Icelandic Surnames

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Iceland, I have been reading “The Little Book of the Icelanders” by Alda Sigmundsdottir.  It is very entertaining and if you are interested in the ways of the Icelandic people I highly recommend it.   I found the section on Icelandic surnames very interesting.  In a typical Icelandic family the father, mother and children will all have a different last name because Icelanders still use patronyms or matonyms.  (Think, Johnson, Jackson, Peterson, etc.)  So according to this system the surname is made by taking the father or mother’s first name and adding “son” or “dottir”, while the parents last names are made from the first names of their parents…. It must make genealogy research VERY confusing! There are some family names in Iceland that are from the past and came from Danish aristocracy.  Most of them came into the Icelandic language in the 17th century.  In the 20th century family names became popular and people were making up their own and so in 1991 family names were declared illegal.  Today the only way a new family name will be registered is if a foreign citizen moves to Iceland and has a child with an Icelandic partner; then that child can adopt the foreign parent’s family name.  Adopting a husbands surname is pretty much unheard of in Iceland.

There is a long history in Iceland of giving people nicknames and that tradition is still widely practiced especially in the smaller communities.  Someone known for fox hunting prowess might have “rebbi” (fox) added after their name, or someone known for drunkenness might have “skand” (short for skandall) added after their name.  Famous people are also given nicknames.  For example, Iceland’s best known astrologist whose name is Gunnlaugur is called “Gulli the Star”.

Also, after reading her section on Icelanders and their driving habits, I am quite happy to leave that part of the trip to someone else!!!

Yesterday I spent almost the entire day packing my checked bag.  I thought there was going to be loads of room left over since I am taking a larger bag than usual.  I joked with my friend Lynnette that I would be able to bring back a load of reindeer meat with all of the room I was going to have left over.  Needless to say, I was positively shocked to see the suitcase, piece by bulky piece of clothing, become completely full!!  I am taking way more clothing than I normally travel with.  Snow pants and gaiters, a down jacket plus an extra pair of hiking boots, and the next thing you know the case is full! I’m dreading handling this heavy bag.

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