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Soren Olsons immigrated from Norway to the United States in 1860. 

Updated: August 2013



    Soren Olson was born April 10, 1832 in Norway. (1)

    Married Anna Johnson in 1857.  She was born Aug. 25, 1832 in Norway. (2)

    Children: (3)

    Torkelanna, born in 1856.  Married Peter Lund.

    John O., born May 24, 1863.

    Bertha Mette, or Bertie, born Aug. 8, 1865.  Married George Munson.

    Anna Serina or Sarah, born April 19, 1868. Married Ole Paulson.

    Inger Alethe, born July 11, 1870.  Married Magnus Sandven.

    Severin, born Oct. 30, 1872.

    Lizebeth Johanne, or Lizzie, born April 2, 1875.

    The 1900 Census indicates that Anna gave birth to nine children, but only seven survived at the time.

    The Olsons immigrated from Norway to the United States in 1860.  Soren became a naturalized citizen in 1866. (4)

    Census records indicate that the Olsons had a daughter named Torkelanna, or Anna, at the time of their immigration.  Their other children were born in the United States.

    The Olsons settled in Illinois sometime before 1863, when their son John was born.  John’s obituary says that he was born in “Lee City, Ill.”  There’s a Lee in Fulton County. (5)

    The family moved to Benton County, Iowa, sometime before August 1865, when Bertha was baptized at Benton Lutheran Church.  The 1870 Census shows the Olsons living in Florence in Benton County.  Soren is listed as a tailor with personal property valued at $500 and no real estate.  In addition to Soren and Anna, the household contained their children: Ann, age 13, born in Norway; John, age 7, born in Illinois; Bertha, age 5, born 1865 in Iowa; and Annis (Anna Serina), age 2, born in Iowa.  The household also contained the family of John Brown, who is listed as a laborer.  That family included John’s wife Susanna and daughters Arvilla, 4, and Mary, 2.

    The family lived in Benton County until about 1877, when they moved to Norway Township in Humboldt County, Iowa. (6)  The 1880 Census of that township lists Soren as a 48-year-old farmer.  The household also included Anna, age 47; John, age 17; Bertie, 14; Sarah (Serina), 11; Ellen (Inger), 10; Christ (Severin), 7; and Elizabeth, 5.

    Soren took an active role in the community in Norway Township.  On June 19, 1890, The Humboldt Republican reported that Soren Olson was one of four Norway Township representatives at county’s Republican convention, which selected delegates to the state, congressional and judicial conventions.

    It seems possible that Soren was involved in the local schools.  The Humboldt Independent of April 18, 1894, reported, “Mrs. Holroyd has begun school under sub director Soren Olson’s regime.”  A sub director was a school official below the superintendant.  The newspaper item seems to indicate that a Mrs. Holroyd started a job as a teacher and Soren was the school official over her.  Mary Holroyd is listed in the 1900 Census in Dakota Township, but she is not listed as having an occupation.

    The family worshiped in Lutheran churches.  The children born in Iowa were baptized at Benton Lutheran Church in Norway Township, Benton County.  John was confirmed at Ullensvang Lutheran Church in Thor. (7)

    Soren was a farmer until the late 1890s, when he appears to have retired.  The Oct. 10, 1895, edition of The Humboldt Independent reported that “Soren Olson, one of the eldest settlers, of Norway township, has sold his farm, one mile north of Thor, to J.M. Anderson for a sum of $8,640.”  Soren appears to have held on to some of this produce for sale a few months later.  The Feb. 6, 1896, edition of The Humboldt Independent reported that “Soren Olson loaded two cars of corn for New York this week.”  The Humbold Republican reported on June 4 of that year, “Soren Olson, of Thor, has quit hauling milk from Beaver.”

    About 1899, Soren and Anna moved into the village of Thor.  The Humboldt Independent of Sept. 29, 1898, reported that “Soren Olson will build a house on the lot north of the creamery.”  And on June 29, 1899, the newspaper reported, “Soren Olson is having a new coat of paint put on his new house.”  However, there seems to have been some sort of problem regarding the new house.  On Nov. 9, 1899, the newspaper lists Soren Olson among scores of property owners who owed back taxes to the county and were threatened with sale of their land.  He owned Lot 27 in Thor.

    The Olson family appears to have been well liked, judging from a newspaper account of the wedding reception for their daughter Lizzie.  The Humboldt Independent of Oct. 28, 1897, reports, “The double wedding of Mr. Rhinard Orre to Miss Lizzie Olson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Soren Olson, one of the oldest settlers, and Martin Watland to Miss Brita Lund, adopted daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Lund, was a great success in every feature, nearly the entire county being present.  Rev. Gregerson officiated.  After the ceremony all partook of a grand dinner served in a temporary building fitted up for the occasion.  The Thor Cornet Band was present and furnished some very choice music which was much enjoyed by all.  Many valuable presents were given the newly married pairs.”  The Mrs. and Mrs. Peter Lund mention here were probably Torkelanna and her husband since the only other Peter Lund appearing in the county in the 1900 Census would have been only 3 years old at the time of the wedding.

    It’s difficult to determine what to make of the references to Soren being the “oldest” and “eldest” settler.  A check of the 1900 Census shows about 30 people older than Soren living in Norway Township, which had a popular of a little more than 1,000.  The 1880 Census indicates that at least 512 people were living in the township.  Perhaps he arrived slightly earlier than other who lived there in 1880.

    In 1900, Soren and Anna are listed in the census of Norway Township.  Soren worked as a day laborer, but had been unemployed several months during the year.

    Anna died Oct. 28, 1907.

    The 1920 Census shows Soren living with his daughter Torkelanna in Norway Township, Humboldt County, Iowa.

    Soren died July 30, 1921 of a hemorrhage.  The Paulsons are buried in Lot 39 at Ullensvang Cemetery in Norway Township, near Thor, Iowa. (8)

    (1) Soren and Anna Olson’s birth and death dates come from Marcy Schramm.  The years are confirmed by Ullensvang Cemetery listing supplied by the Humboldt County Genealogical Society.  (2)  Date of marriage comes from 1900 Census of Norway Township, Humboldt County, Iowa.  Anna’s maiden name is listed on the marriage certificate of her daughter, Sarah, who was married to Ole Paulson on Oct. 20, 1889 in Humboldt County, Iowa.  (3) Birth dates for Bertha and the younger children appear in the records of Benton Lutheran Church of Norway Township, Benton County, Iowa, which are available “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947,” at  John’s date appears in his obituary in The Humboldt Independent of Sept. 26, 1869.  The names of spouses appear in an unpublished genealogy of the Olson family supplied by the Humboldt County Genealogical Society, as well as obituaries in Humboldt newspapers.  The name of Torkelanna’s husband comes from the 1920 Census of Norway Township, Humboldt County, Iowa.  (4) The immigration year is provided by the 1920 Census of Norway Township, Humboldt County, Iowa.  The 1900 Census provides inconsistent information.  It mentioned that Soren was born in Iowa but lists an immigration year, obviously a mistake.  Another possibility is that the census information is incorrect and Soren was actually naturalized in 1869.  The naturalization index from the Northern District of Illinois lists the naturalization of a Soren Olsen who was born in Norway about 1834 and went to the court in Benton County, Iowa, on Oct. 7, 1869.  The index is available through  (5) John’s obituary appears in the Sept. 26, 1959, edition of The Humboldt Independent of Humboldt, Iowa.   The 1925 Iowa Census for Norway Township, Humboldt County, indicates that Anna Lund – Torkelanna Olson – had lived in the United States for 45 years and in Iowa for 43 years.  While the overall totals are off by 20 years, it probably indicates that the family spent only a few years in Illinois.  (6) Severin Olson’s obituatary in the May 7, 1948, edition of the Humboldt Republican states, “He moved to Humboldt county at the age of five years, and since that time has lived in the community of Thor.”  Severin was born in Benton County, Iowa, in 1872, according to the obituary.  (7) Baptisms for most of the children are found at “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947,” which is available through  Severin’s obituary mentions that he was confirmed at Ullensvang.  (8) Dates supplied by Marcy Schramm and year for Anna confirmed by cemetery listing.  The Humboldt County Genealogical Society also provided Soren’s death record from the Humboldt County Courthouse.








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