My father, Carl W. Swanson has written down his personal memories of his Amma Anna Eyjolsdottir and he is the only grandchild that actually knew his grandmother. My father and I were planning to go to Iceland in August 2005 but unfortunatly he passed away October 5, 2004. Not be ready to leave as planned in August 2005 my husband and I traveled to Iceland in April, 2006. This is what we have learned.
We started south from Reykjavik, stopping overnight first at Heimaey, in Vestmannaejar (the Westman Islands), then returning to the mainland and staying in or near Vík í Mýrdal, Kirkjubæjarklauster, and Höfn.
Vestmannaejar (the Westman Islands) take their name from the Irish slaves (West Men) who fled to the islands from the mainland during the 11th century. Most of the 16 islands in the group were formed by submarine volcanoes 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, but tiny Surtsey, created by an undersea eruption in 1963, is one of the world’s youngest islands.
We discovered a great deal of information. Among other things, it became clear that Karen’s ancestors were likely very poor – as many Icelanders were at the time -- and had little hope of becoming landowners in Iceland. America was an attractive option for many.
Karen’s great-great grandfather Helgi went to work in Vestmannaejar in 1887, where he must have met and fallen in love with Anna Eyjólfsdóttir, a local girl, before leaving for America in 1890. One source said Helgi returned for Anna a year later, but without vessel names or passenger lists, we have been unable to verify this version, and feel that it’s probably unlikely considering the timing and the cost for an ocean crossing. In any event, she followed Helgi to America in 1891.
In Vik we visited
Below is the beach at Dyrhólaey where Ólafur Jónsson, Karen's great-great grandfather, drowned in 1870:
There are no protected fjords in the area. Fishermen in the old days used boats about 25 feet long, which could be rowed or sailed. Com