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Background

Danish probate records constitute all those records generated by the Probate Court pertaining to the transfer of estate, with its rights, assets, liabilities, and obligations to the heirs (including bankruptcy and guardianship), and all documents connected with these procedures.

In Denmark it is not the will (testament) that is the most important probate record, but the records of Administrations of Estates (Skifteprotokollerne).  These records affected a large portion of the Danish population.  "Skifte" means to change, as change in ownership of an estate.  The term "Records of Inheritance" would be more closely connected with the the title Skifteprotokoll.

The three most common types of probate records are:

  1. Administrations of estates (skifteprotokollerne)
  2. Guardianship supervisions (overformynderi protokollerne)
  3. Wills (testamenter)


In 1683 the establishment of the Danish Law of Christian V formed the foundation of the present Danish probate system.  Following are some of the stipulations:

  1. Immediately following the death of persons who were survived by minor heirs, no living heirs, or heirs that were absent from home, notification of the death was to be reported to the local authority.  The estate would then be sealed for final inventory and administration.
  2. On the 30th day thereafter, the estate was to be registered by the proper probating authority in the presence of the heirs and their guardians.  This registration was to contain an inventory and appraisement of all the property, along with a record of the total debts and assets of the death estate.  The settlement and distribution of the estate among the heirs was to be indicated.  This document was to be signed by the heirs, their guardians, and by the probating authority.
  3. No widower or widow could remarry before the estate had been settled with the legal heirs.
  4. If none of the heirs were minors, and all were present, the family could act under their own private jurisdiction unless they desired a legal probate proceeding.
  5. A surviving spouse could also receive permission to live in "uskiftet bo" which means to be able to retain undivided possession of the estate.  There would be no distribution of inheritance to the heirs unless the surviving spouse remarried, died, or desired a distribution.
  6. All those who could not manage their own affairs were to have a guardian(s) appointed in their behalf.  The guardian(s) was to be a qualified relative of the deceased, but if no qualified relative was available, then the court would appoint a suitable guardian.  The guardian of minor children was to be:
  •    After the death of the mother, the father.
  •    After the death of the father, a brother who was to be at least 25 and the oldest.
  •    If only half-brothers are living, then the next of kin on the father's side.
  •    If no brothers are living, then the paternal grandfather.
  •    Then the maternal grandfather.
  •    Paternal uncles(s).
  •    Maternal uncles(s).
  •    If no such relatives were living or qualified, the next nearest relative was appointed which was usually a cousin, the paternal relatives having first preference.

The most common type of guardianship found is regarding item (f) if the deceased is the father, or item (g) if the deceased is the mother.  A widow could choose her own guardian subject to court aproval.  These guardians would not necessarily need to be relatives.

Record content

The Skifteprotokoller usually contain the following information:

  1. Date of probate
  2. Name of deceased and place of residence.
  3. Sometimes the date of death is indicated.
  4. A listing of all legal heirs with an indication of any relationships with their residences.
  5. Usually ages of surviving children, especially minor children.
  6. Names of husbands of married female heirs and their residences.
  7. Names of the guardians for the surviving widow and the minor chldren with an indication of relationships and residences.
  8. Estate inventory. Assets and liabilities.
  9. The probating authority with the names of the winesses and/or the appraisors.
  10. Settlement of the estate - distribution to the heirs and creditors.
  11. If children of the deceased are dead, but left descendants, these heirs will be listed.

Record Examples of Skifteprotokollerne:

The following is a transliteration and a rough translation of a Skifteprotokoll.  The source of the information can be found in "Skifteprotokoller af Nordfeldt Gods, Praesto Amt, Borre Sogn". [FHL film 0041317].

Example 1:

(1)   Skifte-forrentning efter afg. huusmand Mads Christensen Schov i Sønder Westud

        Probate proceeding after deceased cottager Mads Christensen Schov of Sønder Westud

(2)   sluttet den 23 Janr. 1778: Anno 1778 den 23de Janr blev foretaget lovlig

        concluded the 23 Jan 1778:  Year 1778 the 23rd January was transacted a lawful

(3)   skiftes holdelse af underskrevne Knud Lind forvalter ved Nordfeld i følge

        probate proceeding by the undersigned Knud Lind administrator of Nordfeld as a result of

(4)   den ved Møenbo Herrets ting skeedte tillysning efter huusmand afganne Mads

        the, at the Møenbo District court occurred posting after cottager deceased Mads

(5)   Christensen Schov i Sønder Westud imellem hans efterladte Enke Margrete Jensdatter

       Christensen Schov of Sønder Westud between his surviving widow Margrete Jensdatter

(6)    med Laugværgen hendes broder Jørgen Jensen gaardmand i Pollerup paa den eene og

          with guardian         her     brother  Jørgen Jensen freeholder of Pollerup on  the  one and

(7)   den Sal:  mands efterladte børn paa den anden siide, som er først i ægteskab med

        the deceased man's surviving children on the other side who are in the first marriage with

(8)   Ellen Jensdatter een søn Christen Madsen gaardmand i Sønder Westud een ditto Jens

        Ellen Jensdatter   a     son Christen Madsen freeholder of Sønder Westud  a   ditto [son] Jens

(9)    Madsen huusmand ibidm een ditto Niels Madsen 18 aar og een ditto Hans Madsen 25

        Madsen cottager  same place a [son] Niels Madsen 18 years and a [son] Hans Madsen 25

(10)  aar een datter Mette Madsdatter gift med Hans Jessen i Steege een ditto Karen Mads

        years a daughter Mette Madsdatter married with Hans Jessen of Stege a daughter Karen Mads

(11)  datter  40 aar gl. og 2: i ægteskab med sal. Mette Hansdatter een datter Ellen

        datter  40 years old and in the 2nd marriage with deceased Mette Hansdatter a daughter Ellen

(12)  Kirstine 14 aar gl: og 3die i ægteskab med Enken Margrete Jensdatter een søn Rasmus

         Kirstine 14 years old and in the 3rd marriage with widow Margrete Jensdatter a son Rasmus

(13)   Madsen 6 aar een [ditto] Jørgen Madsen 3 aar og een datter Anne Mette Madsdatter 9 aar

          Madsen 6 years a [son] Jørgen Madsen 3 years and a daughter Anne Mette Madsdatter 9 years

(14)   gl.:  Wed skiftet var nærværende paa Egne og med Sødskendes vegne Sønnerne Christen,

         old.  At this proceeding were present on their own and with brothers and sisters behalf 

the sons Christen,

(15) Jens, Niels og Hans Madsen og paa de i 2 og 3die aegteskab vaerende umlyndige blev

       Jens, Niels, and Hans Madsen and in the 2nd and 3rd marriages being minors was 

(16)   beskikket som formynder Gaardmand Lars Seie i Raabymagle hvor efter skifte i over-

       appointed    a     guardian   freeholder    Lars  Seie of Rabymagle whereafter the probate in

(17) vaerlese af Jens Knudsen i Elmelunde og Nils Pedersen af Norre Westud blev fortfaret

   the presence of Jens Knudsen of Elmelunde and Nils Pedersen of Norre Wesud was conducted

(18)  som følger: Først blev den her paa stervboen den 14de April sidste holden Register-

as follows: First was the, here at the death estate, on the 14th April last held

(19) ings forretning for skifte Retten oplaest og skiftet tilført der lyder saaledes:

registration proceeding before the Probate Court read and the probate presented and reads thus:

(Thereafter follows the inventory and appraisement of the estate which in summary equaled an amount of 14 Rigsdaler - 0 Mark - 8 Schilling

One Rigsdaler = 6 Mark; 1 Mark = 16 Schilling or 96 Schilling = Rigsdaller)

(20) Og intet mere forrfantes som kunde vaere Boet til Indtaegt saa bliver dette af os

       And nothing further was found which could be considered as assets so was this of us

(21) som wurderingsmaend sluttet og underskreven.  Sønder Westud den 14 April 1777 - Jens

       as appraisors concluded and signed.                        "            "         the 14 April 1777 - Jens

(22) Knudsen, Niels (N.P.S.) Pedersen. Dernaest tilspurte Skifte Retten Enken og samtlig

            "             "           "             "         Next inquired the Probate Court the widow and all

(23) til staede vaerende umyndige arvinger om de vidste noget vidare dette stervboe til

     of the present minor heirs if they knew of anything further in the household as an

(24) Indtaegt at anmaelde, de da samme vilde tilkiende give føren Skiftet tog viidere frem-

      asset to report, before the probate proceeded any further.

(25) gang men som de dertil samtlig svareded nej, blev stervboets heele Indtaegt at beregne

                  but they all answered no, therefore the estate's entire assets were calculated

(26)med Regesterings beløbet som er 14rdr-"-8s. Der imod bliver Stervboets udgift følgende

with the registrations amount to be 14 rigsdaler-0 Marks-8 Schillings. Expenses were:

(27) 1. Fordrede forvalter Lind Resterende huus afgifft til 1775 aars udgang 4-"-".

         Required administrator Lind the balance of rent for 1775.

(28) 2. Kraevede Sønnen Christen Madsen i Sønder Westud resten af hans ved Skiftet af

     Required the son Christen Madsen of Sønder Westud the rest of his by the probate of

(29) 3de Decemb 1760 tilfaldne Arv med paaløbende Renter i alt 4-5-8.

    3rd December 1760 designated inheritance with acquired interest in all  4-5-8.

(30) 3. Ligeledes fordrede Sønnen Jens Madsen resten af hans ved bemt. Skifte tilfalden arv med 1-4-".

     Likewise required the son Jens Madsen the remainder of his inheritance of same probate.

(31) 4.  Anmeldte Enkenat vaere skyldig for hendes Sal. mands lig Kiiste 1-"-".

     Widow's notification she was liable for her deceased husband's coffin 1-"-.

(32) 5.  Paastoed Enken vederlaug til sin begravelse imod hvad hendes Sal. mands hafde

   The widow claimed compensation for her burial against what her deceased husband's

(33) kostet som blev anmelt med 3-2-"-, men efter boets ringe tilstand kund ej wiidere

     burial cost at an amount of 3-2-"-, but due to the estates meager assets nothing

(34)  allorderes hende end det fra det øvrige Sterv boets udgifter overskydende -"2-2-.

      could be allocated her except the remaining excess balance of -"2-2-.

(35) Dette skiftes bekostning at anføre saaleedes:

      The expenses in holding this probate are as follows:

(36) 1. For tillysningen ved tinget [Posting at Court)                                  "1-6

(37) 2. For skiftet at holde og give beskriven paa 4 ark @ 1#=                  "4-"

          Registration of inventory and description 4 sheets at 1 Mark

(38) 3.  Stemplet Papier til Skifte brevet 3 ark @ 24 s er                            "4-8

        Stamped (taxed) paper for letter of probate 3 sheets at 24 sch.

(39) 4. Maendene for deres umage blev tillagt                                             "-3-"
        To the appraisors etc. for their services                                         2-"-14

(40)  Summa Stervboens Udgift (total expenses)        14-"-8

(41) Naar samme legnes med Indtaegten som ligeleedes er 14-"-8, sees at ej noget kand

  Inasmuch as the total expenses are the same as the total assets, nothing can be

(42) blive til arv og deeling imellen Enken og den Sal. mands børn.  Til de anmeldte

allocated as an inheritance between the widow and the deceased's children.  To the

(43) fordringer og dette skiftes bekostning blev giort vedbørling udlaeg:

claims and the expense of this probate the following distribution was made:

(The exact distribution and the manner of the distribution follows).  The document is then signed by all the individuals involved in the proceedings).

Example 2:

An example of an unprobated estate.  Reference: Skifteprotokoller for Horns Herred, Hjørring Amt.

(1)  15 Nov 1825, Husmd. Jens Christensen af Lille Raasig i Elling Sogn var afgaaet

 15 November 1825, Cottager Jens Christensen of Lille Raasig of Elling parish died

(2)  og efterlemnede sig umyndige arvinger og Enke der blivit hinsiddende i uskiftet bo.

   and left minor heirs and his widow to live in an unprobated estate.


Example 3:

An example of a death announcement (Dødsanmeldelse).  Reference: Skifteprotokoller for Horns Herred, Hjørring Amt.  From about 1795 a separate listing of the notifications of deaths were kept in the various district courts.

(1)  Fol. 253 Anmedelse om Enken Karen Olesdatters død i Lilla Raasig, Elling Sogn

  Page 253 Report of widow Karen Olesdatters death of Lilla Raasig, Elling Parish

(2) 28 Apr 1832 blev anmeldt at Enken Karen Olsdatter af Lilla Raasig i Elling Sogn

 28 Apr 1832 was reported that widow Karen Olsdatter of Lilla Raasig of Elling parish

(3)  med døden afgaaet den 27 April.  Den afdøde efterlaever sig intet hvilket kan

              died the                 27 April.  The deceased leaves nothing, which can

(4) godtjent ved et forrevist kjøb hvorved hun har bortsolgt samtlige hindes

   be substantiated by a Bill of Sale wherewith she has sold all of her

(5) faste og løsa egendom til hendes son Ole Christian Jensen hvilket Kjøber

      real and personal property to her son Ole Christian Jensen who bought it

     9 Jan 1832


Probate Indexes

Probate indexes and extractions are available for many areas of Denmark.  To locate some of these indexes do a Key Word Search in the FamilySearch Catalog for the entry "Danish Estate Probates".   Other indexes are available on the internet.



Bibliography:

Ottesen, David. "Danish Probate Records."

The Scandinavian Genealogical Helper, Vol. 2 No. 4 and Vol. 3 No. 1.


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