Iceland Emigration and Immigration

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Emigration and Immigration

Historical Background

Icelandic Emigration began later than other Scandinavian countries partly due to the isolated nature of the Island.  Icelandic Emigration can be hard to trace as Iceland was a part of Denmark and counted among their citizens.

By the 19th century, some Icelanders were emigrating to the United States and tended to settle around the Great Lakes. At first attaching themselves to other Scandinavian settlements but eventually establishing their own communities mainly in Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

The Emigration from Iceland to N-America page gives a list of settlements in North America as follows:

  • Utah: In and around the Salt Lake Valley.  Spanish Fork had a sizable settlement.
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Ontario
  • Manitoba
  • Nova Scotia

Emigration Records (Útflytjendur)

Research use: Emigration records provide information about date of emigration, enable descendants to determine the village or farm where their ancestors originated.

Record type: Records of emigrants from Iceland. These include special lists of emigrants [Sérstakir Listar um Útflytjendur til Amerika] drawn up at each of the county offices [sýslumaður] from 1876 to 1893, entries and notations in church books, and copies of passenger contracts between emigrants and shipline agents.

Time period: 1870 to 1914.

Contents: Names of the people who emigrated to North America, occupation, age, and specific place from which they emigrated.

Location: National Archives.

Percentage in Family History Library: 100% of the names in these sources have been published. The Family History Library has the published book by Júníus H. Kristinsson (Vesturfaraskrá 1870-1914. A Record of Emigrants from Iceland to America 1870-1914, published1983 by Sagnfrædistofnun Háskóla Íslands in Reykjavík). The original source records have not been filmed.

Population coverage: 20%.

Reliability: Very good

Accessibility: Emigration records are available at the National archives and can be accessed through a private researcher or by on-site examination. Most of the collection has been published.[1]



  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Iceland,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1988-1997.