Encyclopedia Titanica

Olaus Jørgensen Abelseth

Olaus Jørgensen Abelseth
Olaus Jørgensen Abelseth

Olaus Jörgensen Abelseth was born 10 June 1886 at Övste Kleivane farm, Ørskog, Romsdal County, Ålesund, Norway, to Jörgen Andreas Laurits Anderssen (last name also given as Klevene), a farmer born 2 August 1854 at Örskog, and Hanna Petrine Kristine (nee Johansdatter, also given as Klokk, b. 6 January 1852 at Örskog) /Abelseth/, who had married 20 April 1879 at Örskog, Möre og Romsdal County, Norway.

His known siblings were Inga, b. 1881, Hanna, b. 1888, Gina Jensine, b. 31 August 1893, Gurine Thora, b. 12 February 1896, and Hans, b. 28 February 1893; all natives of Örskog. The two oldest daughers in the family have not been traced after 1900. The Abelseth part of the name seems to have been added later. In 1900, the family lived at Kleven (farm), Örskog. They seem to have been relatively well off since they employed a servant, Anne Olsdatter, b. 1868. There was also a foster daughter in the household; Olivie O. Tendfjordnes, b.1898

Olaus had worked as a sailor and casual labourer. He went to America with his brother Hans in 1902 or 1903 and lived in Hatton, North Dakota where he worked on different farms in the Red River Valley.

In 1908 he established a livestock farm in Perkins County, South Dakota. After a difficult period at his farm Olaus decided to visit his relatives in Norway and he departed for Glasgow by steamship from New York in the late Autumn of 1911. From Glasgow he continued his journey to Scandinavia.

In April 1912 Olaus began the return journey, his stated destination was Johan B. Abelseth 1112 Lincoln St. Minneapolis. Travelling with him were five other Norwegians: Adolf Humblen, Anna Salkjelsvik, Peter Søholt (a cousin), Sigurd Hansen Moen (married to Olaus' sister Inge) and Karen Marie Abelseth. Karen Abelseth was not a relative (? a cousin) but was the daughter of one of Olaus' neighbours when he lived in Norway. They new each other well, so, since Karen was only 16, her father asked Olaus if he could look after her on the trip to America.

Young Olaus Abelseth  Old Olaus Abelseth   Olaus Abelseth Family  
Left Olaus Abelseth and Anna Grinde on their wedding day (1915)
Centre Olaus Abelseth (seated) surrounded by his children (left to right) Helen, George and Mae (c.1975)
Right Anna's 100th birthday (October 1977), left to right Mae, George, Olaus, Anna (seated), Janice (George's wife) Helen.

The party set sail from Ålesund to Newcastle via Bergen and boarded the Titanic at Southampton. Olaus and Humblen shared a cabin toward the bow on F-Deck (G-63) from where, on the night of the disaster, he made his way aft along the working alleyway 'Scotland Road' on E deck to meet Karen. He finally found her near the main third class staircase towards the stern and then she, Olaus and the rest of their group made their way to the aft well deck.

They waited on the poop deck for instructions. At about 1:30 third class women were finally allowed onto the Boat Deck, followed by the men at 2:00. While many decided to remain on the poop Olaus and his relatives made for the Boat Deck. Olous together with Moen and Søholt placed Karen Abelseth into a boat.

With the last boat pulling away they heard a call for sailors, some of the crew were trying to free a collapsible and Olaus who had six years of sailing experience as a fisherman was tempted to assist but his cousin and brother in law urged him to stay with them.

"I was standing there, and I asked my brother-in-law if he could swim and he said no. I asked my cousin if he could swim and he said no. So we could see the water coming up, the bow of the ship was going down, and there was kind of an explosion. We could hear the popping and cracking, and the deck raised up and got so steep that the people could not stand on their feet on the deck. So they fell down and slid on the deck into the water right on the ship."

When all the boats had gone Olaus and his relatives found themselves near the fourth funnel, as the Titanic sank deeper they clung to the falls of a lifeboat davit. His brother in law urged him to jump for it but Olaus waited. When the water was only five feet away they plunged in. As he surfaced Olaus became entangled in a line but somehow managed to break free, when he looked around him his brother in law and cousin were nowhere to be seen, they had been washed away.

Olaus swam for twenty minutes in the icy water before finally reaching collapsible A. surrounded by dead and dying he tried to pull himself into the waterlogged boat but someone inside shouted 'don't capsize the boat', so Olaus clung to the side for a while before eventually dragging himself aboard.

As they rowed through the night the survivors in Collapsible A prayed, and, although nearly waist deep in water Olaus tried to revive a fellow passenger who lay freezing in the bottom of the boat, he lifted him up and discovered that it was a man from New Jersey with whom Olaus had shared a carriage on the boat train to Southampton 1. When the Carpathia was sighted he urged the man to look up, but as dawn broke the man slipped away. Another man put his arms around Abelseth to relieve cramps caused by the cold but eventually he too died and Olaus had to prise the man's arm off him.

When he finally reached the deck of the Carpathia at 7:00 am he was given a warm blanket he then headed for the dining room for some brandy and a hot coffee. With cabin space at a premium Olaus found he had to sleep on deck and lay down to sleep in the same clothes that he had worn all night in the flooded boat.

In New York he stayed a few days at St. Vincent Hospital. He also testified before the US senate Inquiry before moving on to Minneapolis. During 1912 and 1913 he travelled in Canada, Indianapolis and Montana before returning to his farm in South Dakota.

In July 1915 he married Anna Grinde in South Dakota. Anna was Ole's first wife, he her second husband. Anna had been born in Grinde Norway 6 October 1877. Her father had died at sea in Norwegian waters near Sognefjorden on 19 June 1886. The death occurred only nine day after Olaus was born, Anna was eight.

Olaus worked his farm for a further 30 years and he and Anna had four children; their second son died at the age of 3½, the other children were: George, Helen and Mae.

He retired in 1946 to Reeder, North Dakota. In 1948 they moved to Tacoma Washington and in 1960 to Whetting, North Dakota before settling in Hettinger, Adams Co., North Dakota.

Anna celebrated her 100th birthday in 1977; she died in August 1978. Olaus died on 4 December 1980. His daughter Mae (later Mrs Harlan Omodt) lived in Sandpoint, Idaho2 and his son George in Prairie City, South Dakota.


1. This may have been Arthur Keefe.
2. His son George still lives on Ole's farm in North Dakota. Helen now lives in Hawaii.  Mae Omodt passed away age 87 on March 12th 2007 in Sandpoint, Idaho USA

References and Sources

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
Claes-Göran Wetterholm (1988, 1996, 1999) Titanic. Prisma, Stockholm. ISBN 91 518 3644 0
United States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912
Bismarck Tribune,  22 April 1978; 26 January 1998

Newspaper Articles

Halden Arbeiderblad (5 July 1957) Olaus Abelseth in 1957
Unidentified Newspaper (1980) OLE ABELSETH [Obituary]

Documents and Certificates

Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Michael Hanthorn

    This is a wonderful site. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Olaus Abelseth at a family reunion when I was 10 years old, the summer before he died. His wife, Anna, was my great-great grandfather's sister. (Larry Grissom, who you credit at the end of Ole's bio, is my second cousin). I think you have done a marvelos job telling the stories of Titanic. Keep up the good work. Michael Hanthorn Seattle, Washington

  2. Mathew Allen Vandeneynden

    Hello and howdy, I'm a first time poster. I am an actor at a museum in Ohio. We're going to be getting the Titanic Artifact Exhibit. I will be portraying Olas Abelseth in a first person interpretation. In order to be respectful, I am trying to gain as much information as I can. I have read his inquiry testimony and his passenger biography on this site. Here are the specific questions that I have: 1) A post here in ET mentioned that Olas had been spotted at some point drunk on Absinthe. Does anyone have more specific info on this? 2) Would the Norwegians on board have stuck... Read full post

  3. Lester Mitcham

    Hello Mat, "3) I know he was on G deck near the front of the boat, but where more specifically?" Actually No! He was in room 63; Section G, which was on F-deck. It is all part of the numbering system for 3rd Class rooms, whereby rooms were in Section numbers. If you look at the deck plans on this web-site, locate the Swimming Bath. Forward of that is Section G. Count forward to the 6th outside room. Inboard of that was room 63. - It was a 2-berth room. - The stairs leading up to E-deck were on the Port-side. According to his E-T biography he shared the room with Adolf Humblen.

  4. Inger Sheil

    Hallo Matthew - Wow

  5. Bob Godfrey

    Matthew, Olaus (note the spelling) almost certainly did spend most of his time on Titanic in the company of fellow Norwegians. He was travelling with his cousin, brother-in-law, and young Karen Abelseth (no relation) and his cabin-mate was also Norwegian. On arrival in New York he did spend a little time in St Vincent's Hospital, but for several months after the disaster he suffered mainly from mental distress and was treated for depression. This was related more to the deaths of his two relatives than to memories of his own ordeal. For several months he could not settle back to his old... Read full post

  6. Inger Sheil

    I didn't read your post properly, Matthew - I see you're already quite familiar with his inquiry testimony Lester and Bob's posts are far more helpful than my little burble.

  7. Arne Mjåland

    Hallo Mathew There are a few pages about Olaus Abelseth in Per Kristian Sebak s Titanic book "Titanic, 31 Norwegian Destinies". Also the newspaper Sunnmorsposten, Alesund, Norway had one page article about Abelseth about a year ago.

  8. karyn

    I am still looking for more information on August (Augustus) Schmidt(Smith) from Newark N.J. anyone have additional information other than the news clipping that just states his name and that he is from Newark N.J. Or does anyone have any idea where I might get more backround info on him . Thanks for any help.

  9. Mathew Allen Vandeneynden

    I'm appreciating the information, everyone. I realized my Cabin mistake soon after posting. I knew that he would have spent time with the Norwegians that he came on board with, but what about the others? Were all the Norwegians in steerage? You'll find the Absinthe reference if you keyword "Abelseth." I have read about "Titanic, 31 Norwegian Destinies" but have not been able to track down a copy. Is there an online link to Sunnmorsposten? I'd love to get my hands on this. Incidentally, I've also been trying to track down South Dakota articles (or North Dakota, where he... Read full post

  10. Bob Godfrey

    All of the Norwegian citizens on Titanic were 3rd class passengers apart from one young man travelling 2nd Class, who could have had no contact with his countrymen while on board as there was strict segregation of Classes. But Olaus (or Ole as he was informally known) spoke excellent English which did give him a chance to make friends with people outside his immediate travelling group. He mentioned an Irishman he got to know during a short stay in an emigrants' hotel in Southampton, and there was the man from New Jersey who he had met on the train coming down from London, and who he tried... Read full post

  11. Inger Sheil

    Found that allegation re the Absinthe, Matthew. I wouldn't put too much stock in it - it was related without any cites, and was purportedly a claim made by a passenger the name of whom the poster couldn't remember.

  12. Mathew Allen Vandeneynden

    I am currently working as a first-person interpreter in the larger of the Titanic Artifact Exhibits in Columbus, OH. I portray Olaus Abelseth, a third class passenger. There's been tons of great information here, but I just recently was able to get some key questions answered. The decendants of Karen Abelseth visited the exhibit! I didn't get a chance to talk with them myself (wouldn't that have been odd) but I discovered some great info. 1) Olaus wasn't really an Abelseth. He'd been working with the Abelseth family since he was very young and (nobody seems sure why) he took... Read full post

  13. Bob Godfrey

    Hallo, Matthew. I have to say I'd be surprised if Olaus was anything other than the natural son of Jorgen and Hanna Abelseth, as his early life and details of his birth registration, confirmation etc have been well researched through local records and family in Norway. See for instance Per Kristian Sebak's book Titanic - 31 Norwegian Destinies. But certainly he wasn't related to Karen Abelseth. Her parents worked an adjoining farm, and it was pure coincidence that these neighbouring families shared the same (fairly common) name. I wouldn't dismiss the version you have heard, but it's... Read full post

  14. Mary Omodt

    Mae, daughter of Ole, was married to Harlan Omodt and not Jim Omodt. Signed, Wife of Jimm Omodt

Showing 15 posts of 24 total. View all.

Reply Watch Thread

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr Olaus Jørgensen Abelseth
Age: 25 years 10 months and 5 days (Male)
Nationality: Norwegian
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Farmer
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 348122, £7 13s
Cabin No. [F] G63
Rescued (boat A)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Thursday 4th December 1980 aged 94 years
Cause of Death:
Buried: Glendo Cemetery, Ralph, South Dakota, United States

Linked Biographies

Page Options

Watch this page

Improve this Biography

If you have any corrections or something to add please  get in touch