Copenhagen: Probates and Wills
Like the census records, probate records are very important in Denmark in identifying all the children in a family and confirming that a particular family connection is correct. There are thousands of documents in the Family History Library collection of Copenhagen wills and probates. These records were kept variously at different times.
Wills were handled separately from probate records. Probates were more common than wills, however people who had property and were involved in business often had a will and may not be listed in the regular probate records or may be listed in both places.
Main types of probate records include the following:
- Dokumenter til ordincere Boer [documents for common inhabitants]
- Forseglingsprotokol [records with seals]
- Behandlingsprotokol [hearing records]
- Registreringsprotokol [registration records]
- Registre [indexes]
- Reparitionsprotokol [restitution records]
- Gjeldsbog [debt book]
- Decisionsprotokol [judgement records]
- Kvitteringsbog [receipt book], etc.
A single probate may be found mentioned in several of these volumes, or might be listed only in the forseglingsprotokol. The Forseglingsprotokol and the dokumenter til ordinære Boer are the best places to start.
Some wonderful indexes have been prepared to these various records by the Land Archive for Sjælland and are found at both the Landsarkivet and the Family History Library on microfiche, the most extensive index being for the Forseglingsprotokoller:
- Forseglingsprotokoller 1720-1919 (FHL fiche 6030293-60401670).
- Ordinære boer 1660-1771 (FHLfiche 6030251-6030255).
- Konceptskrifter [draft probates] 1660-1771 (FHL fiche 6030238-6030250).
- Behandlingsprotokoller 1715-1771 (FHL fiche 6030233-6030237).
- Samfrændskifter [relative probates] 1771-1810 (FHL fiche 6030270-6030271).
- Eksekutorboer [executor estate] 1790-1919 (FHL fiche 6030256-6030269).
Prior to 1670
After the probate law of 1683, probate records become much more common. Before that time, probate proceedings were generally taken care of without any official record being made. The exception would be where a dispute or questionable circumstances was involved. In such cases a record of the probate would be listed with the court records. Chancery court records can be found in the catalog under Denmark and the topic Public Records. There is an index to the chancery records from 1481-1650.
- Register over Person- og Stednavne i Danske Kancelli: Indlæg 1481-1650 (Index of persons and place names in the Danish Chancery: pleadings 1481-1650). FHL fiche 6060083
There were 13 different probate courts in Copenhagen. The four largest were the following:
1. Magistrats skiftekommission, 1681-1781 (Magistrate's probate commission, also called Byretten or city court). These records are for the commoners of the city. There is an index on FHL film 0045256 and 0044771, and these records are found on films 0044772-0045255.
2.Hofretten, 1679-1771 (Castle Court). This court was for high civil officials. Index, FHL film 0044596; probates FHL films 0044597¬0044688.
3. Borgretten, 1682-1771(Citizen Court). This court was for the lower civil officials and employees. General index FHL film 0044689 probate records FHL films 0044690-0044770.
4.Underadmiralitetsretten, 1670-1779 (Lower Admirals Court). For navel non-commissioned (officers with rank lower than Captain). Records on FHL films 0048030¬0048113.
Other probate court records for this time period that have not been filmed include the following:
- Regimentasauditørerne (Military Court, for enlisted men in the army)
- Søetatens General Auditør (Military Court, for navel none-commissioned officers)
- Universitets Skiftejurisdiktion (University Court, for students, many no longer exist)
- Den Gejstlige Skiftejurisdiktion (Ecclesiastical Court, for clergy and related personnel, most no longer exist)
- Vajsenhusets Skiftejurisdiktion (Orphan-house Court, for personnel of the orphan house, records no longer exist)
- Frederiks Hospitals Skiftejurisdiktion (Hospital Court, for personnel of the hospital, records no longer exist)
- Det Asiatiske og det Vestindisk-Guineiske Kompagnis (The Asiatic and West Indies-Guineas Company, for employees in Copenhagen and the colonies)
- Jødernes Skiftejurisdiktion (Jewish Probate Jurisdiction, many Jews listed in the Magistratens Skiftekommision listed above).
Most probate records in Copenhagen for this time period were handled by a single probate commission. For the period 1771-1803 they are listed under the Stadsretten (City Court; FHL films 0045257-0046190) and from 1804-1862 under the Landsretten (Land Court; FHL films 0046191¬0048027). These records are divided in two ways: by record type (see above under indexes) and then by classification.
Within each record type there are nine groupings as to the classification of those for whom a probate was held (the catalog does not show which groups are on which film, so you may wish to consult the book, Register of Danish estate probates:Copenhagen county, 1701-1820; FHL book 948.911 P23c; film 0599138, item 3).
I. High civil officials and commissioned officers
II. Other civil officials, clerks, secretaries,book keepers, etc.
III.Clergy, professors, students, and workers at schools, hospitals, and the church
IV. Citizens of higher reputation and wealth
V. Artist, tradesmen, etc.
VI. Persons of no great means
VIII. Enlisted men of the navy and merchant marines
IX. Enlisted men of the army
The nine classifications from the earlier period were regrouped into six. Class III was grouped with Class II. Classes VII-IX were combined to a new Class III. These later records were listed under the title Den kongelige Lands-over- samt Hof og Stadsret i København (The royal provincial, as well as castle and city court in Copenhagen; FHL films 0520496¬0521527,0517662-0517794).
The Reparitionsprotokol [restitution records] from 1863¬1910 are filed separately (FHL film 0517795¬0517840), as are a set of records called Børn og hospitalslemmer (Children and hospital inmates; FHL film 0517868-0517897).
Wills are not common in Denmark because the probate laws were considered fair, however in the cities and among the merchant and property holding classes, it was not uncommon to have a will. Wills were kept in the Chancery records and became much more common in those records after about 1760. These records are found in the catalog under Denmark and the topic Public Records. Copenhagen wills would be found with those of the Sjælland Chancery (on 861 films beginning with FHL films 0534460 and 0399133).
Wills for all of Denmark, a large portion of them being from Copenhagen, for the period 1800-1848 and 1812-1848 can be found in two collections:
- FHL #0394868-0394952. Also includes other parts of the Danish kingdom.
- FHL #0379853-0379887. Includes almost exclusively Copenhagen.