Danish Research: Searching Records
Researching in Danish Records can seem like a daunting task when thinking about the handwriting and the records; however, by using the following suggestions and learning a few basic key words and some background information, using Danish records can be quite easy.
Suggestion 1: Learn the Basics of Danish Language and Handwriting
You do not need to completely master the Danish language in order to use the records. Most of the Danish genealogical records follow a common format and use common terms. Once you understand some of the key words and become familiar with the handwriting a whole treasure trove of information will be open to you. Use the following links for key words and handwriting guide.
Suggestion 2: Previous Research Sources
Most genealogists do a survey of research previously done by others. This can save time and give you valuable information. You may want to look in:
- Printed family histories and genealogies.
- Local histories.
- The International Genealogical Index.
- Ancestral File.
- The Family Group Records Collections.
Remember that the information in these sources might be wrong, depending on who did the research. Therefore, you need to analyze and verify the information you find from these secondary sources.
Suggestion 3: Obtain Background Information
You may need some geographical and historical information. This can save you time and effort by helping you focus your research in the correct place and time period.
- Locate the town or place of residence: Examine maps, gazetteers, postal guides, and other place-finding aids to learn as much as you can about each of the places where your ancestors lived. Identify the major migration routes, nearby cities, county boundaries, other geographical features, and government or ecclesiastical jurisdictions. Place-finding aids are described in the "Gazetteers," "History," and "Maps," sections through the Denmark: Portal of the FamilySearch Wiki.
- Review local history: It will help to understand Denmark's history. If possible, study a history of the areas where your ancestors lived. Look for clues about the people, places, and events that may have affected their lives and the records about them. Records with information about migration routes, nearby cities, county boundaries, governmental jurisdictions, and local historical events may be described in periodicals from the area.
- Learn about Danish jurisdictions: You will need to know how Denmark is divided into counties and how each county is divided into parishes and other jurisdictions.
- Use language helps: The records and histories of Danish places will usually be written in Danish (or German). You do not need to know the entire Danish language to search the records, but you will need to learn some key words and phrases. Some helpful sources are described in the "Language and Languages" section through the Denmark: Portal of the FamilySearch Wiki.
- Understand naming patterns: The naming patterns of Denmark were influenced by factors such as: where you ancestor lived (in the city or a rural area), the time period, the social standing and the occupation. Culturally the majority of Dane’s before 1875 were using a relatively small variety of given names. Be very careful to make conclusions of relationship. Understanding the naming customs can help you locate missing ancestors, and prevent the mistake of choosing an incorrect ancestor or family.
- Understand local customs: Local customs may have affected the way individuals were recorded in the records. Illegitimacy, marital customs, and local conditions are discussed in the "Social Life and Customs" section of the Denmark: Portal on the FamilySearch Wiki.
Suggestion 4: Search Original Documents.
After surveying previous records, you will be ready to begin original research. Original research is the process of searching through original documents (often copied on microfilm, or available online), which are usually handwritten in the native language. The documents can provide primary information about your family because they were generally recorded near the time of an event by a reliable witness. To do thorough research, you should search each place where your ancestor lived, during the time period he or she lived there. You need to search all the jurisdictions that kept records which might mention your ancestor (town, parish, province, and nation). You will be most successful with Danish research if you can examine the original records (on microfilm or online). In some cases, transcripts of the original records are available. Although these may be easier to read, they may be less accurate than the original record.
As you search original records for your Danish ancestors, most of your time will be spend searching:
Probably the most important records you will use when researching your Danish ancestors are the Danish Church Records (Parish Registers). The following is a short summary of the history of Danish church records:
- Early Parish Registers: Starting in 1645, all pastors in Denmark have been obliged by law to keep Parish Registers. Most of these have survived from around the 1750s. Some are older and date back to the 1670s or even earlier. Other parishes have been less fortunate and fires, mice, insects etc., destroyed all church records prior to 1814.
- Parish Registers from 1812-1814 until now: 1812-1814 are important years for Danish genealogists. That is when Danish pastors were instructed to keep two separate copies of Parish Registers - and never to keep them in the same location overnight. For this reason, nearly all parishes have records from those dates onwards!
These Parish Registers are also more "user friendly". After 1812-1814 the Registers were, for the first time, kept in ledgers designed especially for that purpose. These 'newer' Registers contain columns with printed headings, which facilitate searching for particular information without the need to read through the entire volume.
- Parish Registers before 1812-1814: Before 1812-1814 most pastors recorded information in some kind of notebook that they had purchased themselves. Normally these older registers were kept chronologically, making the search difficult for people who do not have good knowledge of Danish, and, at the very least, some basic understanding of how to decipher the obsolete style of handwriting that was commonly used in Denmark prior to 1875.
- What information do Parish Registers hold?: The Parish Register will provide information regarding anyone who was born/baptised, confirmed (after 1737), married or died/buried in that particular parish. Only information relating to the particular religious ceremony in question will be recorded there. For example, for a baptism, you will find the date of birth, date of baptism, name of the child, names, occupation and residence of the parents, and names of sponsors and the godmother. But the entry will not tell you who the child later married, or where she/he died. That information must be found where the events took place.
After 1812-14 the registers were kept in forms. Older records may have a more "individual" character.
Once you have begun searching in records use the Tips provided and the 'How to' box to help you in using the different types of records.
|How to Get Started|
|*Finding Your Ancestor in the Records|
|*Tips for Beginners|
|*Tips for Danish-American Researchers|
|How to Find Information for Danish Ancestors|
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