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