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Original title:  Snorri Þorfinnsson, the first child of European descent born in America, detail of statue in Ottawa

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SNORRI THORFINNSSON, first white child born on the North American continent, son of Thorfinnr karlsefni Thordarson and his wife Gudridr, daughter of Thorbjörn; b. c. 1005–13.

The Saga of Eric the Red, supplemented by the Saga of the Greenlanders, is the main source of the few facts known about Snorri. His father, Thorfinnr, went from Iceland to Greenland. There he became interested in the new lands in North America to which the sons of Eirikr Thorvaldsson (Eric the Red) – Leifr heppni Eiriksson, Thorvaldr, and Thorsteinn – had made expeditions in the years following A.D. 1000. He determined to lead a colonizing expedition thither and set sail with 60 men and 5 women (Saga of the Greenlanders), and accompanied by two other ships, some time during the years 1003–10 (Saga of Eric the Red). Where he established his colony is not known. Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Massachusetts are among the many regions that have been suggested, although the likeliest spot is probably the vicinity of Cape Cod. The colony lasted for three years, and during the summers exploratory voyages were undertaken both north and south. Many scholars believe that the explorers sailed a considerable distance up the St. Lawrence River, and, according to the Saga of Eric the Red, even reached the “land of the Unipeds” of which Cartier was to be told centuries later. The peace of the colony, however, was disturbed by troubles with the aborigines of the region, although there is no agreement among historians on whether these were Indians or Eskimos. Bloody fighting broke out. Whether because of this or for some other reason, the settlement was abandoned after three years and the settlers returned to Greenland. During their stay in America, however, a son was born to Thorfinnr and Gudridr and given the name of Snorri. He was taken to Iceland by his parents two years after the colony came to an end. There he lived out his life, but the date of his death is unknown. However, it is known that a “great and goodly lineage” sprang from him, including several of the early bishops of Iceland.

T. J. Oleson

On the expedition see the works cited under Bjarni Herjólfsson. As to the relative age and historical authenticity of the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Eric the Red, see: Halldór Hermannsson, The problem of Wineland (Islandica, XXV, 1936) and Jón Jóhannesson, “Aldur Grænlendingas sögu,” Nordœla (Reykjavík, 1956), 149–58.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

T. J. Oleson, “SNORRI THORFINNSSON,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 25, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/snorri_thorfinnsson_1E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/snorri_thorfinnsson_1E.html
Author of Article: T. J. Oleson
Title of Article: SNORRI THORFINNSSON
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1966
Year of revision: 1966
Access Date: July 25, 2014