Danish Military Levying Rolls: Who was recorded in the Lægdsruller
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It has always been the case that only the males had military obligations. The age of registration or discharge from registration in the lægdsruller has varied over time.
1788 - 1848
Before 1848 the social standing of the parents determined whether or not their son was registered in the lægdsruller. According to the regulation of June 20, 1788 only the peasantry would be obligated for registration. Even if a person moved from the countryside to the city (where a lægd roll was not being kept), it did not remove the individual from the rolls. On the other hand, if a city dweller moved to the country (leaving a place where no registration was required, going to a place that required registration), it did not automatically make him obligated to register. But, his sons could be obligated. Provenance was so crucial. Beyond the city dwellers were a number of other exemptions from conscription also on the land. In spite of that, the regulation of 1788, in several articles defined who should and should not be conscripted, there was still some uncertainty about these exceptions. So, on May 8, 1829 a new regulation was issued that sought to solve the problem. It was however not entirely clear. It decided that millers, innkeepers and craftsmen in the country should be equated with the rest of peasantry, and so should be included among the conscripts.
In 1848 Denmark went to war with Prussia. It became a very current matter of who should be enlisted. On September 23, 1848 it was decreed that the previously non-obligated portion of the male population would be enrolled. It was also decided that all those born in the years 1823-1825, should be called to serve. A few months later, on February 12, 1849, the law instituting the general military obligation went into effect. At the same time, all males born in 1826 were called to duty. Priests and schoolteachers were still exempted. The last exemptions were eliminated with the military obligation law of June 8, 1912.
Who had a military obligation (Væernepligtige)?
Following are two tables showing who had a military obligation. The tables are far from being all inclusive, as there were many exceptions, especially before 1829 and also many uncertainties about some of the rules.
| For the Years
|| Sons had military obligation if their fathers...
|| Sons were exempt if their father was...|
| 1788 - 1829
Were born in the country of the peasantry
Moved to the city from the country
Farmer, but not of the peasantry
Townsman, but not bond born (Not peasantry)
Clerk or schoolmaster
| 1829 - 1847
Same as above or....
Miller, inn keeper, craftsman who if denied a living could be replaced by the peasantry
Same as above or...
* A person, who for a fee performs as a soldier on behalf of someone else.
|For the Years||A Person with a Military Obligation||Someone Exempted from Obligation|
|| All men were extraordinarily summoned
|| All unpunished nativeborn Danish men with permanent residence in Denmark proper.
|| Priests, Schoolteachers |
|| Same as above
|| Same as above
Persons possessing a freedom letter were excluded from a military obligation. Exemption was by royal decree. In military levying rolls the following abreviations are found in freedom letters:
GMS - gammel(gaard)mands eneste søn -- old farmer's only son
SMS - syg(gaard)mands eneste søn -- ill farmer's only son
GBES - gaardbrugerens enkes eneste søn -- farmer's widow's only son
In addition, the following could obtain freedom leters:
- Married men with children
- Farmers that have purchased or established a farm
- Peasant's sons who are in school or who have academic training
Information on freedom letters can be found at the Danish Chancellary archive, 4th Department, Brevbogen (letter book). The Freedom Letters are located in the collections of the National Archives (Riksarkivet.)
Children out of wedlock
Children born out of wedlock would perform military service according to his mother's situation, if she remained unmarried. If the mother married or became widowed, then it was her husband's position that determined the obligation. If an unwed mother gave birth to a boy in a town/city, he would have an obligation.
Selection of Conscripts or a "Session"
You may also be lucky to find archival records from the annual session meetings. This exercise was called for all those who were listed in the lægdsruller and who were a given age. The purpose being, the selection of conscripts who would serve in the military.
Normally, one went to the session around his 20th birthday.
In the district or circuit archives, you may be lucky enough to find:
- Session negotiation protocols (the processing of applications for exemption etc.)
- Medical records (physician's assessment of health status or physical ability to serve)
- Session records (data on the individual conscripts, health status, physical ability to serve).
You should be aware that records of various sessions are no longer available.
The records are at Provincial Archives (Landsarkivet), and must be ordered on a white order form.
Statens Arkiver. Lægdsruller. Denmark: Landsarkivet for Sjælland Lolland-Falster & Bornholm, 2008