Jonhaga Olea Olsen Oral History Interview, 1983  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Olsen, Jonhaga Olea
1983 (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Jonhaga Olea Olsen, a Norwegian immigrant.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington
Telephone: 253-535-7586
Fax: 253-535-7315
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The oral history collection is open to all users.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Jonhaga Olsen was born on July 23, 1897 in Finnjord, Troms, Norway. Her parents were Anton Kristian Olsen and Olena Olsen, and she was one of nine children. After her confirmation, Jonhaga immigrated to America when she was fifteen. Her aunt, Ingeborg Jørgenson, lived in America and decided to take Jonhaga back with her when she came to visit her sister's family in Norway. Ingeborg lived in Astoria, Oregon, and Jonhaga stayed there with her, learning English and helping her aunt with the housework. She also held housework jobs for other families but was very lonesome. She was active in the Sons of Norway, but only because her aunt was also. When a cousin from Minneapolis came to visit, Jonhaga decided to return to her. In Minneapolis, she found a job at a clothing mill and met her future husband, Hans Frederick Olsen. Hans was a typesetter, and his parents had emigrated from the same place in Norway as Jonhaga had. Hans and Jonhaga had four children: Howard, John, Lorraine, and Joanne. Jonhaga never returned to work after she was married, and she and children became active with the choir and Sunday School and Christ Lutheran Church. After spending several years in Minneapolis, the family moved to Sacramento, California due to Jonhaga's asthma. They later moved to Oregon, but when Hans could not find work, they went to Seattle, where he got a job at the Foshay Towers. Jonhaga moved into a Home in 1981.


Full Name: Jonhaga Olea Olsen. Maiden Name: Jonhaga Olea Olsen. Father: Anton Kristian Olsen. Mother: Olena Olsen. Maternal Grandfather: Jørgen Olsen. Brothers and Sisters: Bergen Sørstad Olsen, Jørgen Olsen, Toralf Olsen, Alf Olsen, Gudrun Olsen, Anne Victoria Olsen, Else Olsen, Hannah Olsen. Spouse: Hans Fredrik Olsen. Children: Howard Fredrick Olsen, John Allen Olsen, Lorraine Helen Olsen, Joanne Olsen.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Jonhaga Olsen on January 17, 1983 in Seattle, Washington. It contains information on Jonhaga's family background, emigration, work, marriage and family life, and community involvement. The interview was conducted in English.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on use.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The partial interview transcription highlights important aspects of the interview. Numbers may be used as guides to important subjects. Two numbers separated by a slash indicate that the first number is for cassette and the second for CD.

Container(s) Description
221, side 1 004: FAMILY BACKGROUND
Jonhaga Olea Olsen was born July 23, 1897 at Finnjord, Lenvik, Troms, Norway. Finnjord is about 20 km due south of Tromsø in northern Norway.
221, side 1 060:
Parents were Anton Kristian and Olena Olsen. Father was fisherman-farmer-painter; did many things.
221, side 1 084: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
There were nine children in all: Toralf, Jørgen, Bergen (?), Jonhaga, Alf, Gudrun, Anne Victoria, Elsie, and Hannah.
221, side 1 115:
Jonhaga can only remember her maternal grandfather because they visited with him. His first name was Jørgen.
221, side 1 137:
The family home had four big rooms with painted walls and scrubbed floors. She tells a story about when she and a sister were playing at the beach. She had to grab her sister to keep her from falling in the water. They had to work hard, carrying water and chopping wood. They went skating and skiing in the winter.
221, side 1 175: SCHOOL
When she started, school was held in a private home. Then a schoolhouse was built quite far off. They lived on the top of a hill, so they could ski straight down to the school, which was fun.
221, side 1 188:
The church was far away also. They didn't go too often, especially in winter because of the weather. When she was confirmed, she "stayed out" with people; that was lonesome. The confirmation session was a few weeks long.
221, side 1 206: CHRISTMAS
Jonhaga's aunt, her mother's sister, put out treats and goodies for the children; she and her husband had more money then the Olsens. Mother had a big baking oven and made lefse, fattigmann, and good rye bread. They didn't go to church; went to another family's house to meet and sing hymns in lieu of church. There was a layperson in charge of the meeting.
221, side 1 264: EMIGRATION
After confirmation she immigrated to America at the age of 15. Her mother's sister, Ingeborg Jørgenson, lived in America. She visited them and wanted to take Jonhaga back with her. Jonhaga wasn't too strong or healthy, and her mother had a lot of children. So, it was best for all if Jonhaga went to her aunt's.She got her clothes and trunk ready. Mother was sad even though she, too, felt it was for the best. Some relatives took them by boat to Bergen in the early spring of 1913 (probably March - April). There, they caught a steamer, an old boat. The North Sea was "so wild- it was awful" with waves. The men put the women in the hold for safety, so as not to be washed overboard.In England they boarded another boat and sailed directly to Philadelphia. Jonhaga traveled with an older cousin. Jonhaga's transportation means (probably train ticket) was lost for two weeks in Philadelphia. Her aunt in Astoria, Oregon was angry and telegraphed the emigration department. The emigrations found the ticket later and the girls took the train to Astoria. So all was okay.
221, side 1 413:
This cousin of Jonhaga's had more money and liked to play the guitar. She moved to different towns after Astoria, including Chicago. Jonhaga lost track of her.
221, side 1 437: SETTLING IN AND WORK
Jonhaga stayed in Astoria and attended school to learn the language. She learned quite a bit and could have gone to high school. But she "was stubborn - I should have gone but didn't". Instead she stayed at home with her aunt and helped her out.
221, side 1 463: WORK
She worked as a housekeeper for awhile in Astoria. Many a time she was lonesome. Her cousin (another one) came to visit from Minneapolis. Jonhaga went back with her. In Minneapolis she worked in a "mill" sewing clothes (underwear). It was better work than housework and paid more. She liked Oregon better than Minnesota because of the weather.Housework jobs included cooking, serving, and cleaning. For the banker's family in Astoria, she wore a black/white uniform. This was a nice family, and the wife (Mrs. Higgens) showed Jonhaga how to set the table and cook the food. She learned how to prepare roasts, which they had in Norway, but which her mother always made.
In Minneapolis Jonhaga lived in a house with her cousin, and that is where she met her future husband, Hans Frederick Olsen. He was born in America of parents who had emigrated from Norway. They came from the same place in Norway but she didn't know of the family. Hans was a typesetter. They had a small church wedding. A good friend gave them a wedding breakfast. Then they took a trip to the north woods around Bemidji. Went fishing on Lake Minnewawa(?) and stayed in a cottage. They rented a house in Minneapolis. Hans didn't want her to work, so she quit. He had a very good job.
221, side 1 579: CHILDREN
They had four children: Howard, John, Lorraine, and Joanne. Joanne married, but her husband was killed in Alaska. She didn't re-marry, but works. Lorraine lives in California, is married and has three or four children. Howard is in Minneapolis and has two daughters. John is in Witchita, married, and no children.
221, side 1 617:
The Olsen family lived in Minneapolis for several years. She and the children were active with choir and Sunday school at Christ Lutheran Church. They moved out to California because of her asthma, and Hans worked as a printer in Sacramento. Then they moved to Oregon, but couldn't get any work. Eventually, they came to Seattle, and Hans got into the Foshay Towers, working there until he died.
221, side 1 673: MISCELLANEOUS
Jonhaga never returned to Norway. She really didn't like to travel, and her husband felt he had no reason to go.
221, side 1 679:
She was active in the Sons of Norway in Astoria, but only because her aunt was.
221, side 1 692:
Norwegian was spoken in the home to the children sometimes. She speaks little Norwegian now as she forgets the words; could speak Norwegian to some of the Home's residents but doesn't.
221, side 1 709:
Jonhaga has been in the Home for two years. Before then, she and her husband had their own home. After he died, she lived with her daughter for a while.
221, side 1 719:
She attended a Lutheran church in Seattle. Services are held in the Home on Sunday and also Wednesday night. She thinks the chapel is very nice.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Christmas
  • Education--Norway
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Marriage service
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Railroad travel
  • Personal Names :
  • Olsen, Hans Frederick
  • Olsen, Joanne
  • Olsen, Lorraine
  • Jørgenson, Ingeborg
  • Olsen, Anton Kristian
  • Olsen, Howard
  • Olsen, John
  • Olsen, Jonh--Interviews (creator)
  • Olsen, Olena
  • Corporate Names :
  • Christ Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, Minn.)
  • Family Names :
  • Jørgenson family
  • Olsen family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Astoria (Or.)
  • Minneapolis (Minn.)
  • Sacramento (Calif.)
  • Seattle (Wash.)
  • Troms fylke (Norway)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Domestics
  • Titles within the Collection :
  • New Land New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest