Denmark: Using Witnesses to Find the Next Generation

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Denmark Gotoarrow.pngWitness Research

Sometimes, finding the next generation can be very difficult. Depending on the circumstances, witness research can be a vital strategy in overcoming the brick wall. The majority of witnesses at a christening are usually some sort of relative of the parents. Witness research is, in a way, a back door for finding the next generation. Follow these steps for conducting witness research.

Case Studies

Case Study 1

Case Study 2

Case Study 3

Step 1: What Do You Know

The first step in witness research is to determine what you already know. Before beginning research, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What information do I have? How accurate is that information?
  2. Are there any living relatives that would already have the information?
  3. Are there secondary sources (such as online Family Trees and Biographies) that would have the information? What have others found?

Whatever information you find, make sure to document where you found that information. Also, make sure to determine whether the information found is merely family hearsay or if it came from original records.

Step 2: Gather Christenings of All Children

Once you know what has been done, the next step is gathering christening records. Let's say you have Father A and Mother B, and you are trying to find the parents of Father A. The first step you need to do is gather the christening records of every child of the couple. On the christening records is the witnesses that will be needed for witness research. You want to gather the christening records of every child because each child will have different (and similar) witnesses along with different information about each witness.

Step 3: Extract Information

The third step is to extract the information found on each christening record. This includes:

  1. The name of each witnesses (even if it says Lars Larsen's wife),
  2. The place of residence of each witness
  3. Any descriptive information that may be list (such as occupation, titles, relations, etc.)
  4. Make a note as to which christening record the witness was found in and the year of the record
  5. Any other information that may be listed.

Step 4: Analyze

Once you have extracted all of the information, analyze what you have found.

  • Does any of the witnesses have the same surname as Father A?

Does any of the witnesses show up in multiple christenings records?

  • Are there any key words given (such as faster = father's sister, Mandens moder = the man's mother, etc.)
  • Do the majority of the witnesses come from the same village?

As you analyze the information, you will notice clues that may either be the parents of Father A or some other relative.

Step 3: What records can I search to find my ancestor?

  1. Church Records: Probably the most important records to use in Danish research are the church records. For centuries the church was in charge of recording the vital information of the populace. Nearly all of the Danish church records have been digitized and made available online for free. See the article Digitized Danish Records Online - Arkivalieronline
  2. Censuses: This includes national and Kommune censuses. Censuses not only give a picture of the family as it was at the time the census was taken, but also provides information about where they lived in the city.
  3. Taxes: The cities usually had more taxes than the countryside, resulting in more records. Some of these records include fire insurance. Although there is not a large amount of specific genealogical information in these records, they do give a specific address of the individual and helps in finding other records.
  4. Directories: For centuries, cities were the only areas with directories. Directories can include genealogical data along with residence information.
  5. Civil Registration: Although civil registration did not become a major record source until the 20th century, and was only available in a few areas of Denmark, they are a very useful record. Often the civil registration records will contain more information than the church records, on the deceased individual.
  6. Probates: Usually, after a person died, a probate was conducted in order to pay the deceased's debts and distribute what's left to the inheritors. these records will usually list when the deceased passed away. If not, usually the probate date is close to the death date.

If you still cannot find your ancestor in the city try the following records:

  1. Military Levying Rolls: If an ancestor was still included in the military rolls when they died, their name will usually be crossed out and a death date written in the notes column.
  2. Court Records: there are many different court records and they may not necessarily record vital information, but they can give clues. For example, if the ancestor was murdered, there may be a court proceeding that records the circumstances surrounding the death.
  3. Cemeteries: Like all cemeteries, you can usually find the death information of the individual on the headstone. However, it is important to note that in Denmark, a person only remains buried while the family pays for the grave. When there is no one else to pay for the grave the body and headstone is usually removed and taken to the catacombs or crematorium. The headstone is usually recycled.

Step 4: What's next?

If you need additional guidance, consult some of these other strategies:

   How to Find Information for Danish Ancestors

1. Getting Started
2. Birth Information
3. Marriage Information
4. Death Information
5. Place of Origin in Denmark
6. Moving within Denmark

7. Emigration information
8. Immigration information
9. Using witnesses to find the next generation
10. Families in Sønderjylland (Southern Denmark)
11. City People and Research
12. Miscellanious