Denmark Church Records Christenings Guide
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A step-by-step guide for searching Danish christening records
- 1 Introduction
- 2 What You Are Looking For
- 3 Steps
- 3.1 Step 1. Find the date and place of your ancestor's birth.
- 3.2 Step 2. Find the birth (christening) entry for your ancestor.
- 3.3 Step 3. Find the entries for each brother and sister of your ancestor.
- 3.4 Step 4. Copy the information, and document your sources.
- 3.5 Step 5. Analyze the information you obtain from the christening record.
- 4 Background
- 5 Tips
- 6 Where to Find It
Although the earliest church record in Denmark dates back to 1572, most churches began keeping records of christenings in the late 1600s. The christening record is the most important source of birth information in Denmark. The ceremony of baptism or christening (giving the child a name) usually took place within a few days of birth, and the christening record often lists the birth date.
For more information on church christening records, see Background.
What You Are Looking For
The following information may be found in a christening entry:
• The infant's name.
• The date of christening (baptism).
• The parent's names.
• The names of the witnesses or godparents and often their residences.
• The date of birth.
• The family's place of residence.
• The father's occupation.
• Whether your ancestor was of legitimate or illegitimate birth.
These 5 steps will guide you in finding your ancestor in Danish church records.
Step 1. Find the date and place of your ancestor's birth.
Before locating your ancestor's birth record, you will need to know when and where in Denmark your ancestor was born. You must have at least an approximate year of birth and a town where he or she was born. The year of birth and town of birth can be identified by finding your ancestor in a census record. The year of birth can also be calculated from the age listed on a passenger list, in a death record, or in other sources.
When looking for your ancestor's christening or baptism record, remember:
• Christening records are arranged chronologically.
• Christening records before 1814 may be intermixed with marriage or burial records.
For helps in finding the year, see Tip 1.
Step 2. Find the birth (christening) entry for your ancestor.
Look for a child born with the right given name and the right birth date in the records of the town you identified in step 1. Then see if his or her father's given name matches the child's patronymic name. For example, a Hans Jensen should be listed as Hans, the son of Jens. If more entries than one fit your information, you may have to check further to make sure you find the correct entry:
• Identify all possibilities that fit your information. If your ancestor was Hans Jensen born in
1849 according to his age later in life, find all the Hans Jensens born between 1848 and 1850 in the town your ancestor was from.
• Check the death records of this town after the first possible ancestor that you found to see if any of the possible ancestors identified died young. If any are in the death records at too early an age, you can eliminate these possibilities.
• Find birth entries for all children of the parents identified as possibilities. Look for subsequent death or marriage records for these other children.
• Compare the names of the parents and siblings of each of the remaining possibilities with the names of the children of your ancestor. Often people later named their children the same names as their parents or siblings. This may help you determine that one of the leads is more likely than the others.
• Look at your ancestor’s marriage record to see who the witnesses were and at his or her children's birth records to see who the godparents were. Often siblings, parents, and in-laws will be listed. If you can determine that some of the witnesses to his or her later marriage or children's christening records are the same people as siblings in one of the families identified as a possibility, this can prove you have the right family. You can eliminate the other leads and continue researching the correct family.
For help in reading the record entry, see Tip 2.
Step 3. Find the entries for each brother and sister of your ancestor.
Once you have the entry for your ancestor, find the entries for your ancestor's brothers and sisters:
• Search the christening records for entries of your ancestor's brothers and sisters.
• Search local death records or the christening records from surrounding parishes, especially if there are gaps of 3 or more years between the christening of siblings. Gaps of 3 or more years may indicate there was another child.
• To make sure you have found entries of all the family members, search death records and christening records of surrounding parishes for any additional children.
• Search for children born before the parents' marriage. Children may have been christened with the parent listed as the mother's name prior to her marriage. The child's reported father is usually listed following the mother's name.
For help differentiating people with the same name, see Tip 3.
Step 4. Copy the information, and document your sources.
If you can, photocopy the record. If you can't, be sure to copy all the information in the entry, including:
• All the people listed and their relationships to each other. (Witnesses are often relatives.)
• All the localities in the entry and who was from the places listed.
On the copy, write down the source of the information. List:
• The type of source (a paper certificate, a microform, a book, an Internet site, etc.).
• All reference numbers for the source. Carefully record any microfilm, volume (and years covered), page, and entry numbers or the Internet address of the site you used.
Step 5. Analyze the information you obtain from the christening record.
To effectively use the information from the christening record, ask yourself the following questions:
• Is this the christening entry of my direct line ancestor? Because names are so common, you must be sure you have the correct record.
• Did the minister identify both parents?
• Did more than 3 years pass since the christening of the last child? If so, another child may have been christened in a neighboring parish or died before it could be christened.
• Did you search 5 years without finding any earlier christening entries of children? If you find no other entries, then begin looking for the parents' marriage record.
Only a few parish records in Denmark go back before the late 1600s. The earliest church records tend to be found in the large cities and in the lower Jutland peninsula bordering on German territories.
Tip 1. How do I find the year my ancestor was christened?
First, use census records as a guide to find the whole family. The census records list everyone living in a household at a given time and may include parents, grandparents, and children. It also gives ages for each person, which you can use to calculate an approximate year of birth. After
1845 census records also include place of birth information. To find census records in the Family
History Library Catalog, search under the county that your town belonged to and the heading "Census." Another record that lists age and birthplace information back to 1790 for males is the military levying rolls. Early census records, passenger lists, death records, and similar types of records will often list a persons age at a given point in time but will not list the birthplace information. You may have to try several towns in the area where he or she was later married and lived to find the right birthplace.
Tip 2. What if I can't read the record?
Danish church records are usually written in Danish and include some Latin terms and phrases.
In southern Jutland and some Copenhagen parishes, the records may be listed in German. Prior to the late 1800s, records were written in Gothic script.
Tip 3. How do I differentiate people with the same names?
Remember, within the family, one or more children may have the same given name(s).
When more than one set of parents has the same given names and surnames (for example two Hans Jensens with wife Maren), use the following identifiers and records to separate the families:
• The place of residence of the family.
• The father's occupation.
• The witnesses or godparents.
• Other sources like census and probate records that list family members as a group.
Where to Find It
Family History Centers
Many Family History Centers can borrow microfilms of family register records from the Family History Library. There is a small fee to have a microfilm loaned to a Family History Center. For details see Ordering Microfilm or Microfiche from a Family History Center.
Family History Centers are located throughout the United States and other areas of the world. To find a center near you, see Finding a Family History Center.
Family History Library
The Family History Library has microfilmed many of the German family registry records. There is no fee for using these microfilms in person. You may request photocopies of the record from the library for a small fee. You will need to fill out
a Request for Photocopies—Census Records, Books, Microfilm or Microfiche form. The Family History Library microfilm number is available from the Family History Library Catalog. Send the form and the fee to the Family History Library. For details, see Photoduplication Services.