Who were the Vikings?
The Norsemen (Norwegians) who lived around the beginning of the second millennium are today more commonly known as Vikings. The Vikings were farmers who "traded" during the slow months. Now, "trading" doesn't mean "I'll give you five sheep for that cow." It means "I'll give you five sheep for that cow. If you don't want to trade, I'll kill you." These people loved to travel in boats from one place to another, and this led to the second discovery of North America (Native Americans first, Vikings second, and Columbus third). Although Irish monks, most famously Brendan, and other European explorers had voyaged in the western waters, the Vikings established a settlement, the remains of which can be seen today at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland.
Proported Ancestry and Descendants
The Norse are believed by some to have descended from the Huns, a people of uncertain ancestry. The Norse are believed by some to be the ancestors of the Goths and of modern Germans. There is no proof for these claims.
Eric "the Red" and his Children
Eric "the Red" fled Norway to Iceland to avoid facing a murder charge, and later was banished from Iceland for yet another murder. His children would have great impact on the discovery and explorations of North America.
Bjarni travelled around trading in his little knarr. A knarr is a small Norwegian boat that only fits about three to five people. Bjarni sighted Vinland (modern Newfoundland).
An interesting fact is that Leif Ericson bought Bjarni Herjólfsson's boat about ten years later, in about 995 C. E. This is the same boat in which Lief had discovered Vinland. Leif Ericson was about thirty years old (or thirty three, depending on whether one follows the "Eiríks saga rauða", i.e. the Saga of Eric the Red, or the "Grœnlendinga saga", or the Greenlanders Saga).
Explored from 1004 to 1005 AD.
Traveled from 1008-1009 AD. He bravely took cattle with him on his knarr, hoping to settle in Greenland. "Greenland" is a misnomer, since it's covered in ice; his cattle died.
Freydis was Eric's daughter, his fourth child. Since Freydis was a woman, there were many restrictions put upon her, but she wanted to make a name for herself. In 1013 AD, she explored with 2 Icelandic men, and killed them and their men upon arriving in Vinland (North America).
Leif Ericson did further exploration of Vinland and settled there. In 986, Norwegian-born Eirik Thorvaldsson, known as Eirik the Red, explored and colonized the southwestern part of Greenland. It was his son, Leiv Eiriksson, who became the first European to set foot on the shores of North America, and the first explorer of Norwegian extraction now accorded worldwide recognition.
The date and place of Leiv Eiriksson's birth has not been definitely established, but it is believed that he grew up on Greenland. The Saga of Eric the Red relates that he set sail for Norway in 999, served King Olav Trygvasson for a term, and was sent back to Greenland one year later to bring Christianity to its people.