Denmark Nobility

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The nobility refers to a individuals or families that belong to a upper social class who had special political and social status. The Danish nobility is organized into the following groups:

  • The Uradel (the oldest noble families) which can trace their genealogy back to pre-reformation or medieval time.
  • Højadel (high nobility) which was the highest rank of nobility. In 1671 this rank of nobility was reserved for Counts and Barons.
  • Brevadel whose noble title was granted by a royal edict after 1671.
  • Lavadel (gentry) which included noble families of lower economic standing, and fewer privileges than the high nobility.
  • Sværdadel refer to a nobility group whose noble title was granted in reward for accomplishments with industry or military. This happened more often during the 1600’s and 1800’s.

Background[edit | edit source]

Historically about 5% of the Danish population belonged to the nobility. The nobility in Denmark had the highest social standing (other than the monarchy) in the kingdom. The origin of the high nobility began in the 1100’s among the most influential families.

Danmarks Adels Aarbog 1884.png

At that time, there were chiefdom families that owned large amounts of land who were near to the monarchy. Noble status was given to individuals or families as a reward from the monarchy. There is published literature on the old Danish nobility that can be followed back to the time of King Gorm the old who reigned between 936 – 958 a.d. A good list of these families can be found at:

  • Netleksikon, Danske adelsslægter (
  • Gamle danske adelsslægter (
  • Prior to the establishment of royal absolutism in 1660, the high nobility was included in the council of the realm. During the 1600 and 1700’s many of the old nobility lines died out (for example Brahe, Gyldenstierne, Marsvin, ect.) and were replaced by German noble families whose title was accepted by the Danish nobility. During this time, laws were created to limit the growth of the noble class. Prior to 1788 most of Danish lands were owned by the nobility and the government through the monarchy. After 1788 some estates sold parts of their to land owning freemen, but the social standing between nobility and land-owning freeman was always distinct. The genealogies of the Danish nobility can be found in Danmarks Adels Årbøger and other biographical works. There are about 200 families who belong to the Danish nobility at present.

Nobility Genealogy in Denmark[edit | edit source]

The earliest forms of genealogy in Denmark are those of the monarchy and nobility. The rights of nobility were passed down through the paternal line. So, the genealogy of Danish noble families follows the paternal line as far back as possible. These genealogies secured the rights to claim noble inheritance. The influence on genealogical research spread from the nobility to the ecclesiastical families and members of the wealthy bourgeoisie.

In other European countries, there was a movement in the 1400 – 1500’s to secure nobility rights by providing genealogical proof. For example, a man had to show documentation of up to 16 nobility lines to secure a position as a courtier or to become a member of the Orders of Chivalry. This was done in various forms such as tombstones, epitaphs, and heraldic shields. This practice of “proving” nobility for high government positions was not practiced in Denmark. The closest example in Denmark was by the Vallø Stift (Noble Vallø Foundation for Unmarried Daughters.)

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1715 Frederik Rostgaard is recognized as the first person in Denmark to create a published genealogy which he did for his father in-law chancellor Conrad Reventlow. The next genealogical publication was printed almost 30 years later by 1741 Adam Christopher Holsten published his genealogy including 32 lines.

1789 - abt. 1890 there was very little interest in the study of genealogy in Denmark.

1866 Den Høiere Danske Adel: en genealogisk Haandbog was published by F. Krogh. This 265 page book lists the family names of the old Danish nobility. Each section includes a brief history of the earliest known ancestor and when he was ennobled, if the line has died out, or if the line continue's then the names of descendants.

1884 Danmarks Adels Aarbog (DAA) was first published by Anders Thiset and H. R. Hiort-Lorenzen for the Danish Nobility Society (Dansk Adelsforening.) An updated version of this publication has been printed regularly ever since. The books include over 750 nobility genealogies including many lines that go into Norwegian families. Each volume is organized in alphabetical order by surname. For each family, there is a brief history of when the earliest member was ennobled and often a diagram which shows the descendants. The copyright has expired on the early volumes by Anders Thiset.

1941 Albert Fabritius published a record of 38 Danish genealogies which pre-date the French Revolution

Family Stories of Nobility in U.S. A.[edit | edit source]

Most family traditions of a Danish noble ancestor turn out to untrue. Most members of the noble class did not emigrate to the United States. In addition, contrary to prevailing opinion, it was not customary to disown members of noble families for unacceptable behavior. Thus, traditions of an ancestor being "erased" or eliminated from "all records" are usually unfounded.

Nobility Sources in FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

Hiort-Lorenzen, Hans Rudolf, Thiset, Anders. Danmarks Adels Aarbog, København 1884 to 2003-2005. FHL book 948.9 D55d

Holsten, H. Berner Schilden. Adam Christopher Baron Holsten til Baroniet Holstenshuus og Adelheid Benedicte Rantzau. København 1943. FHL call no. Intl 929.2489 H742ha

Fabritius, Albert. Danmarks riges adel, dens tilgang og afgang 1536-1935 : en studie i Dansk adelshistorie. Andr. Fred. Høst & søn, København 1946 . FHL call no. Intl 948.9 D5f

Krogh, F. Den høiere danske adel : en genealogisk haandbog. Chr. Steen & søn, Kjøbenhavn 1866. FHL call no. Intl 948.9 D5k

For more information, see the "Genealogy" section. The Family History Library has collected some records of noble families. These records are listed in the catalog under—




Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Green, Jørgen. Slægtforskerens ABC. Forlaget Grifo, Special-Trykkeriet Denmark 2011

Worsøe, Hans H. Politikens Håndbog i Slægtshistorie. Politikens Forlag Denmark 2005

Wikipedia Community. Danmarks Adels Aarbog. Danish Wikipedia 2017