Iceland: Genealogy with a Twist
Most people are interested in genealogy as a hobby, an addictive search for a family tree whose roots are yet undiscovered.
In Iceland however, genealogy takes on a broader importance. It becomes a necessity for singles with the natural desire to settle down and perhaps start a family.
Why… because with a current population of about 318,000 people whose ancestors have lived on this isolated island since the late Viking age (approximately the year 870) finding someone you are not closely related to can become a daunting task.
Not to worry, Icelanders have come up with a solution to the problem that gives a unique slant to genealogy research.
Their solution: the Islendingabok, an online genealogical database that holds the ancestral information of Iceland’s inhabitants going back 1,200 years. The Íslendingabók combines the science of medical genetics and some major software, with the aim of tracing the family relationships of the countries citizens since the time of settlement. It also uses techniques more familiar to family history research: such as church and census records.
The database allows Icelanders to make certain they are not about to become kissing cousins: however, it is in Icelandic only.
Although many descendants of Iceland’s original settlers stayed, there were also those who immigrated to North America.
Iceland near the end of the 19th century was a land of stark beauty. It was also a land of overwhelming hardships stemming from conditions of over population, economic adversity, violent volcanic eruptions and extreme cold. It was at this time that even some of the staunchest Icelanders left in search of greener pastures.
However, Icelandic nationalism remains as strong as the stories of home. Generations later, some Icelandic ex-pats feel the pull of heimthrá, or being in thrall of home. For descendents of those immigrants, there is a wealth of information concerning Icelandic genealogy on Hálfdan Helgason’s site dedicated to the Icelandic Emigration to North America.