Shirley Thorsteinson Sigurdson

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The Book Of Life
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Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Thorsteinson Sigurdson, Shirley

By Shirley Sigurdson (nee Thorsteinson)

My family’s story is similar to many others: poverty, tragedy, hard work, and hope for a better life in Canada than that which they left behind in Iceland.

My maternal grandmother, Emmy Agusta Anderson’s (b. Aug 15, 1883), parents came to Canada between 1876 and 1881, and first homesteaded at Árnastaðir in the Arnes district, then moved to Sand River on the east side of Lake Winnipeg where Emmy was born in 1883. Árni Andrésson was from Bægistaðir in Öxnadalur, and her mother Sigriður Albina Árnadóttir was from Skógar in Kelduhverfi. The family moved to Poplar Park in 1889.

My maternal grandfather Sveinbjörn Vigfusson Holm (b. at Ytri-Hlíð in Vopnafjörður, 1874), whose first wife, Björg Benediktsdóttir, was Árni’s niece, came to Canada in 1903. Sveinbjörn and Björg ran dairy farms on the edge of Winnipeg until Björg died in 1910. Sveinbjörn moved to Poplar Park and married Emmy in 1912. My mother Björgveig was born there in 1913. In 1921 the family moved again to Husavik establishing another dairy farm called Skínandi. After her parents’ early deaths in 1935 and 1936, my mother and her next eldest brother Arnor ran the farm with the help of younger brothers Julius and Andres. A year after Arnor married, my mother married my dad, Edward Thorsteinson, and, in 1937, moved to Hólmur, also in Husavik.

My paternal grandfather, Ólafur (Oli) Þorsteinsson was born at Fjarðarkot in Mjóifjörður, Iceland (1884). He was the only child of Þorsteinn Jónsson (later Mjofjörd) and Ingibjörg Einarsdóttir. Ingibjörg’s former husband was Eiríkur Pálsson Isfeld with whom she had several children, and all of whom came to North America.



Þorsteinn and Ingibjörg spent 3 years in North Dakota before moving to Husavik and settling at Hólmur. Ingibjörg’s eldest daughter had married in N.D, but the rest came with their mother and some homesteaded on their own in Winnipeg Beach, Husavik, Gimli and Langruth.

Oli Thorsteinson was a builder by trade and a musician by choice. He had played fiddle from an early age, and when he went to Winnipeg at 16 to apprentice with a builder, he also took music lessons. His story can be seen elsewhere, but he was instrumental in the building of the Gimli park pavilion and his orchestra often played there. In later life he ceased building and took up music as a vocation, teaching piano and violin to many local students. He also used his knowledge of woodworking to make violins.

Oli met my paternal grandmother, Kristín, during the time her family lived in Gimli. Her father, Andrés Jónsson Skagfeld, had immigrated to Canada in 1883 with his first wife and daughter. The wife died in 1884 in childbirth and the children both died soon thereafter, the older by drowning and the other as an infant.

Andres’ second wife, Kristin’s mother, had arrived in 1882 with her first husband, who drowned in the Red River, at Selkirk when they were enroute to meet more members of her family who were arriving in Winnipeg. Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir was born in 1860 in Reyðarfjörður, Iceland. Andres was born in 1855 at Stora-Vatnskard in Húnavatnsýsla, although his family’s roots were in Skagafjörður, near Glaumbær.