Ole Paulson immigrated to the United States from Norway in 1882 and settled in Iowa. He was
followed to America by his family, including his father, Paul Knudsen.
Updated: April 2010
KNUD OLSEN SAGBAKKEN and ANNA POULSDATTER
Olsen Sagbakken was a husmann - tenant farmer - near Jelsa, Norway. He was married to Anna Poulsdatter and among their children
was Paul Knudson, who was born April 29, 1836.
(1) Church record A6 in Jelsa,
PAUL KNUDSEN (PAULSON) and HELGA OLSDATTER (PAULSON)
Paul Knudsen was born April 29, 1836 near Jelsa, Norway, to Knud Olsen Sagbakken and Anna Poulsdatter. (1)
Married Helga Olsdatter
on June 6, 1864. (2) Helga was born Aug. 16, 1839 near Suldal, Norway, to Ole Thorsen and Martha Gundersdatter. Ole was a
“husmann” - tenant farmer - on the Sundet Place under Kolbeinstveit, near Suldal, Norway. (3)
Ane Serine, born
July 30, 1864.
Ole, born March 16, 1866.
Knud Olaus, born July 8, 1868.
born Dec. 22, 1869.
Berta Kristina, born Jan. 16, 1873.
Karen Olava, born Jan. 7, 1876.
Married Christopher Olson.
Hanna, born Oct. 23, 1878.
The 1900 U.S. Census for Norway Township, Humboldt County, Iowa, indicates
that Helga had seven children, one of whom had died before then.
records show Paul and Helga living in several towns near Fister, which is near Stavanger. Records from the pastorate in Hjelmeland
say Paul was a “husmann” - a tenant farmer with life tenure - in Halandsosen in Erfjord. He is also listed as
a “kirketjener,” which can mean either a minor church official or a sexton.
The 1875 Census shows Helga and Paul living in Fister, where Paul worked as a fisherman and was a “strandsitter,”
which is a seaside tenant. In connection with his daughter Hanna’s birth in 1878, Paul is called a church watchman.
Paul and Helga’s children Ole and Marta immigrated
to the United States in 1882. Although he was only 16, Ole was able to work hard
enough to make money to help bring the rest of his family here. The rest – except Ane Serine and Knud Olaus –
immigrated in 1891.
Under the old Scandinavian naming system
Paul’s last name derived from his father’s first name. He was Knud’s
son so his name became Knudsen. A reversal of this tradition occurred after Paul’s immigration to the United States. Paul took the name Paulson – his son’s last name. This may be because Ole was already established in Iowa and it was convenient for Paul to take his son’s
Upon arrival, the family settled on Ole’s farm
near Thor, Iowa.
The 1900 Census lists Paul as a resident alien. Although both Paul and Helga are recorded as being able to read and write, they could
not speak English at that point. Paul is listed as a day laborer. In the 1920
Census, Paul is still listed as an alien. He was living at the home of his daughter
Helga died in 1909. Paul died on Jan. 1, 1922 of cancer. The Paulsons are buried in Lot 37 at Ullensvang Cemetery in Norway Township, Humboldt County, near Thor, Iowa. (6)
(1) Birth information comes from church record A6 in Jelsa, Norway. Information
on Paul and Helga was supplied by Marcy Schramm, daughter of Merrill Firebaugh, who obtained the church records through the
Statsarkivet in Stavanger, Norway, and the pastorate (Soknepresten) in Hjelmeland, Norway.
References in the following notes are to the original records cited by the archives in Stavanger or to the Soknepresten
in Hjelmeland. (2) Church record A10 in Hjelmeland. (3) Church record A5 in Suldal.
(4) Pastorate (Soknepresten) in Hjelmeland. The name of Karen Olava’s husband
is provided in the 1920 Census of Thor, Humboldt County, Iowa. (5) Church record A12 in Hjelmeland. The word used is “kirkevaegter,”
which doesn’t appear in Norwegian dictionaries. Possibly this was a misspelling or a local spelling because “kirke”
means church and “vekter” means watchman. (6) Ullensvang Cemetery listing supplied by the Humboldt County Genealogical
Society, which calls them by their “American” last name, Paulson. The society also provided Paul’s death
record from the Humboldt County Courthouse.
OLE and SERENA PAULSON
Ole Paulson was born March 16, 1866 near Fister, Norway. (1)
Married Serina Olson. (See below.)
Peter Severin, born in August 1890 and died April 26, 1891.
Helena, born March 27, 1892. Married a man named Simpkins and later a
man named Whitved
Selma, born Dec. 13, 1894.
Oleda, born March 16, 1897. Married a man named
Serral Edgar, born Feb. 25, 1900 and died Aug. 9, 1910.
Edwin, born Jan. 13, 1903.
Pearl Anabel, born April 19, 1906. Married Roy Fries.
Gladys, born Feb. 19, 1909.
Jack (Serral E.), born Oct. 27, 1911.
were Paul Knudsen and Helga Olsdatter. Under the old Scandinavian naming system Ole’s last name became “Paul’s
son” - Paulson.
Ole immigrated to the United States with
his sister Marta in 1882, when he was 16. He settled in Iowa and saved his money so he could pay for his family’s passage
to America. In 1891, the rest of the family joined Ole on a farm near Thor. (2a)
In the United States, he married Serina Olson. They were married Oct.
20, 1889 in Thor, Iowa, by the Rev. Ole Tarseth. (3)
Olson was born April 19, 1868 in Benton County, Iowa, to Soren and Anna (Johnson) Olson. Serina went by the name Sarah but
also appears as
Anna in some records. (4)
Sarah told her
grandchildren that she remembered when Indians came through Iowa looking for food.
Ole became a citizen of the United States on Nov. 22, 1893 in Dakota City, Iowa, according to his naturalization papers.
At the time of his wedding, Ole is listed as a laborer in Thor, Iowa. Sometime before 1900, the family moved to Eagle Grove, Iowa. Ole took a job as foreman supervising a crew that maintained a stretch of track for Chicago Northwestern
Railway. This job provided Ole with a good living and he was able to support
his family well.
The 1910 Census shows Ole living in Dakota Township,
Humboldt County. In 1920 and 1930, the family appears in Rutland Township. Each of the listings indicate that Ole was a section foreman for the railroad.
During the depths of the Great Depression, Ole learned he suffered from
diabetes. He had to quit his job and maintain a strict diet, which left him weak. Ole discovered that since he had quit working
on the railroad for a few years at one point, he wasn’t eligible for a pension. At the same time, the bank the Paulsons
used failed and they couldn’t get to their money. Ole and Sarah had to
rely on support from their two youngest daughters, who still lived at home. (The
1930 Census lists Selma as a postmistress and Gladys as a teacher at a rural school.)
Because of these problems, Ole believed he had failed to support his family and became demoralized. The disease, the
diet and the other factors took their toll and he died in 1935. But after his death, the money from the failed bank was released
and Sarah was able to maintain herself.
Sarah died in Rutland,
Iowa, June 17, 1952. Sarah was very ill and bedridden for her last four years.
The day before she died, she said, “I’m going home. Jesus is going to help me.”
The Paulsons are buried in Lot 22 at Ullensvang Cemetery in Norway Township, Humboldt County,
near Thor, Iowa. (5)
(1) Birth information comes from church
records from the pastorate (Soknepresten) in Hjelmeland, Norway. (The town of
Ole’s birth is sometimes called Fistervaag.) Most information comes from a questionnaire and interviews with Pearl Fries
in 1989 and 1990. (2) Children and dates of birth come from unpublished genealogy
of Soren Olson’s family provided by the Humboldt County Genealogical Society.
The names and approximate years generally agree with census records for 1910 to 1930.
(2a) Ole’s immigration year is indicated in the 1910 Census of Dakota Township, Humboldt County, Iowa. The 1920 Census of Rutland Township, Humboldt County, says he immigrated in 1885 and was naturalized in
1891. The 1930 Census of Rutland Township lists his immigration year as 1883. I have chosen to follow the dates in the 1910 Census since naturalization year agrees
with that listed on his naturalization papers. (3) Ole and Sarah’s marriage
certificate was supplied by the Humboldt County Genealogical Society. (4) All
dates for Serina come from a printed funeral notice. Names of parents come from
1880 U.S. Census of Iowa. Place of birth comes from marriage certificate. (5) Ullensvang Cemetery listing supplied by the Humboldt County Genealogical Society.
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:8