Jon and Gudrun Magnusson Oral History Interview, 1982  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Magnusson, Jon and Gudrun
Jon and Gudrun Magnusson Oral History Interview
1982 (inclusive)
3 file folders
8 photographs
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Jon Magnusson and his wife Gudrun, both Icelandic immigrants.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington
Telephone: 253-535-7586
Fax: 253-535-7315
Access Restrictions

The oral history collection is open to all users.

Additional Reference Guides

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Jon Magnusson was born on October 1, 1886 in Myrasysla, Iceland to Magnus Gudmundsson and Thuridur Jonasdottir. Jon had two older siblings, Gudmundur and Ragnheidur, and when Jon was eight months old, the family immigrated to America. Unfortunately, his father died of heatstroke in New York, and the rest of the family was deported back to Iceland. Gudmundur was sent to a boys' home, Ragnheidur was taken in by a very nice family, and Jon was allowed to remain with his mother. In 1913, Jon and his mother immigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Jon did carpentry work for three years in Winnipeg, during which time he met his wife, Gudrun Lindal.

Gudrun's parents were Icelandic and she was born in Langenburg, Saskatchewan on October 30, 1891.Gudrun was a teacher in Saskatchewan and was spending her summer vacation in Winnipeg with her aunt, from whom Jon was renting a room. After that summer, Jon did not see Gudrun again until 1920. In 1916, Jon moved to Seattle, Washington, where his brother lived. After Gudrun came to Seattle to care for her ailing sister, she and Jon corresponded for one year. They were married in Winnipeg and then moved to Ballard, Washington. They had three children: Robert, Anna, and Florence. Gudrun learned to read and write Icelandic while Jon's mother, who never learned English, lived with them. The Magnussons were very involved in Seattle's Icelandic community. They attended the Icelandic Church and were members of the Icelandic Literary Society Vestri. Jon and Gudrun have also maintained Icelandic traditions within their household, particularly Icelandic cooking. They returned to Iceland once in 1963.


Full Name: Jon Magnusson. Father: Magnus Gudmundsson. Mother: Þuridur Jonasdottir. Paternal Grandfather: Rev. Jon Magnusson. Brothers and Sisters: Gudmundur Magnusson, Ragnheidur Magnusson. Spouse: Gudrun Lindal. Children: Robert Skuli, Anna Lind Hodgson, Florence Ingibjørg, Sigga Lindal (adopted niece). Full Name: Gudrun Lindal Magnusson. Maiden Name: Gudrun (Runa) Ingibjørg Lindal. Father: Jakob Lindal Hansson. Mother: Anna Hannesdottir. Paternal Grandfather: Hans Natansson. Paternal Grandmother: Kristin Thorvardardottir. Maternal Grandfather: Hannes Throvardarson. Maternal Grandmother: Holmfridur Jonsdottir. Brothers and Sisters: Gudmundur Magnusson, Ragnheidur Magnusson. Spouse: Gudrun Lindal. Children: Robert Skuli, Anna Lind Hodgson, Florence Ingibjørg, Sigga Lindal (adopted niece).

Full Name: Gudrun Lindal Magnusson. Maiden Name: Gudrun (Runa) Ingibjørg Lindal. Father: Jakob Lindal Hansson. Mother: Anna Hannesdottir. Paternal Grandfather: Hans Natansson. Paternal Grandmother: Kristin Thorvardardottir. Maternal Grandfather: Hannes Throvardarson. Maternal Grandmother: Holmfridur Jonsdottir. Brothers and Sisters: Agost Lindal (August), Hannes Lindal, Hansina Kristin Lindal, Valdimar Lindal (Walter), Benedikt Johann Lindal, Gudbrandur Skuli Lindal, Jakob Lindal, Holmfridur Anna (Freda) Lindal, Magdalena Helga Lindal, Rosalind Lindal, Hans Peter Lindal. Spouse: Jon Magnusson.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Jon and Gudrun Magnusson on November 1, 1982 at Foss Home in Seattle, Washington. It contains information on their family background, emigration, marriage and family, the Icelandic Literary Society Vestri, and Icelandic traditions. The interview also includes family histories written by Jon and Gudrun, a copy of the Icelandic Club Newsletter that announces the 95th and 90th birthdays of Jon and Gudrun, and photographs of Jon and Gudrun's wedding day, the house that Jon built on NW 70th in Seattle, four generations of the Magnusson family, Jon and Gudrun on their 60th wedding anniversary, and Jon and Gudrun at the time of the interview. The interview was conducted in English.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on use.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Custodial History

The Oral History collection project was started during an experimental course on Scandinavian Women in the Pacific Northwest. Students in the course were encouraged to interview women and learn about their experiences as immigrants to the United States. The project was continued and expanded with support from the president's office and by grants from the L.J. Skaggs and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation, from the Joel E. Ferris Foundation and the Norwegian Emigration Fund of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project was directed by Dr. Janet E. Rasmussen. The collection was transferred to the Archives and Special Collections Department.

Acquisition Information

Related Materials

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Processing Note

The interview was conducted by Inger Nygaard Carr using a cassette recorder. A research copy was also prepared from the original. To further preserve the content of the interview, it is now being transferred to compact disc. We deliberately did not transcribe the entire interview because we want the researchers to listen to the interviewee's own voice. The transcription index highlights important aspects of the interview and the tape counter numbers noted on the Partial Interview Transcription are meant as approximate finding guides and refer to the location of a subject on the cassette/CD. The recording quality is good.

The collection was transcribed by Mary Sue Gee, Julie Peterson and Becky Husby.


Rasmussen, Janet Elaine.New Land New Lives: Scandinavian immigrants to the Pacific Northwest.Tacoma, Washington:University of Washington Press.1993

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The partial interview transcription highlights important aspects of the interview. Numbers may be used as guides to important subjects. Two numbers separated by a slash indicate that the first number is for cassette and the second for CD.

Container(s) Description
202, side 1 020: PERSONAL BACKGROUND
Name - Jon Magnusson. Born October 1, 1886. He was born in Myrasysla, Iceland which is not very far from Reykjavik and Borgarnes. Myrasysla is in the country. They were both from Myrasysla county. His father was a farmer and raised cattle and hay. They also had sheep.
202, side 1 185: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
He has a brother Gudmundur and a sister Ragnheidur.
202, side 1 217: TO AMERICA
First came to America with his parents when he was 8 months old . His father died after one day in New York. This was in August and he died of sunstroke. His mother was sent back.
202, side 1 275: TO AMERICA SECOND TIME
Came when he was 26 in 1913. He came to Winnipeg, Canada. He came over on a big ocean liner and wasn't sick.
202, side 1 309: WINNIPEG
He knew the carpenter trade and got a job finishing apartments. He stayed there for three years. His mother came too. His brother came earlier in 1912. His sister stayed in Iceland. His brother was in Washington State. After 3 years, Jon came to Seattle, Washington.
202, side 1 405: SEATTLE
He worked doing carpentry work in Seattle.
202, side 1 425: WIFE
Met her in Winnipeg, Canada. Her name was Gudrun Lindal. She was a schoolteacher.
There were lots of organizations in Winnipeg and he worked with Icelandic people.
He picked it up at work. He didn't go to school except for a little night school.
202, side 1 477: CITIZENSHIP
It wasn't difficult. He studied a little bit.
202, side 1 495: MEETING HIS WIFE
When he came to Winnipeg in 1913 with his mother he rented a room with Gudrun's aunt. Gudrun was also there spending her summer vacation from teaching in Saskatchewan. This how they got acquainted. He didn't see her for 10 years after this.
202, side 1 544: SEATTLE
He came to Seattle in 1916 and they bought a house in Ballard. In 1920, her sister, Kristine Youel (?) became ill and Gudrun came to Ballard to care for her. The next day Jon came to visit. He took her on a tour of the area. After she left, they started corresponding for a whole year. That was their courtship.
202, side 1 617: MARRIAGE
They were married in Winnipeg. It was at her brother's home. She had a white dress and veil. They took the train that night to Vancouver, BC where they stayed for 4 days. When they were in Vancouver they were the attendants for her older sisters wedding.
202, side 1 664: BALLARD
They lived with his mother there. His mother died in 1939. She lived with them for 18 years.
She talks about the formation of the Icelandic church in Ballard.
202, side 1 697: WHY HE CAME TO SEATTLE
Work was poor in Canada at that time. He likes Seattle better.
202, side 1 730: SEATTLE
There were quite a few Icelandic people in Seattle. He went to the Icelandic church were he was a trustee.
202, side 1 745: VESTRI
Icelandic Social Club. They had the books for its library for 28 years. This group ended in 1965 when no one offered to take responsibility for the books when they moved to a different house and no longer had room for the library n their home. The group was called the Icelandic Literary Society Vestri and was founded in 1900 and in 1965 it was disbanded. Most of the books are in Icelandic and there wasn't enough call for them anymore. They were sold and or given to various libraries. The generations following don't read Icelandic and there is a lot of English literature in Iceland now.
202, side 1 835:
Gudrun learned to read and write in Icelandic in her home. When she married Jon, his mother never learned English so they used Icelandic.
202, side 1 844: CHILDREN
The older two learned Icelandic, but quit using it when they went to school. They can still understand it. Robert is the oldest and was in WWII. (Continues at I-985.)
202, side 1 875: JON'S RETIREMENT
After he retired he kept on building some furniture. He kept some for himself and gave some to his children.
202, side 1 892: VISITS TO ICELAND
He and his wife went in 1963. Iceland has improved in every way. The manners of the people, the schools, and the university have improved. They have modern conveniences.
202, side 1 945: LIFE IN ICELAND
His mother worked for farmers and was allowed to keep Jon with her. He did chores to earn his keep. When he was 16 he moved to Reykjavik to learn a trade. He rented a house there. Later his mother joined him and kept house for him and from there they left for Canada. His sister was legally adopted by some very fine people that she never left. His brother was sent to a boys home. When he was about 10 he started to work for himself and take care of himself. In 1912, he emigrated to the US. Then Jon came in 1913.
202, side 1 985: CHILDREN
The three children are all university graduates. Robert had to stop in the middle to go to WWII. He came back and finished his studies and became an Executive Vice President of the Sellen Construction Company in Seattle. He married Dorothy McQuillian (?) of Seattle. They have one son, Jon, and he has two sons. Anna is married to Thomas Hodgson. She graduated from the University of Washington and started working for schools. They have three children: Marla is a teacher in Seattle; Kevin is a Chemical Engineer for the Weyerhaeuser Company; and Sally is in her second year at the University in Bellingham. Florence Ingibjorg graduated from PLC and married a man named Reep. They have three children: Karen who is school nurse; David who is a graduate of PLU; and Robert went to Eastern Washington University at Cheney, Washington.
202, side 1 1080: ICELANDIC FOODS
They had rice cooked in milk with currents in. Skyr which a pudding made from buttermilk. They also have a lot of boiled fish. Pannekaker (?) are real thin pancakes served rolled with sugar, jam, or berries inside.
202, side 2 010: ICELANDIC FOODS
Hangikjøt is smoked mutton which is served cold. They used brown, whole wheat, bread with molasses. This bread can be steamed or baked. Hard fish is cod which is dried hard so that you had to break or chew a piece off. This was considered a delicacy. Wienerkake (vineterta) was the chief coffeecake which was like cookie dough baked in cake pans. There were layers with prune jam in between the dough. Then once they were put together it was left to soften and later served with whipped cream.
The children cook some of these things and keep the recipes.
Sometimes they had a tree. They had a few presents.
202, side 2 225: SPOKEN ICELANDIC
Iceland has a woman president. He says a ditty in Icelandic about the names of animals.
202, side 2 287: ANIMALS IN ICELAND
Chickens, ponies, cows, cod, haddock, halibut, and all kinds of smaller fish.
202, side 2 302: FATHER
He was a farmer.
202, side 2 309: GRANDFATHER
He was a farmer. His name was Gudmundur Teidsson (?). This was Jon's paternal grandfather. His paternal grandmother was Ragnheidur Jonasdottir (?).
Jonas Jonsson (?) and Gudrun.
202, side 2 340: NAMES
All the women keep their father's name with dottir at the end. The woman is always someone's daughter.
202, side 2 364: CHRISTMAS IN CANADA
Gudrun tells what a wonderful time Christmas was for them on the farm. There were 12 in her family. Her older brother started in November to make the tallow candles. They used bottles for candleholders. Every child got a candle to walk around with. They didn't have a tree. Christmas began at 6 o'clock on Christmas Eve and everyone had to stop working. They always had something special to eat like pannekaker (?), brown bread, the layer cake and smoked mutton. They were allowed to stay up as late as they could. Christmas Eve was the holy day and Christmas Day was another good day. They had some presents and one time she got a doll with a china head. They enjoyed what they got. This was in the early immigrant days in Saskatchewan, Canada.
202, side 2 480: CHURCH
When they could reach church they would go for Christmas. Sometimes there would be services held in the schoolhouse.
They came to Canada in 1887 with 4 children. Gudrun was born in 1891. They came from Hanavatnsysla, Iceland which was in the west. Her father was a farmer. They came to Winnipeg, Canada were they stayed for three years. Then they moved to the country in Saskatchewan were Gudrun was born.
Her father wasn't happy with the work that he had. He wanted to try something new. He was very ambitious. He was interested in a different country. He was interested in education and world affairs.
202, side 2 564: TRIP TO US
It was a slow trip to cross the ocean. It took six days.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Christmas
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family -- Iceland
  • Icelandic-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Icelandic-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Marriage service
  • Naturalization

Personal Names

  • Gudmundsson, Magnus
  • Hodgson, Anna (Magnusson)
  • Ingibjørg, Florence (Magnusson)
  • Jonasdottir, Þuridur
  • Magnusson, Jon and Gudrun--Interviews (creators)
  • Magnusson, Gudrun
  • Magnusson, Robert

Corporate Names

  • Calvary Lutheran Church (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Hallgrim's Congregation (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Vestri -- (Icelandic Literary Society)

Family Names

  • Lindal family
  • Magnusson family

Geographical Names

  • Langenburg (Sask.)
  • Mýrasýsla (Iceland)
  • Seattle (Wash.)
  • Winnipeg (Man.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Carpenters
  • Teachers

Titles within the Collection

  • New Land New Lives: Scandinavian immigrants to the Pacific Northwest