Solberg Einar & Shirley Sigurdson

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Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Sigurdson, Solberg Einar & Shirley

by Solli Sigurdson

Part I: Solli’s Family

My two afis and two ammas were all born in Iceland. They immigrated at different times. The story of their immigration is a complex one, and they all left for different reasons. Within our family we have long thought that my father’s father, Sigurður Erlendsson, was our most significant ancestor, but as we have learned more, each of our grandparents has a special story and each of these stories is far more significant than mine. This account is their stories.

Chronologically, Sigurður Erlendsson begins the story. He was born at Höskuldsstaðir in Suður-Þingeyarsýsla in 1835(?). In 1853 he married Guðrún Eríksdóttir. With her, he had six children. In 1876, at age 41, he, with his family, emigrated to New Iceland. They settled at Skögar in Hecla where, in 1901, Guðrún died.

Meanwhile, my mother’s father, Einar Guðmundsson, was born in 1852(?) at Rauðaberg on the edge of Vatnajökull, east of Höfn in Hornafjörður. He and a brother were born to a couple that did not marry—a farmer’s son and a working girl. As such he had little prospect of ever owning a farm himself. When he was in his teens he was working on a farm in the region that, according to the church survey, had more people than sheep. In 1875(?) he moved to the Vopnafjörður district where, in 1878, he was able to acquire a farm. He married Guðríður and together they emigrated to New Iceland with no children in 1883. Before she was married, however, Guðríður had had a daughter, in 1864, with a married man Sigurður Sigurðsson who was the farmer at Strandhöfn in Vopnafjörður. This daughter, Margrét, my amma, was raised by Sigurður as a member of his family. In 1894, Margrét, at the age of 30 and unmarried with a son of her own, left to join her mother and step father in New Iceland. Before she arrived her mother, Guðríður, had died. Within a year after arriving in Canada, Margrét married her stepfather, Einar, and with him had a family of four girls and two boys. My mother Guðrún (Runa) was the second of these children.



Meanwhile in 1869, Þórunn María, my amma, was born to Magnus Björnsson and his wife at Skinnastaðir in Laekjardalur. However, because her parents had lost their farm, they were too poor to look after her. So at an early age, she became a ward of the district and as such was brought up by several different families who for a fee looked after her. Still in her teens she had a child (dead at childbirth). Growing up in these circumstances, at 30 years of age she was a housemaid for a minister and his family. She accepted an invitation to go to Hecla Island, Manitoba and become a housemaid for Sigurður Erlendsson, my afi who, in 1901 at 66 years of age, had just lost his wife. By this time, Sigurður’s six children had grown up and his two older sons Stefán and Jóhannes were prominent in the fishing business at Hnausa on Lake Winnipeg. Sigurður and Þórunn were married and had three children. My father, the second one, was born in 1903. Their last child, Guðrún, was born in 1909 when Sigurdur was 74 years old.

My mother, Guðrún Einarsson, spent her childhood on the family farm in North Arnes. At 15 years of age she became a housemaid for a Winnipeg banker’s family. Within a few years she began working for Eaton’s in Winnipeg and worked there for ten years. Among her achievements, as a head cashier, was being sent to Lethbridge to help open the Eaton’s store. She quit Eaton’s when she married my dad in 1928. My dad Stefán V. Sigurdson spent his first six years at Skógar in Hecla until his mother became ill. He was then sent to live with Stefán, his eldest half-brother, in Hnausa. His mother’s mental illness had her spending the last 35 years of her life in the Selkirk Asylum for the mentally disturbed. This was a burden which he carried with him all his life. Fortunately his brother, Sigurður Runberg (S. R.), who had been sent to North Dakota to live with a half-sister, returned to Hnausa in 1912. The two brothers began a close, life-long, association centred on buying fish on Lake Winnipeg. The fishing business prospered as Sigurdson Fisheries at Riverton.