to Europe with 200 horses. He reports that the travelers were told to go down to the lower deck which was “a terrible place, cramped, hot and intolerably smelly” because of the nearby horses.

As the ship moved out of the harbor leaving Iceland and on into the fjord, he felt sad as he saw “the farms I knew so well” disappear from view.

“It was a painful experience,” he wrote.

You can read the rest of his journey by looking through the Emigration Stories in the Special collections, or by entering his Icelandic Roots number in the Person ID search box in the Navigation column. He was also the father of the Poet-Farmer, Stephan G. Stefánsson (IR# I187678).

Have you ever wondered how many of our ancestors who traveled to North America got to Europe in order to catch an Atlantic crossing vessel? Was Guðmundur Stefánsson’s journey typical or an anomaly?

In 2021, Icelandic Roots Genealogist Cathy Josephson created a short video called “Sails, Rivers and Trails-The Journey West,” which tells this fascinating story of the first leg of the journey from Iceland to North America. Her presentation is well worth a half hour of your time and is patiently waiting for you to view in the Special Collections under the Emigration Information tab-under the sub-heading Stories of the Crossing.

What was life like on the farm that so many of our ancestors left behind when they came to North America? A tantalizingly brief glimpse is available in a short new video that features an abandoned Icelandic farm that has been restored. Called “Sænautasel,” the entry was recently posted in the Videos section under the “Items of Interest” section. The video and more is connected to all those who lived on this highland farm including those who emigrated to America.

In the next installment of “More Gems from the Icelandic Roots Treasure Chest” we will take a dive into the video section, where some tantalizing treats await.

Have you found an intriguing discovery in the Icelandic Roots Special Collections? Tell us about it! Send your gems to me and we will publish your findings in a future column.

To review Part I of this series - Click HERE.

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