Dr. Ken & Lorna Thorlakson

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Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Thorlakson, Dr. Ken & Lorna

A Thorlakson Patronymic by Dr. Ken Thorlakson

My great-grandfather, Þorlákur Gunnar Jónsson, was born in eastern Iceland on August 16, 1824. His father, Jón Ívarsson owned his own farm in northern Iceland. His mother, Rannveig Magnúsdóttir was the daughter of Reverend Magnús Erlendsson, rural dean (prófastur) at Hrafnagil, Eyjafjarðarsýsla. On Oct. 28, 1847, Þorlákur married Henríetta Lovisa, whose mother was Icelandic, but whose father was a Norwegian merchant at Siglufjörður. In 1851 they moved to the farmstead named Stóru-Tjarnir (Big Ponds) in Ljósavatnshreppur, Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla where they lived for the next 22 years, except for four years, until their departure from Iceland in 1873. By that time there were nine children, six boys and three girls, all of whom survived to maturity, a rare occurrence in nineteenth century Iceland. Haraldur (1848-1914), Páll (1849-1882), Guðrún Jakobína (1853-1923), Jón Valdimar (1854-1924), Rannveig (1855-1931), Níels Steingrímur (1857-1943), Þorsteinn (1858-1932), Björn (1860-1898), and Sólveig Valgerður (1862-1909) all immigrated to the United States. Þorlákur Jónsson led the first large group who emigrated from the north of Iceland. After arriving in Quebec City and traveling with the group to Wisconsin, he settled, along with other family members and friends, on the shore of Lake Shawano. This settlement was short-lived and most settlers dispersed to Minnesota and Dakota.

My grandfather, Reverend Níels Steingrímur Thorlákson, the fourth son of Þorlákur and Henríetta, was born on the farm Stóru-Tjarnir in 1857.


In 1873, at the age of 16, he arrived in Wisconsin with his parents and their large family. Two years later, in 1875, he enrolled in Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He graduated with honours with a Bachelor of Arts in 1881. After graduation he spent two years in Mountain, North Dakota in business with his older brother Haraldur, and was, at the same time, the first regular teacher and the first Justice of the Peace. It was to Mountain that Níels’ older brother Páll led the migration from New Iceland in 1878 following the divisive religious controversy. In 1883, Níels traveled to Norway where he studied Theology at the University of Christiania (Oslo) from which he graduated in 1887. In the same year he was ordained by Rev. Jón Bjarnason (President of the Icelandic Lutheran Synod) in Víkur Lutheran Church, Mountain, North Dakota. Víkur Church had been completed in 1884, built on lands donated by Rev. Páll Thorlákson. It is the oldest Icelandic church in America, and is also where Páll Thorlákson is buried. Páll, known as the father of the Icelandic settlement in North Dakota, had served the congregation in Mountain from 1878 until his untimely death in 1882. Níels married his Norwegian bride Erika Christopha Rynning (1860-1947) in Minneapolis on May 18, 1888. They had four sons and two daughters: Octavius (1890), Anne Margarethe (1891), my father Thorbjörn (1895), Frederick (1898), Halfdan (1900), and Erika (1902). Níels served the congregations in Minneota, Minnesota, Park River, North Dakota, and for 27 years in Selkirk, Manitoba. He died at Canton, South Dakota on February 8, 1943, age 86.