Denmark: The Parish (Sogn)
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A parish in Denmark is the ecclesiastical unit of an area committed to one pastor. Each parish has a specific area boundary which is roughly a three to five mile area (in rural settings). The Lutheran pastor had the legal responsibility to record birth, marriage, and death information for the people who lived within his parish. Generally each parish had its own set of records. Sometimes one pastor had responsibility for more than one parish. In such cases, the pastor may or may not have combined the official records into one book. The parish is usually named for the largest town within the parish boundaries. Beginning in 1812 two separate books for each parish had to be kept, one by the pastor (the Ministerialbog), and one by the parish clerk (the Kontra-ministerialbog). These books legally could not be stored in the same building as a preventative measure against destruction by fire. The parish records that were microfilmed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints should be the Pastors book. You can also search the Danish church records on microfiche (which is often the Clerks book). The online source should also be checked to see if it is the Pastors or the Clerks book.
When separate books began to be kept, a "fill in the blank" format was adopted. Column headings indicated the pieces of information to be filled in. Sometimes, if the minister could not obtain a printed book quickly,they drew columns and hand wrote the column headings.
Studies have shown there were about 5 formats used throughout the country from 1812 on, though the same information was asked for. To see the Danish column headings, with their English translations which were used in most of the country from 1812 forward, click on the links below.
Denmark Parish Register Headings-1 Denmark_Parish_Register_Headings 1
Denmark Parish Register Headings-2 Denmark_Parish_Register_Headings 2
Parish Records on Microfilm
- To find the parish records on microfilm or microfiche in the Family History Library Catalog, do a "Place Search" using the parish name. The spelling must be the correct Danish spelling. Look over the “hits” list, and click on the desired parish. Choose the topic “Church Records”. Write down the film number and item number (if needed) for the desired years.
- Once you’re looking at the film, check the title page to verify the parish, the record types, and the desired years. Keep in mind that there may be three or four separate books on the same microfilm. Each book on the microfilm is listed as an item in the Family History Library Catalog. You can quickly spin through the film, item by item, for the one you need. Look at each title page of each item as you go along to verify the span of years.
- The birth, confirmation, marriage, and death records may be in the same book or in multiple books in later years. Use your film notes to determine the film you need. Occasionally a minister may be keeping records for multiple parishes.
Parish Records Online
See article: Digitized Danish Records Online.
Tips: If you do not know the Parish
- If you do a Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog and get no hits perhaps: (a) the spelling of the place name is wrong or (b) it is the name of a farm or village rather than a parish.
- If you have a place name but do not know what kind of place it is use Krabsen's stednavnebase. This is an online database of Danish place names that can be searched by place name (stednavn) to discover what parish it belongs to, or by parish name (sogn) for a list of places within a specific parish.
- J. P. Trap’s Danmark is a great resource for a parish map along with a list of all place names within a parish. (FHL Intl # 6054054- 6054057, 6054602- 6054628). Volume 27 is an index to all place names.
- An alphabetical list of Danish parishes and a road map are available in Frank Smith’s and Finn A. Thomsen’s Genealogical Guidebook & Atlas of Denmark (3rd Edition, 1986). See FHL Intl # 6054631.
- Another gazetteer for all farms and villages, showing which parish they belong to is Postadressebog for Kongeriget Danmark, by Vilhelm H. Finsen, 1909. FHL Intl 41040