Genealogy Research in Denmark
This Internet site is to help genealogists learn to research Danish sources. The parish of origin is the most important piece of information needed for research in many foreign countries, including Denmark. Often, to determine a locality is more difficult than adding four or five new generations once the location is known. Even though the parish is an ecclesiastical boundary, many civil records also relied upon this same jurisdiction.
If the parish is not known, research requirements will vary. There are no indexed sources allowing country-wide searches for inhabitants or surnames. Although emigration resources and a variety of records from families living in Denmark today can aid the researcher, interviews with family members and a careful search of all home sources are often the greatest help in finding clues to a more precise locality in Denmark. U.S. sources such as immigration records, naturalization, and even culturally-oriented church records will also be of tremendous value.
Danish Genealogy Sources
The most valuable sources for research in Denmark prior to the twentieth century were ecclesiastically generated. The Lutheran church was the primary recording authority for vital information such as births, marriages, and deaths.
- Birth and christening records may record the date of each event, name of child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, names of parents, the farm or village of residence within the parish, witnesses to the christening, etc. Early records, however, will often show only the name of the father. Birth/christening records are found chronologically organized. They have been microfilmed for most parishes from the earliest records into the 1910s, with additional years becoming increasingly available.
- Engagement and marriage records will usually show the name of bride and groom, their residences, prior marital status, witnesses, marriage date and dates of banns. Many records show ages of the bride and groom, and later records also provide the names of the parents for each. Residences can lead to outside parishes of origin, when births did not occur in the same parish being researched. Engagement/marriage records are found chronologically organized. They have been microfilmed for most parishes from the earliest records into the 1910s, with additional years becoming increasingly available.
- Death and burial records will help identify the age and residence of an ancestor. At times, the records will also identify the cause of death, whether a widow or widower, record the specific relationship to a father if a small child, and occasionally even record information about origins if a notable individual. Death/burial records are found chronologically organized. They have been microfilmed for most parishes from the earliest records into the 1910s, with additional years becoming increasingly available.
- Moving-in and out records were kept to document the movements of individuals and families from parish to parish. Record was made of the moving-in/out, which parish to/from, which farm/village within the recording parish moving to/from, names, and sometimes ages and birthplaces. Moving-in/out records are usually kept in a separate part of the church book from births, marriages, and deaths. They were generally recorded in earnest by the 1830s, and have been microfilmed for most parishes into the 1910s, with additional years becoming increasingly available.
- Introductions recorded the readmission of the mother into the congregation after giving birth to a child. These records, though seemingly unimportant in most research, can help identify a mother’s name as “the wife of ....,” when the birth record only recorded the name of the father of the child. Included are the name and date of re-admission. The introductions have been microfilmed for most parishes for the periods of existence into the 1910s.
- Confirmations are religious actions generally bestowed upon males and females ages fourteen and over. The majority of the population was included by age sixteen. The records show name and place of residence, and later records often show father’s name, and birth date or age of the individual being confirmed. These records can help identify the name of the father and, at times, even a birth place of the child when searches of the births in that parish have proved unsuccessful. Confirmations are generally available from as early as 1736.
- Military Levy Rolls are assessment lists of eligible males for potential military service. They include most males from birth to mid-forties from 1789-1850. Beginning in 1850, males were first placed on the list at age fourteen. In 1869, the age was again changed, this time to seventeen. The lists, assembled every three years, show name, age, father’s name, birth place, current residence and other, miscellaneous information. For those that moved in or out of a levying district between the every-third-year periods, supplemental rolls were taken, but only of those individuals. The lists involved the rural areas of the country, and are organized by district, which uses the same jurisdictions as the parishes.
- Censuses have been better preserved and hold more value for Denmark than any other Scandinavian country. They provide excellent information in almost all existing enumerations. Microfilmed censuses exist for:
1787 1834 1845 1855 1870 1890 1906
1801 1840 1850 1860 1880 1901 1911
There were also early school censuses and a 1700 census of males. These can be of considerable assistance in the research project. This website includes abstracts for the 1700 Census of Males Project and abstracts for several 1730s School Censuses.
The key year in the censuses was 1845. At that time the returns included the place of birth for each member of the household. When born in a distant parish, the entry is often accompanied by the name of the county as well. The censuses are organized by parish within each county, and generally found under the listings of the county in library catalogs.
- Probate records are also a valuable tool for research in Denmark, though require more mastery of the language than other sources. The information provided includes names, dates of death, relationships, residences of those contained in the document, ages of children when minors, inventories of estates, signatures, etc. The jurisdictions vary widely within time periods, places and classes of people, and are often organized by the estate on which they lived and leased their farms. For detailed descriptions of both rural and city jurisdictions see Finn A. Thomsen’s Scandinavian manual listed under “For Further Reference.” Review a probate index for Thisted, Viborg, Aalborg, Randers Counties.
- Immigration/Emigration records for Denmark are scarcer than those of other Scandinavian countries. Passenger lists from the port of Copenhagen are divided into two separate categories with indexes; direct and indirect. The direct list includes those individuals traveling directly from Copenhagen to North America. The majority of passengers were recorded in the indirect lists, indicating they were shuttled to one or more additional harbors en route, (such as Liverpool). Information includes name of emigrant, age, origin, destination, and date of departure. These emigration lists encompass from 1868 through 1959. They are available on microfilm and/or microfiche through 1940, and are being assembled in a database by the Danish Emigration Archives (through 1903 as of mid 1998).
For more in-depth reading, continue to the section of this website that includes more articles on advanced Danish Research.
This wonderful Denmark web site was originally developed by Gary Horlacher. He has since handed it over to ProGenealogists's care and it is being further developed by E. Wade Hone. Mr. Horlacher is still working on a project cataloguing information on LDS Emigration for Danish and other nationalities.