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My Journey

By Brian Borgford

The author standing on a farm near Akranes where his great-grandfather and great-grandmother worked.
Brian Borgford standing on a farm near Akranes where his great-grandfather and great-grandmother worked.

She had just celebrated her tenth birthday and was alone, on a six-thousand-mile journey to join her widowed father in Canada. Amongst the throng of fellow travellers were two strangers who sailed with her aboard the SS Buenos Aryean from Glasgow to Quebec City. This unconnected pair would both have a huge impact on the young girl’s future, in different ways, and at different times. One was a mid-twenties Scot, who, in less than twenty years, would become the business partner of her future husband, while the other was a thirty-year-old lady who would become her stepmother within a year of her arrival in Canada. The “she” was my grandmother, Guðmundur Þórðarson (I607673).


These are only a few of the many fascinating facts I uncovered while researching my Icelandic heritage, using the rich features of the member database of Icelandic Roots. I began researching the life of my grandfather (Þorsteinn Sæmundsson I464972) in 2013 with the unexpected discovery of his personal memoir he wrote late in his life. I spent the next few years scouring cousins’ basements, poring over historical documents and photographs, and searching old newspapers, to gather whatever crumbs of relevant history that presented itself. And, of course, what Icelandic genealogical research would be complete without the input of the legendary Nelson Gerrard.


A 2015 trip to Iceland, with the Snorri Plus program, enhanced my journey and provided me with my first glimpse of Sunna, who was introducing her fledgling Icelandic Roots.

The author meeting Icelandic cousins for the first time in 2015.
The author meeting Icelandic cousins for the first time in 2015.

Within a year I was a paid member of this exceptional organization and spent endless hours clicking through reams of historical facts on my ancestors.


The culmination of this phase of my historical journey was the 2017 publication of my grandfather’s biography. I also published the unedited version of his personal memoir.


I followed this up with a memoir of my trip to Iceland, and more recently I wrote a young adult fiction novel based on my grandfather’s early life.


This year I began digging further into my ancestry and wrote a brief biography on my grandfather’s mother, Helga Gísladóttir I464975. I found her life so interesting that I decided it was worthy of a novel of its own, and I have just completed a rough first draft of a fictional story based on her eventful life. I am planning to attend the Icelandic Writers Retreat in 2023 where I hope to put the finishing touches on this book with expected publication later in 2023.


I could not have accomplished any of this without the Icelandic Roots database and assistance from its plethora of dedicated volunteers. Seldom a day goes by without clicking on something contained in Icelandic Roots. I try to feed back into the process any tidbits that I find so that the site can continue to grow with new information on the hundreds of thousands of names in the database.


I’m sure I will have many more projects ahead of me and Icelandic Roots will help guide the way.

Brian Borgford displays a selection of books he has written after researching his family's past.
Brian Borgford displays a selection of books he has written after researching his family's past.


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