Genealogy and family history

Leif Eriksson was the first Icelander to set foot in what would become Canada. Wineland, the first settlement of Icelandic origin, was established in 1003, and Snorri Þorfinnsson is the first known European born in L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland.

In 1872, Sigtryggur Jonasson travelled to the Muskoka region of Ontario and a group of 100 Icelanders later joined him there. Not satisfied with their settling attempts in Ontario, the Icelanders moved west to Manitoba and established the first lasting Icelandic colony on the continent. The capital of "New Iceland," now called Gimli, was established in 1878 and had its own administration and constitution—a unique endeavour in the history of settlement in Canada.

In 1875, the eruption of the Askja volcano was the incentive for the migration of twenty percent of Iceland's population to North America. As Winnipeg became the most popular destination for Icelanders, the town's population reached 7,000 people during the 1880s. To this day, Manitoba remains North America's centre for Icelandic culture and activities. The localities of Gimli, New Iceland, Riverton, Lundar, Morden, Lakeview, Erickson, Baldur, Arborg, and Glenboro are known for their Icelandic cultural influence.

In Saskatchewan, the Icelandic heritage is prominent in Churchbridge, Kandahar, Mozart, Elfros and Wynyard. The 2006 Census shows that Manitoba is the province with the most Icelandic descendants, followed by British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Canada is home to the highest population of Icelandic origin after Iceland itself.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

L'Anse aux Meadows collection (MG 55/31) (MIKAN 106559)

The fonds consists of the correspondence by Norwegian Professors Bjorn Hougen and Marten Stenberger to Joseph Smallwood, Premier of Newfoundland. The letters, mostly written in 1967, concern the L'Anse aux Meadows archeological site.

Gimli Women's Institute fonds, 1973 (MG 28 V23, microfilms M-3194 and M-3195) (MIKAN 100589)

The fonds consists of documents regarding the local history and the inhabitants of Gimli. There are also documents about the various civil, religious and cultural institutions.

General Correspondence, Department of Agriculture (RG 17)

  • S. Jonasson, Winnipeg: Petition from Icelandic settlers for government grant of $5000.00 to defray expenses of two delegates to be sent to Great Britain and Scandinavia and Iceland to promote emigration from the latter country. (RG 17, vol. 603) (MIKAN 1953239)
  • S. Jonasson, Assist: Icelandic Agent, Gimli, Annual Report, 1876. (RG 17, vol. 179) (MIKAN 1925600)
  • John Taylor, Gimli: Letter from S. Jonasson asking for aid for Icelandic newspapers to be sent to Iceland. (RG 17, vol. 216) (MIKAN 1922910)

Library and Archives Canada holds other records pertaining to Icelandic immigrants to Canada. Consult the Collection Search database using keywords such as a surname or the name of an organization.

Research at other institutions and online

Research in published sources

  • An historical and descriptive account of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands: with illustrations of their natural history, by James Nichol. (OCLC 27174087 )
  • An Outline re: Scandinavian Research, by Ken Dormier. (OCLC 24546416 )
  • Finding Your Scandinavian Ancestors, by Penelope Christensen. (OCLC 49081533 )
  • Iceland, by Francis R. McBride. (OCLC 35619115 )
  • Icelanders in North America: the first settler, by Jonas Thor and Paul Hackett. (OCLC 50713805 )
  • Immigration and settlement of our vacant lands in Manitoba and the North-West: how hindered! how promoted!, by Frimann B. Anderson. (OCLC 77470695 )

Search for books on the Icelanders in Collection Search, using authors, titles or subject terms such as:

  • Icelanders
  • Icelandic
  • Iceland and Scandinavians in Canada

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