Friday, April 26, 2013

Examining Danish Deaths

Last week [Danish Post #7], I spent time (maybe too much!) sharing the amazing set of records that are the Danish State Archives, or Arkivalieronline. But really, I think FREE genealogy records deserve a lot of words.

This week, we'll look at death records through time. They all contain a trove of information, but their presentation varies.

Our focus Dane, Rasmus Knudsen, was born in a small community and moved to Aarhus. He died in Aarhus in 1902. This is the entire ledger page showing his record:

The columns in this book are: record number, death date and location, burial date and location, name, family information, age, pastor or officiant, and notes. Here is the detail of Rasmus' record: Aarhus, Hasle, Aarhus Domsogn, 1901-1906

The family data entry is chock full of details. His reads: 
Arbejdsman (laborer), fodt (born) in Hinnerup 12/24 26 (24 December 1826) of Knud Johansen and Kirsten Rasmusdatter. Enkemand (widower) of Ane Botilla Martens, dode (died) 17/1 98 (17 January 1898)
Let that sink in. We get name, birth date and place, parent's full names, spouse status and name, and spouse's date of death. I wish all my ancestors were Danish!

Here are a couple more examples from other time periods:

Margrethe Rasmusdatter 1819-1920 (!)
Arkivalieronline,dk: Aarhus, Ning, Tulstrup, 1892-1923

Johanne Knudsdatter, 1771, age 73 and Ane Nielsdatter, 1771, age 60 Aarhus, Ning, Maarslet, 1738-1813

There are some variations across the years, but Danish vital records are loaded with useful information. I am eternally grateful for this obsession with names and dates and genealogy. The Danes have made my number-crunching fun!

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Friday, April 19, 2013

Let's Grab Some Danish (Vital Records)

I've been sharing several posts lately about the search for my husband's Danish ancestors. The last post showed ways to use Danish censuses and the data I gathered from them. [Danish Post #6] This virtual genealogy trip started in Chicago, and went across the Atlantic to Aarhus, Denmark. I have been able to find a considerable amount of source material confirming I have the correct ancestral family. My last post reflects on patronymic naming, and what it taught me about how to research families in Denmark. [Danish Patronyms] You might want to read it - it was almost as popular as real danish pastries.

Let's spend some time biting into the really good stuff - vital records. I'll use my focus ancestor, Knud Rasmus Knudsen, as my example. I know he was born in Aarhus probably in or near December 1865, based on the records I have from Chicago.

Lucky for us researchers, the Danish Archives have scanned most census AND vital records and posted them online. For free. No strings attached. Yes, you read that correctly. Ok, maybe the only tiny string is that there is no English translation on the website, but that is an easily climbed string. Grab a warm drink with your danish (I prefer raspberry) and let's virtually visit the Danish Archives.

This is the link to the Danish State Archives page, called Arkivalieronline. On the main screen by the giant A is the dropdown box to choose records. There are many available but we will focus on vital records, or churchbooks (kirkeboger). After selecting kirkeboger, the site needs you to narrow down the location. The options are:

  • amt  (compare to US state)
  • herred  (compare to county)
  • sogn  (parish, compare to town or township)

Once you've found your parish, the options show the churchbooks available, in chronological order. The site also shows what that book contains and the year range. Those options are:

  • fodte (births) as F
  • konfirmerede (confirmations) as K
  • viede (marriages) as V
  • dode (deaths) as D

I know, according to the earlier census records, that the Knudsen family lived right downtown Aarhus in Domsogn parish. Here is a screencap of some of the choices I have:

Sally's Tip: If you're brave enough to follow along and download records, this is what will happen: you are actually downloading that book to your computer. Java is required. The program will ask you to confirm your actions and agree to use the LAViewer. When you open the file, it will be a blank page with page numbers and red dots on the left. By clicking on a dot, the page will become viewable. I generally click 5 at a time so when the last one is clicked, the first one is open. Open pages show green. I know it sounds really weird, but that's how it works! You can also save pages to your local computer.

The books are organized by event (births first) and gender (males first). The records from around the mid-1800's and later are in preprinted ledger books. Older records are a little more, um, free form!

Without further ado, here is Knud Rasmus Knudsen's birth record page:

Aarhus Kirkeboger: 1862-1867, fodte no. 131, page 72-73

Here is the information on the left side of the book:

Column 1: record no. 131
Column 2: 9th December (year 1865 is on top of the page above)
Column 3: name Knud Rasmus Knudsen
Column 4: baptized on 11 July 1866

and the right side:

Column 5: Arbejdsman (laborer) Rasmus Knudsen and hans kone (his wife) Anne Bothilde Martens, 35 years old, of Norregade 1072 (house # 1072 Norre Street)
Column 6: not sure - I can pick out Sorensen, Martens and Sorensen - perhaps godparents?
Column 7: not used

Well. That's a lot to digest.

The birth records certainly show a lot of detailed information. If we weren't sure about Knud's family before, we are 100% sure now. Everything in the previous census records is confirmed in the birth record. And the Danes even have record keepers with questionable handwriting!

More on marriage and death records in a future post. Now go enjoy your danish and coffee.

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Nordre Kirkegaard

No, Nordre Kirkegaard isn't a name, it's a place. It is the North Churchyard in Aarhus, Denmark.

View Larger Map

Flickr link

Find A Grave link

Aarhus Commune link

These are links to the burial ground in Denmark where several members of the Knudsen family are buried. I have genealogy feelers out requesting photos, but these sites from afar will have to do for now. And I'll add it to the genealogy bucket list.

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Patronymic Primer

Once upon a time (in the 1700's) in a land far, far away (in rural Denmark), lived a farmer named Jens Olesen. Jens lived in a small commune of farms (by). One day, Jens married the neighbor's daughter, Kirsten Mikkelsdatter.


Now that they were married (gift), Jens and Kirsten had a family. Their first child (barn), a boy, was named Knud. It happened that the neighbors had a boy named Knud as well. How will they tell them apart? Our family called their son Knud Jensen (Knud, the son of Jens).

In a couple years, Jens and Kirsten had a daughter. They called her Maren. To distinguish her from the neighbors, her name became Maren Jensdatter (Maren, the daughter of Jens).

Here is our family, and let's say they are being enumerated on Denmark's 1801 census (folketaelling) as:
  • Jens Olesen, farmer (landmand)
  • Kirsten Mikkelsdatter, wife (kone)
  • Knud Jensen, child (barn)
  • Maren Jensdatter, child (barn)
In a few more years, son Knud Jensen marries another farmer's daughter, Karen Nielsdatter (daughter of Niels). Knud and Karen have one son, Lars. Lars will be known as Lars Knudsen. So even though these are three generations of direct family members, they do not share a common last name.

Here is the next generation, perhaps on the 1845 census:
  • Knud Jensen
  • Karen Nielsdatter
  • Lars Knudsen
In a few more years, Lars Knudsen doesn't want to farm like his ancestors, and he decides to move to the big city. He marries Kristine Ane Pedersdatter and they had a daughter named Sidsel Kristine Knudsen. Did I trick you? A little bit, because in the later 1800's families needed to select a family surname to use. Every child in this new family, boy or girl, will be known as Knudsen. Use of the -datter suffix ends.

Here is our last example generation, perhaps on the 1860 census:
  • Lars Knudsen
  • Kristine Ane Pedersdatter
  • Sidsel Kristine Knudsen
Some patronymic research hints:
  1. When the children were baptized, the records showed their given name and each of their parents' full names. By consistently linking the child to each parent, records are very easy to search, although not in the traditional English way of searching surnames. Danish records require us to search by parent matches, not surnames.
  2. During the 1800's, names became more complex, and middle names were more often used. As more outsiders, like Germans, moved to Denmark, foreign surnames were incorporated. As in other cultures, words for occupations or geographical references were used in names.
  3. Marriage and death records almost always reference one or both parents, and/or a widow/widower by name.

And they all lived happily ever after. Even if their last names don't match.


Common Danish Surnames
Common Danish First Names

*I am not an expert but have spent countless hours researching several generations of Danish family

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Friday, April 5, 2013

Danish Censuses - Digging Deeper

If you have been following along on my Friday posts, I have found Knud Rasmus Knudsen in his Danish homeland. [Danish Post #5] His parents are given as Rasmus Knudsen and Ane Bolletta Martens. Well, that's convenient: his mother is listed by her maiden name. Further searching into the history of Danish censuses show that indeed, women kept their maiden names. It certainly helps confirm you are working with the correct family.

Another useful tip is the place of birth. I have found the village/parish of birth given on almost every census. In comparison to US records, I am finding the Danish censuses of the 1800's and 1900's to be extremely detailed and consistent in reporting data. Our newly-found father, Rasmus, reports being born in Hinnedrup. After some searching, I learned Hinnedrup is a small farming village within the parish of Tulstrup. Knowing the parish will be useful later when searching birth, marriage, and death records. Here is a quick geographic database that will tell you what locality is within what parish.

I began working my way backwards and have located several more generations of Knudsen's. Below is a census log of several generations of the Knudsen family, showing census year, location, and person's age. Colors denote generations.

But...notice in the name column that the father's names are not Knudsen, but Johansen and Jensen. Huh? That's because Denmark, especially before 1850, used the patronymic naming pattern. Patronymics is the system of using the child's given, or forename, and the father's name. Sort of. It really isn't complicated!

In our example, progenitor Knud Johansen married Kirsten Rasmusdatter. Their first female child was Ane. Ane's last name was then Knudsdatter, or "the daughter of Knud." Their first male child was Johannes Knudsen, or "the son of Knud." The pattern was repeated through the family. It works well backwards, too. In our example, we can locate the father of Kirsten Rasmusdatter as a man named Rasmus in future searches. Around the time patronymics stopped, so did the use of -datter. After about 1860, families were supposed to select a family surname. Boys and girls (but usually NOT wives) now all had the same last names.

This snip shows Knud Johansen, Kirsten Rasmusdatter, daughter Karen, son Jens and Jens' wife and children on the 1855 census. There are seven related people and seven different last names! Knud was age 64, "gift" or married, born in Maarslet, and a weaver.

1855 census: Denmark, Aarhus, Ning, Tulstrup, p 147

Here is a slightly more professional explanation of naming systems and history: Denmark Names

The census records in Denmark are amazing and filled with useful data. But how about births, marriages, and deaths? We'll go there next.

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Knudsen Family

Clockwise from left:

Knud Rasmus, Olivia, Anna, Christine, Marie, Edward, Johanna and Karen Kristine
c 1917 in Illinois

© 2013 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - He's Hilarious

Hilarious 1860-1935
Margaret 1869-1935

With a name like SMITH, perhaps he was grateful for a unique first name.

Photographed at St. James at Sag Bridge Cemetery
Lemont, Cook, Illinois

© 2013 Sally Knudsen