Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book - Icelanders Gather to Utah 1854-1914

Icelanders Gather to Utah 1854-1914
from Iceland to Spanish Fork, Utah
by David Alan Ashby
Icelandic converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were encouraged to gather to Utah as were other converts from the other countries in Europe, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. Life in Iceland at this time was very difficult: there was wide spread poverty due to poor economic conditions, the continued struggle for independence from Denmark, volcanic eruptions that greatly damaged the land in part of the country, and unusually cold winters. The majority of Icelanders that emigrated to Utah did so for reasons different from the Icelanders that emigrated to other places in North America. The Utah Icelanders emigrated so they could be apart of their new found faith.
The Icelanders that immigrated to many parts of North America dreamed of all Icelandic communities, where Icelandic was the language of choice and the majority of the immigrants were Icelanders. The Icelanders that came to Utah did so for religious purpose. They did find a need to have their own congregation, where Icelandic was the language used for instruction. This was only necessary until they could learn English and attend Church with other English speaking emigrants from Wales, England and Denmark.
The Icelanders that gathered to Utah were for the most part members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although they were Icelanders they were part of a larger group of immigrants that had the same purpose for immigrating to Utah, to worship together as Mormons. They soon found themselves involved not only in there religion but in finding away to improve their new community and their own state of affairs.
Although they did not intend to establish an Icelandic community in Utah, the Icelandic emigrants to Utah, like Icelandic emigrants in other places in North America worked to retain their identity as Icelanders. The Utah Icelanders created the Icelandic Association of Utah in 1897, an association that provides a time to gather annually and celebrate their Icelandic heritage. The association continues to provide the instrument for descendants of the Icelandic immigrants to Utah to maintain a cultural sense of Iceland. Our ancestors left us a legacy: belonging to the Icelandic Association of Utah means belonging to something that has a history of over one hundred years and has accomplished a few great things.
Each emigrant has his or her own story demonstrating faith in their new adventure, their beliefs, their character, their will power and the independence of these pioneers. They were fishermen and farmers in Iceland. On coming to America, many did not having the means to survive in this foreign land. They spoke a language unfamiliar to those in the community where they intended to build their future home. Their clothing was not suitable for the climate in Utah. There was farming in Utah, but it was much different than in Iceland. There was no fishing industry in Utah. This left these early pioneers to Utah needing to learn a new language, finding a new occupation and finding a place for their families.
It is remarkable that 150 years after the first Icelanders arrived in Utah, and there remains a strong cultural sense of Iceland among the descendants of the Icelandic pioneers. We who have descended from great and faithful forebears, have the right to say “I’m proud of my Icelandic heritage”. We too have a need to continue to honor our Icelandic ancestors and the land of our forebears, as we have been shown to do by those that have gone before. The Icelandic emigrants to Utah and other places in North America have left us a rich heritage that we all can be proud of.
The significance of our connection to a place is affected by two things: our heritage from that place, and our cultural awareness of that place. A basic need common to humanity is a sense of a connection to a place or country. Our Icelandic heritage furnishes that connection to Iceland, and it runs as deep as the connection to Zion was for the Icelandic emigrants to Utah. Iceland being a small place, our connection is perhaps more pronounced, and also easier for people to find their identity and a role that they are satisfied with.
Through genealogy, descendants of the immigrants from Icelanders can make that connection of place, Iceland. It is not difficult to find Icelanders in the homeland whom we are related to. My experience has given me several acquaintances who live in Iceland and who have became my dearest friends. Once we make that connection we have a different sense of place.
This is just a little from the book. The majority of the book is biographical sketches of the nearly 400 emigrants that came from Iceland to Utah.
The book is now available from the Icelandic Association of Utah.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Leif Eiriksson Day

Leif Eiriksson Day

In the United States of America, October 9th is Leif Eiriksson Day. This day honors Leif, who brought the first European adventures to North America. In 1964, Congress authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson and each President since have done so. Presidents have used the proclamation to praise the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent generally and the spirit of discovery. Some states also officially commemorate Leif Eiriksson Day.

October 9th is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson's life. The date was chosen because the ship Restauration coming from Stavanger, Norway, arrived in New York Harbor on October 9, 1825 at the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.

Leifur Eiriksson was born between 975 and 980 on the west coast of Iceland, the son of Erik the Red, a Norse explorer and outlaw. Leif immigrated to Greenland as young boy, in 985, with his father. The Complete Sagas of Icelanders begins with the two sagas known as the Vinland Sagas, which tell of the voyages first led by Leif Eiriksson to a land he called Vinland (‘Wineland’). Leif, nicknamed 'Leif the'Lucky' after rescuing shipwrecked seamen on his way back from Vinland.

While in Norway Leif Ericson converted to Christianity, like many Norse of that time, at the request or command of the King of Norway, Olaf I. When he returned to Greenland, he bought a boat and set out to explore Vinland, which likely was Newfoundland, Canada.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Einar Jónsson - October 2008

Einar Jonsson was born 16 August 1839 at Samstadir, Breidabolsstadir i Fljotshlid, Rangarvalla, the son of Jon Halldorsson and Gudrun Jonsdottir. Jon Halldorsson was born at Samstadir, Rangarvalla, in 1813; his wife, Gudrun, was born at the same place in 1817.

Einar married Gudrun Jonsdottir 5 November 1871. There were nine children born from this marriage: Gudrun Helga (24 July 1872), Johanna (2 July 1874), Gudrun (5 October 1875), Agustina (1 August 1878). These four children were born in Vestmannaeyjar: Nicholas Wisconsin, born in July 1880, on board the S.S. Wisconsin on the way to America, Alice Theodora (5 November 1882), Ephraim Alexander (7 January 1885), Sarah (16 November 1886) and Elizabeth 27 October 1888, the last four being born in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Einar joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Iceland. He was baptized by Magnus Bjarnason 25 May 1874 and confirmed the next day by Loftur Jonsson. Einar and his family immigrated to Spanish Fork, Utah in 1880. While living in Spanish Fork, he married 17-year-old Ingveldur Arnadottir, whom he took as a plural wife. They were married 5 August 1885 in the Logan, Utah Temple. One child was born to this union: Alexander, 25 August 1886 in Spanish Fork.

In the spring of 1889, Elder Einar Jonsson of Spanish Fork was called to serve a mission to Iceland. He did missionary work for some time after his arrival, but later got into trouble, which caused him to discontinue his missionary labors. While in Iceland, Einar entered into another polygamous relationship with Margret Gudmundsdottir; they were married March 1889 on the Westman Islands. There were three children born to them: Gudrun Alexandra, Martel and Oscar Jon, all born in Vestmannaeyjar. Einar met with an accident on the Westman Island that almost instantly caused his death. An oil tank fell on him. Einar died 25 May 1900 and is buried in Vestmannaeyjar. He is number 208 in Icelanders of Utah.