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