Mr 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.

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


Olaus Abelseth in 1978
Olaus Abelseth and family, 1950s
Olaus Abelseth (Draft Registration Card)

Articles and Stories

Unidentified Newspaper (1980) 

Comment and discuss

Olaus Abelseth (12 posts)
Leave a comment...


Peter Engberg, Sweden
Phillip Gowan, USA
Larry Grissom, USA
Per Kristian Sebak, Norway
Mary Omodt, USA
Leif Snellman, Finland
Claes-Göran Wetterholm, Sweden

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
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2020) Olaus Jørgensen Abelseth Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #615, updated 13th January 2020 13:20:33 PM)