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Denmark Church Records

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For information about records for non-Christian religions in Denmark, go to the Religious Records page.

Overview[edit | edit source]

The official Church of Denmark is Evangelical Lutheran which is stated in the 4th paragraph of the Danish Constitution. Religion plays a role in the lives of the Danish during events such as births and deaths. But like other Scandinavian countries, Denmark is largely secularized, and with the exceptions of occasions such as births and deaths, religion does not play a large part in public life. Still, approximately 80-85% of Danes are members of the Church of Denmark with about 5% of Evangelical Lutherans attending weekly services. In Copenhagen, around 66% of the population is counted among the church membership. Roughly 13% do not adhere to any particular religious belief.[1]

Religious freedom is strong in Denmark and many faiths can be found there. In addition to the Church of Denmark, 3% of the population is Roman Catholic and 2% are Muslim. [2] A small percentage adheres to the Old Norse religion which was established in the Middle Ages by the Vikings.
Some of the most common denominations have been:

  • Den Danske Folkekirke (records since 1617)
  • Roman Catholic (records since 1647)
  • French Reformed Church (records since 1685)
  • German Reformed Church (records since 1686)
  • Anglican (records since 1835)
  • Methodist (records since 1846)
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (records since 1850)
  • Baptist
  • Jewish

References


FamilySearch Tutorials[edit | edit source]

Roman Catholic Church Records[edit | edit source]

In Denmark, the Reformation took a strong foothold, resulting in the near extinction of Catholicism in Denmark. The few vestiges that did hold on, were in the larger cities, including Copenhagen. The church records kept by the Catholic Church are nearly identical to the Lutheran church records. They consist mainly of christenings, marriages, and burials, and a few miscellaneous records such as confirmations. One of the few differences is that the occurance of the Latin alphabet and language is a lot more frequent than in the Lutheran records.

Church Records [Kirkebøger][edit | edit source]

Church records [Kirkebøger] are excellent sources for accurate information on names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Virtually every person who lived in Denmark was recorded in a church record.

Records of births, marriages, and deaths are commonly called vital records because critical events in a person's life are recorded in them. Church records are vital records made by the clergy. They are often referred to as parish registers or churchbooks. They include records of baptisms [Dåb], marriages [Giftemål], and burials [Begravelser]. In addition, church records may also include introductions, communions, absolutions, church accounts, confirmations, and lists of people moving into or out of the parish.

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General Historical Background[edit | edit source]

On May 20, 1645 King Christian IV sent a royal decree to the Bishop of Sjælland with instruction to have the ministers keep a record of births, marriages, and deaths. The following year, the same decree was issued to the Bishops of Jylland, Skåne, and Fyn, along with the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Some pastors began keeping records much earlier than this. The earliest parish record is for the city of Naksov, beginning in 1572.

Early on the Danish government recognized only the Evangelical Lutheran Church, with a few exceptions. The Reformed church was given official rights on 15 May 1747. The existing Mosaic (Jewish) congregations were officially recognized on 29 March 1814. The Catholics were served by the clergy attached to the Austrian Embassy. In the city of Fredericia, which enjoyed religious freedom from 1682, Catholic registers started in 1685.

Beginning in 1849, the Danish constitution recognized Christian dissenter churches. It did, however, require that everyone from all denominations notify the pastor of their local Lutheran parish of all births and death.

To guard against possible destruction or loss of church books, duplicate records were kept in separate places after 1814.

Information Recorded in Church Registers[edit | edit source]

At first the record-keeping requirement was limited to baptisms, marriages, and burials. Confirmation registers of many parishes date from as early as 1736.

Until a standard form was established in 1814, no directions were given on how to keep church records. Before that date, the records vary greatly.

See also  Parish Register Headings.

Online Church Records[edit | edit source]

Burial Records[edit | edit source]

Baptisms [Dåb][edit | edit source]

Children were generally christened within a few days of birth. Christening registers usually give the infant's and parents' names, status of legitimacy, names of witnesses and godparents (and often their residences), and the christening date. You may also find the child's birth date, the father's occupation, and the family's place of residence. Earlier registers typically give less information, sometimes listing only the child's and father's names and the christening date. See article: Denmark: Birth / Christening Records for additional information.

For more information about illegitimate births, see the article Paternity Cases in Denmark.

Some records have been indexed and are available on FamilySearch at Denmark Baptisms, 1618-1923. The article Denmark Baptisms - FamilySearch Historical Records describes the content of the collection.

See also Parish Register Headings.

Confirmations [Konfirmation][edit | edit source]

Starting in 1736, the Danish church required that young people be instructed in Lutheran catechism and pass a test before taking their first communion. This usually took place between the ages of 14 and 17 years old.

Confirmation records kept during the 1700s generally lists the person's name, residence, and sometimes his or her age. After 1814, the parents' names, christening date and place, performance grade, and date of smallpox vaccination also appear. See article: Denmark: Confirmation Records for additional information.

See also Parish Register Headings.

Marriages [Giftemål][edit | edit source]

Marriage registers give the marriage date and the names of the bride and groom and their respective residences. The record usually indicates whether they were single or widowed and gives the names of witnesses.

After 1814, the registers often include other information about the bride and groom, such as ages, occupations, names of fathers, and sometimes birthplaces.

Marriage records sometimes give the date of engagement and the three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced. These announcements, called banns, gave the opportunity for anyone to come forward who knew of any reason why the couple should not be married. Couples were generally married in the bride's home parish. Typically, the bride and groom were in their twenties when they married. See article: Denmark: Engagement and Marriage Records for additional information.

Some records have been indexed and are available on FamilySearch at Denmark Marriages, 1635-1916. The article Denmark Marriages - FamilySearch Historical Records describes the content of this collection.

See also  Parish Register Headings.

Arrivals and Removals [Tilgangsliste, Afgangsliste][edit | edit source]

These are records of persons moving in and out of the parish. Earliest records begin in 1814. In some cities these records do no begin until 1850 and often not all. The contain the name of person arriving at or leaving the parish, former and new residences, marital status, sometimes date and place of birth, relationships.

Burials [Begravelse][edit | edit source]

Burials were recorded in the church record of the parish where the person was buried. The burial usually took place within a few days of the death.

Burial registers give the deceased's name, death or burial date and place, and age. After 1814, the place of residence, cause of death, and names of survivors are often listed. Occasionally the deceased's birth date and place and parents' names are given. Between the second half of the 1700’s till about 1800, the church death records may help you greatly in organizing families.  At this time, death records often were quite lengthy documents giving names and detailed information regarding the survivors of the deceased.

Burial records may exist for individuals who were born before the earliest birth and marriage records. Stillbirths were usually recorded in church burial registers. See article: Denmark: Death / Burial Records for additional information.

Some records have been indexed and are available on FamilySearch at Denmark Burials, 1640-1917. The article Denmark Burials - FamilySearch Historical Records describes the content of this collection.

See also  Parish Register Headings.

Other Church Records[edit | edit source]

Communion – name of person receiving communion, residence, sometimes relationships.

Confirmation – name, residence name of one or both parents; often prior to 1814 only the name and age of the child being confirmed is listed, but after 1814 the child's age, christening or birth date are commonly listed, sometimes also names of parents, or name of employer.

Absolutions (early to 1767) – name of person absolved for transgression; residence; sometimes names of other persons involved, for example the father may be identified in the case of an illegitimate birth.

Index – in Denmark and Norway, from 1812 to 1814, many church books included an index near the back of the book containing the names of those included in the records. See the artcile Scandinavia Index for more information.

For more information about illegitimate births, see the article Paternity Cases in Denmark.

Parish Register Transcripts [Kirkebogsuddrag][edit | edit source]

Parish Register Transcripts: (1814 to present) [Kirkebogsuddrag] – Entries are similar to those in the original parish registers; they cover losses in parish registers, often they include additional details not listed in the originals including birth dates of the bride and groom. NOTE: From 1814, general indexes were supposed to be kept in each parish with reference to christenings, confirmations, marriages, deaths, arrivals and removals. All these records are kept together in parishes and provincial archives.

Accessing Danish Church Records[edit | edit source]

Locating the Parish[edit | edit source]

To do effective research in church records, you must determine the parish that your ancestor's farm or village belonged to. To do so, see the postal guide listed in the "Gazetteers" section. Parish boundary maps can help you determine which parish church records to search. They can also help you identify neighboring parishes if you need to search more than one parish in a region. For more information, see the article Denmark Maps.

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Microfilm copies of the records have been scanned and are available online at several sites.

Indexes[edit | edit source]

FamilySearch has published partial indexes to the church records. They can be found at

Arne Julin has published online Registre til København kirkebøger

J.C.L. Lengnick[edit | edit source]

Johan Carl Louis Lengnick (1796-1865) published 77 volumes listing persons using fixed surnames or persons with high social standing using patronymic surnames. These individuals are grouped by parish, and there is a separate index of names for each parish. See the FamilySearch Catalog for a list of available works.

The Royal Danish Library has digitized Genealogier over adelige og borgerlige Familier. A list of them is available on the Danish Genealogical Society's Forum under the topic J.C.L. Lengnicks trykte stamtavler som PDF (11 bind).

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

As the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Den Danske Folkekirke) became the official religion of Denmark after the Reformation in 1536, records not currently in use are deposited at the National Archives (Rigsarkivet). For information about records still held by the parish contact the local parish. Contact information can be found on the Danske Folkekirken's website.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Religion in Denmark" denmark.net
  2. "Religion in Denmark" denmark.net

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