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Volunteer Spotlight: Elin de Ruyter

Written by Jonena Relth

Elin with her husband, three daughters, and son in their home at Christmas time
Elin and Family at Christmas 2019

Elin de Ruyter, a valued Icelandic Volunteer since 2017, is a genealogist specializing in the lives and stories of important Icelandic people, especially midwives. When asked how her experience has been volunteering for IR, Elin responded, “I love being a part of Icelandic Roots and feel honored to be part of such a fantastic group of people.” None of the volunteers question her commitment to Icelandic Roots as she lives in Australia and joins our weekly meetings at 5:00 am her time.

One thing most people don't know about Elin is that in addition to raising a family, working outside the home and serving as an IR Volunteer, she is an aspiring author and is currently writing a novel about an Icelandic Midwife in 19th century Iceland, inspired by her ancestor's life. She has definitely found a way to combine her love of genealogy and writing!

Elin was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1983 and at the age of three emigrated, with her parents and two sisters, to New Zealand and two years later to Australia. She is one of five girls. Maintaining their Icelandic culture and heritage has always been important to Elin and her parents, who spoke Icelandic to her as a child and upheld their Icelandic traditions

She grew up receiving Icelandic gifts from her grandparents and family over the years and loved it when her Amma would send them dried fish and licorice. Elin took some dried fish to school once for her teacher to try out and remembers how the class screwed up their noses and couldn’t stand the smell coming from her bag that day. Elin has tried to encourage her love of dried fish with her own children, but they haven’t found a liking to it. She resigns that it is their loss and all the more for her when family send some now.

In Iceland in 2002 Elin met her grandparents for the first time since leaving Iceland in 1983.
In Iceland in 2002 Elin met her grandparents for the first time since leaving Iceland in 1983.

Elin’s involvement with IR started when she got in touch with the volunteer genealogists. She had recently found out that her 3 x great grandfather, Sigurður Bjarnason IR# 3306302, had emigrated from south Iceland to North America in 1876, but she had hit a brick wall finding more information and needed assistance. The IR Volunteers were not only able to tell her where he ended up in North America and what happened to him there, but they also got her in touch with cousins she never knew she had in North America. She looks forward to meeting these cousins one day!

Elin’s interest in genealogy started in 2001 at the age of seventeen when she found out her maternal grandfather, Jóhannes Guðmundsson IR# 139039, was adopted out shortly after his birth. With some help from her grandfather and her parents she was able to contact her grandfather´s long lost siblings all the way from Australia. What a shock it must have been to receive a letter from lost relatives on the other side of the world, but thankfully it was a happy surprise. Her grandfather was one of seven children, five of whom had been fostered out as infants when the family hit hard times due to unemployment and ill health in the 1920s. In 2001, three of Jóhannes’ sisters were still alive and living in Iceland. Elin’s reaching out from Australia lead to a reunion with Jóhannes’ siblings after nearly 80 years apart!

It is from her paternal side of the family that Elin discovered where the twin gene came from in her own immediate family. Three out of four of her sisters have given birth to naturally conceived twins. Her grandfather had twin sisters and through more genealogy digging, Elin found out that her grandfather´s grandmother, Guðrún Þorkelsdóttir IR# 28496, was a fraternal twin herself. The twins gene also goes back further on this side, well back to the mid 18th Century!