Frank & Johanna Wilson

page 1 | page 2
page 3 | page 4

home | back to NIHM website
The Book Of Life
Alphabetical Story Index
Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Wilson, Frank & Johanna

By Johanna Wilson

My paternal grandparents, Björn Stefán Jósephsson and Margrét Stefánsdóttir, came to Canada in 1883 with their children Guðrún, age 11, Jóseph, age 10, and Anna Margrét, age 8. They left their farm near Hnausar, in the parish of Þingeyrar, Húnavatnssýsla, and sailed aboard the ship Crachforth from Akureyri. Their destination was New Iceland (presently Gimli) in Manitoba. Shortly after coming to Canada, the family name Jósephsson was changed to Skaptason. Their property in New Iceland was called Birkilund where they lived until 1888 when they moved to Selkirk. Their fourth child, Hallstein Björnsson Skaptason, was born in 1884. Margrét died Oct. 22, 1907 and Björn died June 21, 1913.

Björn was the son of Dr. Jósep Skaftason and Anna Margrét Olsen Björnsdóttir. Jósep’s parents were Séra Skafti Skaftason and Guðrún Einarsdóttir. Genealogical records show a link between this male line and manly prominent Icelanders of the late 1700s and early 1800s, including Skuli Magnússon, governor of Iceland, Dr. Ari Árnason of Flugumyri, Dr. Sveinn Palsson of Vík, Dr. Hallgrímur Scheving, poets Jónas Hallgrímson and Einar Benediktsson. The line can be traced back all the way Þórkell Vellingur (mid 900s).

Jósep Skaftason was employed as a secretary to Björn Blöndal, prefect of Húnavatnssýsla. He also tutored Björn’s children. Under the direction of Björn Blöndal and Björn Olsen of Þingeyrar, the residents of Húnavatnssýsla offered Skaftason financial support to study medicine if in return he would establish himself as a doctor in their district. He left to study medicine in Copenhagen in 1831. When he returned to Iceland in 1837, having completed his medical studies, he married Björn Olsen’s daughter Anna Margrét, and set up his practice in the community. In 1838, they moved to Hnausar, which developed into one of the best properties in the community. Páll Kolka M.D., tells the life story of Dr. Josep Skaptason in Merkir Íslendingar, published in Reykjavík in 1967 and translated by J.F. Kristjánsson in 1971. Björn was born at Hnausar on June 16, 1840. Margrét was born in the parish of Staður, Reykjanes, Barðastrandarsýsla, August 22, 1847, the daughter of Stefán Björnsson and Kristjana Sigmundsdóttir.


My maternal grandparents, Símon Símonarsson and Valdís Guðmundsdóttir, came to Canada in 1874 with their two children, Guðmundur, age 8, and Guðrún, age 2. They sailed on the St. Patrick to Quebec, and from there traveled by rail to Kinmount, Ontario, where they lived for one year under difficult circumstances and where their daughter, Guðrún, died. Their next move was to New Iceland where they landed with the original group of settlers on October 21, 1875. Valdis was a midwife and delivered the first baby born in New Iceland. Her own baby, a boy, was born Nov. 29, and died Dec. 15. Simon and Valdis had a difficult time in New Iceland.

Simon and Valdis’s daughter Jóhanna Guðrún (my mother) was born Mar. 16, 1878. He was not a fisherman, and the land allotted to him was not suitable for farming. In 1881 they moved to Winnipeg, and in 1882 they moved to Argyle where they found conditions to be much better. They found happiness in Argyle, raising their son Guðmundur and their daughter Jóhanna Guðrún. Simon kept a diary of these pioneer years, which was later translated by Wilhelm Kristjansson. The translation appeared in the Icelandic Canadian magazine. The original diary is kept in the Icelandic Collection, Elizabeth Dafoe Library, University of Manitoba.

Valdis had three children before she married Simon. The first Valtyr Gudmundsson was a writer and professor of the Icelandic Language at the Icelandic University in Copenhagen, as well as being a member of the Alþing for the Westmann Islands. Valdis’s daughter, Kristjana, came to Canada as a young lady and married Erlendur Gillis. They lived in New Westminster, B.C. Valdis’s other daughter, Anna, also came to Canada and married Sigurður Antonius. They farmed in the Argyle district in Manitoba.