From Saltlicks to Soul Mates: The Genealogy of Love


I can trace my family back to William Kay who was listed in the Subsidy Roll of 1332 as living in the Bury District of England. Going back over 600 years is not too shabby for an American. Of course for any Icelander, 600 years is a drop in the genealogical bucket.

Not only do Icelanders have some of the most impeccable genealogical records, but they also have, a searchable database compiled by deCODE Genetics, which Alda Sigmundsdóttir does a wonder job of explaining in the footnote to this entry on her blog, The Iceland Weather Report (that was my plug for Alda’s blog, if you didn’t catch that).

After having familiarized myself with my own genealogy for an upcoming article in Iceland Review, I decided to take Icelandic genealogy out for a test drive to see if it’s all that. The guinea pig? Gísli, my boyfriend and native Icelander, who makes quite a few cameo appearances in my Daily Life entries.

I would have been content to have traced his line back to the 9th century, the settlement of Iceland, which I was told was a distinct possibility. To my utter surprise, after about only an hour of Internet sleuthing, I was able to trace Gísli’s roots not only back to the age of settlement, but back to Norway, to King Harald Fairhair, and then right back through the House of Ynglings, Scandinavia’s oldest dynasty, into Norse mythology. 

I can go back to 1332. My boyfriend can go back to “the vast, primordial void that existed prior to the creation of the manifest universe”. That’s how Wikipedia describes Ginnungagap, Norse mythology’s take on the beginning of the universe—and only 63 generations from my other half.

Without further ado, here is a parent-child genealogy from the beginning of the known universe all the way down to Gísli Rúnar Hardarson, that guy I live with (and a few notes in the margin)…

1. Búri – First god in Norse mythology, formed by the cow Audumbla licking the salty ice of Ginnungagap: “She licked the ice-blocks, which were salty; and the first day that she licked the blocks, there came forth from the blocks in the evening a man's hair; the second day, a man's head; the third day the whole man was there. He is named Búri: he was fair of feature, great and mighty. He begat a son called Borr.”

2. Borr – Odin’s father.

3. Odin – Chief of the Nordic Gods.

4. Njördur – Norse mythology, god of the wind and sea.

5. Freyr – Norse god, Swedish king, and progenitor of the Yngling line.

6. Fjölnir (1st century BC - early 1st century AD) – Swedish king, contemporary of Caesar Augustus, drowned in a vat of mead.

7. Sveigdir – Swedish king, lured by a dwarf into a stone and never came back.

8. Vanlandi – Swedish king, married a girl but forgot about her. In revenge, the girl arranged so that he was hag ridden to death.

9. Vísburr – king, burned to death inside his hall by his own sons in revenge for rejecting their mother.

10. Dómaldr – Swedish king whose rule was marked by bad crops until his people decided to sacrifice him. Then the good harvests returned.

11. Dómarr – Swedish king.

12. Dyggvi – Swedish king who died in bed and therefore never made it to Valhalla.

13. Dag the Wise (2nd or 3rd century) – Swedish king who could talk to the birds. He had a sparrow that collected news from around the world and reported it to him.

14. Agni Skjálfarbóndi – Swedish king who conquered Finland.

15. Alrekr – Swedish king who ruled alongside his brother. One day they beat each other to death with their horse tack.

16. Yngvi – Swedish king who was also killed by his brother.

17. Jörundr (5th century) – Swedish king.

18. Aun the Old – Swedish king.

19. Egill Tunnadólgr (Ongentheow) – Swedish king.

20. Óttarr Vendilskráka (515) – Swedish king.

21. Adils at Uppsölum (6th century) – Swedish king mentioned in Beowulf.

22. Eysteinn (6th century) – Swedish king.

23. Ingvar the Tall (early 7th century) – Swedish king who hassled with Estonian pirates.

24. Önundur the Land Clearer – Swedish king who clear cut large swatches of Sweden’s forests.

25. Ingjald the Ill Ruler (7th c.) – Swedish king who invited the neighboring kings to a feast as his palace, locked them all inside, and burned it down.

26. Olaf Tree Feller – Also enjoyed clearing land, sacrificed to Odin because of famine.

27. Hálfdan Hvítbeinn – Norwegian king.

28. Eysteinn Hálfdansson – Norwegian king, died while attacking Varna.

29. Halfdan the Mild – Norwegian king, gracious with gold but stingy with food.

30. Gudröd the Hunter – Norwegian king, speared to death on the request of his own wife.

31. Halfdan the Black (820-860) – Norwegian King, died after falling through the ice.

32. Harald Fairhair (850-933) – First king of Norway, unified the country.

33. Sigurd Rise Haraldsson (880-937) – Harald Fairhair’s son with Snoefrid, daughter of Svaase.

34. Halfdan Sigurdsson of Hadafylke (934) – King at Uppsala.

35. Sigurd Syr Halfdansson (970-1018) – King in Norway, though more farmer than king.

36. Harald III Sigurdsson (1015-1066) – King of Norway, took an arrow to the throat in a battle in England.

37. Olaf III the Slient (1050-1093) – King of Norway.

38. Magnús Barefoot Ólafsson (1073-1103) – King of Norway, went twice to Ireland and died there the second time, had a habit of wearing kilts.

39. Thóra Magnúsdóttir (1100-1175) – Illegitimate daughter of King Magnús Barefoot Ólafsson, came to Iceland and lived at Oddi, home of the Oddaverjar clan and center for learning in medieval Iceland.

40. Jón Loftsson (1124-1197) – Chieftain at Oddi, adopted Snorri Sturluson who wrote the Prose Edda.

41. Saemundur Jónsson (1154-1222) – Chieftain at Oddi.

42. Sólveig Saemundsdóttir (1200-1244)

43. Thurídur Sturludóttir (1228-1288)

44. Jón “korpur” Hrafnsson (1255) – Genetically united two warring clans in Iceland: mother is descended from the Fairhair dynasty in Norway, while father, Hrafn Oddsson, is descended from Skalla-Grímur.

45. Sveinn “langur” Jónsson (1280)

46. Jón “langur” Sveinsson (1330-1362)

47. Finnbogi “gamli” Jónsson (1360-1441) – Farmer.

48. Jón “eldri” Finnbogason (1400-1450) – Farmer.

49. Arnfinnur Jónsson (1440-1495)

50. Oddur Arnfinnsson (1480-1574) – Farmer.

51. Halldór Oddsson (1520-1586) – Farmer.

52. Gudrún Halldórsdóttir (1580)

53. Gunnar Björnsson (1615-1703)

54. Gudrún “eldri” Gunnarsdóttir (1664)

55. Jón “eldri” Jónsson (1689-1762) – Farmer.

56. Hallfrídur Jónsdóttir (1735) – 15 full brothers and sisters.

57. Gudmundur Jónsson (1768-1851) – Farmer.

58. Björn Gudmundsson (1794-1851) – Farmer.

59. Björn Björnsson (1824-1911) – Farmer.

60. Ingibjörg Björnsdóttir (1874-1932)

61. Sigurgeir Bjarni Halldórsson (1908-1972) – Cook and amateur photographer.

62. Lilja Sigurgeirsdóttir (1946- ) – The woman who sends us premium frozen fishballs from Ísafjördur and knits like a machine.

63. Gísli Rúnar Hardarson (1983- ) – The other half.

JM –

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.