Denmark Probate Records

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Denmark Gotoarrow.png Probate Records

Probate records are court records that describe the distribution of a person's estate after death. Information in the records may include the death date, names of heirs and guardians, relationships, residences, an inventory of the estate, and names of witnesses.

These records are very helpful for research because in many areas the authorities began recording probate actions before birth and death records.

Probate records were not created for every person who died. The probate law of 1683 stated that probate was necessary if a parent died and left children that were not of age (age 25). Often an estate was probated even if the children were of age.

Although probate records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical information, the relationships noted in the records may not always have the same meaning today. For instance, a brother-in-law may be recorded as a brother, because legally that made no difference.

From the fourteenth century in Denmark, the foged (bailiff) was responsible for law enforcement in his bailiwick. Late in the sixteenth century the sorenskriver (scribe) in the bailiff's office was appointed to take care of probate cases and prepare the legal documents in connection with the probate. Later the title of sorenskriver took on the meaning of probate judge.

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The Probate Process

Before 1683, probate records were often part of the general court records. The probate process began when the authorities were notified of a death. Thirty days after notification, the authorities held a registration of the estate at the home of the deceased. If the deceased was a parent, the surviving spouse and all children still living at home were to be present. All heirs not living in the parish were allowed a certain time to present themselves to the court. The time allowed was based on how far they had to travel. If a widow was pregnant when her husband died, she had the right to keep possession until after the child's birth. All guardians had to be present when the estate was divided.

The probate document was signed by all heirs or their guardians and by the probating authority.

No widower or widow could remarry before the estate had been settled in probate. However, a surviving spouse could receive permission from the court to live in an unprobated estate [uskiftet bo]. Under this provision, there could be no distribution of inheritance to the heirs unless the surviving spouse remarried, died, or requested a distribution.

All legal heirs who could not manage their own affairs were to have a guardian appointed in their behalf. The law stated that the child's closest relatives were to be appointed guardian, the father's relatives first, then the mother's. If no relatives were available, then the court appointed a guardian. A widow could choose her own guardian subject to the court's approval.

Records of guardianship may be kept separately from other probate papers, or a different court may have jurisdiction over guardianship.

To view records examples of skifteprotokollerne (administrations of estates) with translations click here.

The Availability of Probate Records

Before the 1683 law, probate was held only when there were problems in dividing an estate. After 1683 the probate records are separate from the other court records and handled by the probate judge.

Probate records for clergy, schoolteachers, and military officers were often kept separate from the regular probate jurisdiction. Church officials would conduct probate for a priest or a schoolteacher, and a commanding officer for a military officer.

The Family History Library has an excellent collection of probate records from many areas of Denmark. These are listed in the catalog under DENMARK, COUNTY, PARISH - PROBATE RECORDS. Most records have separate name indexes in either the beginning or the end of the record. Also check the catalog under DENMARK, [COUNTY], [HERRED] - PROBATE RECORDS.

Guardianship Records [Overformynderiprotokoller]

Guardianship records are a good supplement to the probate records. Their use is twofold. First, they replace missing probate records. Second, they provide information concerning a minor's later destiny.

The guardianship record usually has the following information:

  • Name of the ward or minor.
  • Sometimes age or birth date.
  • Date on which the inheritance was paid to the court and the estate reference involved. (If the inheritance comes from one or several sources, each document is referred to with the amount.)
  • Name of guardian and residence.
  • Date on which the inheritance is paid to the ward or minor.
  • Status of the ward at the time the inheritance is paid, indicating a place of residence if different from the original probate record.

Language of Probates

Like many other subjects, probates use certain words, phrases, and abbreviations. Unless these words are known, it can be difficult to decipher a probate record. Following is a list of common words, phrases, and abbreviations used in probate records.

Danish English
Afdøde/Afgange deceased/departed
Aftægtsmand/kone A retired man/wife being supported by the new owner of their farm (usually a child)
Arv/Arvinger/Arve afgift/Arve attest Inheritance/heirs/inheritance tax/
Arvesummen the sum of the inheritance
Aar gl. Years old
Boet the house
En Broderlod a brother's share of an inheritance (this could be used when talking about a son (having a share with his brothers and sisters) or the deceased's brother)
Boslod/Lodseddel Certificate for a share or lot
Byfogeden The city baliff
Dødsanmeldelsesprotokoller Starting in 1792, all deceased had to be reported to the local probate authorities, whether they were to be probated or not. The reports of the deceased became a compiled record called the Dødsanmeldelsesprotokoller.
Dødsfald death
Efterlade/Efterladte/Efterlevende  to leave behind/ the bereaved/the survivors
Ejendele/ Ejer (at ejer)/Ejendom Possessions/owns (to own)/Property
En Enke/Enkemand Widow/widower
Formynder Guardian
Gift Married
Halvdelen A half/a portion
Herred the Court District
Hvidebøger “White Books”; a record of those deceased in Copenhagen that did not have an official probate
Indtægt Income/revenue/profit
Jordseddel A Jordseddel or a Muldseddel were certificates or confirmations from the Probate authorities to the deceased’s priest, that they had received notification and registered the death. The priest was not allowed to bury the dead until the probate authorities had received such notification.
Kammerjunker Gentleman(?)
Kongen The King
Lavværge (can also be spelled Lauværge) A widow’s guardian who would be present with her during her deceased husband’s probate. Widows had the privilege to choose their own Guardian, which normally was one of her brothers.
Mark Former Danish monetary unit. Worth less than a Rigsdaller but more than a skilling
Mindreaarige Under age
Muldseddel See Jordseddel
Myndige/ Myndigheds alderen ”of age.” When children were considered adults. The age varied throughout Denmark but on average 15-18 years (considered mindreårige 18-25 years) for men. Women were never recognized as “of age” until 1857, and always had a guardian appointed to them. After 1857, the “of age” age for single women was the same as men. In 1922, everyone was considered “of age” when they turned 21 years old, and today the age is 18.
m.f.P. Abbreviation meaning “med ført Pen,” or “with guided pen.” This abbreviation usually appears under the signatures of those witnessing the probate, who either could not write or just needed help with writing.
m.p.P. Abbreviation meaning “med påholden Pen,” or “with guided pen”. See “m.f.P.”
Overformynderiet Guardianship records
Værge Guardian

En pige
A girl
Rd(l), Rigsdaller
Former Danish monetary unit. Worth more than a mark or a skilling



Probate letter


Former Danish monetary unit. Worth less than a Rigsdaller or a skilling
En Søsterlod


Udarvs skifter


A minor (children under 18; see Myndige/Myndigheds alder)


Guardian. All minors (umyndige) were appointed a guardian, after a parents death, to represent them throughout the probate process. The Guardian appointed was typically the father’s eldest brother (if the father had died), or the father himself (if the mother had died). By law, the guardian must be from the father’s side unless there were no living male relatives of the father, in which case the guardian would be from the mother’s male relatives.

Household Items Listed in Probates

aag, åg- shoulder yoke for carrying buckets
arbejdsvogn- wagon
bagetrug- bakers trough for kneading dough
baller, baljer, ballie, balge med jernbånd- wooden tub with iron bands
band- bands
baandknif, båndkniv- small chopping knife
becken- ?? to heat the bed
beester- beasts
bench- bench
beholder- container
benklæder, beenklæder- trousers
beslag- brackets, hardware
beslagen vogn- wagon with metal brackets, not entirely of wood
besætningen- herd
bilægerkakkelovn- stove
bismer- small portable scale
blaa, blå- blue
blaargarns, blårgarns- wool or linen cloth
blaastribed- blue striped
blick, blech lygte- small portable tin lamp
boghylde- bookshelf
bor- auger
bord- table
bornholmer- grandfather clock
bryggerkedel- brewing kettle
bryggkar, bryggekar- brewing vat
brystdug- vest
brændevin- alcohol
bukser, buxer- trousers
bulle, bol- a short top for women
bul øxe, buløkse- forest ax
bænk- bench
bæster- beasts
båbdknif- small chopping knife
carter- cards for carding wool
driftetrug, drøftetrug- low, open basket with handle which was used for cleaning grain
dørslag- colander
ege, eege- oak
egebord- oak table
egedragkiste- oak chest
egekar oak vat
egeskrin- keepsake box, sometimes with a lock
degntrug- wooden trough for bread kneading
dragkiste- chest
drægtig- pregnant (livestock)
drejels, dreeils- finer type fabric
drifte trug, drøfte trug- grain cleaning trough
dug- cloth, tablecloth
dyne- quilt, duvet
faar- sheep
filtes- felted, made of felt
fierding- a tub that can hold 25 kg
fleske olle- meat brining vat
forklæde- apron
fyrre- pine
fyrrebord- pine desk
føl, følle- foal
får- sheep
får med grøde- pregnant sheep
garvinde- yarn reel
gestlinge- goslings
giæs- geese
giæs med grøde- geese with goslings
glas- glass
graa, grå- gray
gravspade, grevespade- grave spade
greeb, greb- grip, lever, handle
grise, grisse- pigsgryde- piglets
gul- yellow
grøn- green
grøde- pregnant or with eggs (livestock)
gæs, giæs- geese
gæslinger, geslinge- goslings
haandøxe, håndøkse- hand ax
haankattunsklæder, håndklæder-towels
hakkebret, hakkebræt- chopping board
halskobbel, halskoppel- harness
halstørklæde- scarf or muffler
hampe- hemp
hand qvern- hand mill, often used to grind malt for beer brewing
harve, harver- harrow or cultivator
haspe- type of yarn winder
hat- hat
hauger, haver- removable wagon sides
hengeskab- hanging cupboard
hest, hæst - horse
hestføl- very young foal
hestplag- colt
himmelseng- poster bed
hingst- stallion
hingsteføl- very young foal
hjørneskab- corner cabinet
hoppe- mare
hose- hose, knitted long stockings
hoveddyne- pillow
hovedpude, hoved pude- pillow
hue- cap
huge block, huggeblok- chopping block
hvergarns- linsey-woolsey
hvid- white
hæst, hest- horse
høelee, høle- scythe
hør- linen
hørlærritz, hørlærred- made of linen
ildtag- fire poker
jernbaand, jernbånd- iron bands
jernbismer- small portable scale made of iron
jerngryde- iron pot
jernpande- iron pan
jern vægge- iron wedge for wood splitting, etc.
kaabe- cloak
kaaber- copper
kaarsklæder- light, usually fitted, scarf to put over a woman's hat
kakkelovn- stove
kalfve, kalve- calf
kande- jug
kappe- cloak
kar- vessel, vat
karter- wool carders, a flat brush for straightening wool strands before spinning them into yarn
karstol- three-legged stool or stand for holding vats and tubs
kasket- cap
kartuns, kattuns- made of cotton
keddle, kiedel- kettle
kedelkrog, kedelskrog, kjedelskrog- kettle hook
kierne- churn
kiol- mens jacket
kiør- cows
kjedelskrog- kettle hook
kjole- men's formal jacket
kjole og hvidt- formal dress
kiste- chest
klæde kiste- dress chest
klæde skab- wardrobe, upright clothes chest
knapper- buttons
kniplinger- lace
kniv- knife
koe, ko- cow
komfur- stove
konvolut- cap
kopper- copper
kornharpe- type of upright sieve machine for cleaning grain
krave- collar
krukke- crock
kuvert- hat
krave- cows
krus- pottery mug
kvern- mill
kvie, qvie- heifer
kviekalve- heifer calf
kvæg, qveeg- cattle
kærne- churn
køer- cows
kørekappe- driving jacket, cloak, or cap
kåbe- cloak
jakke- jacket
jern- iron, stove
jernbilæggerkakkelovn- stove
lagen- sheet
lam, lamb- lamb
lehnestoel- armchairs
ler- clay
leerfad, lerfad- pottery dish, plate, cup, etc.
lin, liin- linen
lyddæmper- muffler
lysesaks, lyse sax- candle snuffer with a scissor-like hinge
læder- leather
lædersele- leather harness for a horse
lænestol- armchairs
løgte- lamp
madskab- wooden upright food pantry
mangle fiel og stok- clothes press that used a wooden roller
manglebrædt og stok- roller-clothes press that used a wooden roller
malkekande, mælkekande- milk jug
malet- painted
messing- brass
messingbækken- brass pan which held hot coals to heat the bed
meye or meje jern, mejetøj, mejered- iron tool for harvesting corn
morter- mortar (for use with pestle for grinding)
møbler- furniture
mønstrede- patterned
nattrøye- night shirt
naur- auger
nederdel- skirt
okse- ox
olmerdug, ulmerdug- striped fabric made in Olmer, Germany
olle- oil
otting- container that held an exact measurement of 12.5 kg
overdyne- duvet cover
ovn- stove
pande- pan
papir- paper
penge- cash
peber qvern, peverkværn- pepper mill
plag- colt
plove- plow
plove med behor- plow with accessories
porcellæn- porcelain
prykket- dotted
pude, puude- pillow
pudevår- pillowcases
pynteærmer- dress sleeves
pyntetørklæde- decorative scarf
pyramide- pyramid-shaped shelf
qveeg, kvæg- cattle
qvern- mill
qvie, kvie- heifer
qvie kalfe- heifer calf
rede penge- ready cash
redskaber- tools
rist- 3-legged grill rack
riveiern, rivegern- grater
rok- spinning wheel
rød- red
saks, sax- scissors
saltkar- small salt container
selde- flat straw basket for sifting flour
seletøj- harness for a horse
seng- bed
sengested- bedstead
serker, særke- petticoat
siebøtte- wooden bowl with a cloth in the bottom for straining milk
sigte- sieve
sikar- wooden bowl with a cloth in the bottom for straining milk
sjal- shawl
skab- cabinet
ske, skeer- spoon, spoons
skieppe, skæppe- 20-liter container
skind- skins, pelts, or leather
skindbuxor- buckskin pants
skiorte, skjorte- shirt
skiær, skære bænk- cutting bench, workbench
skiære kiiste, skærekiste- "cutting chest", or chest holding mounted tools which were used for cutting animal feed
skielderier, skilderier- painting or photgraph
sko, skoe- shoes
skære (skiær) bænk og kniv- cutting table and knife
skørt, skiordt- skirt
slagbenk, slagbænk- daybed, bench
sliibe steen, slibesten- grindstones
slæde- sled
småsvin- piglets
sold- sieve or screen
spade- spade or shovel
spand- bucket
spejl- mirror
spinderok- spinning wheel
spisebord- dining table
spender, spænder- buckles
spæde kalve- infant calf
stager- candlesticks, usually with a stand
standtønder- food storage barrels
stander seng- floor bed
steen kruuse med laag- tea mug with lid
stegepande- frying pan
stettins tallerken- tin-enameled plate
stie, stige- laddar
stol, stoele, stole- chair, chairs
stort- large
stribet- striped
strippe- wooden scoop
strygejern- an iron
strømber, strømper- stockings
stud kalv, studekalv- steer calf
studlinge- steer calf
stueur, stueuhr- clock
støvler- boots
sviin, svin- pigs
sæde- seat
tabel- table
taburet, taberet- stool
taft- taffeta
tallerkne, tallerken- plate
tavle- table
tel økse, tælleøkse- small ax with a broad blade and a shaft that bends slightly outward
tengsel- small ax for hollowing out wood
ternet- checkered
thepotte- teapot
tilbehør- attachments, accessories
tin- tin or pewter
tinkrus, tinkruus- tin cup
tintalerkener- tin or pewter plate
tragt- funnel
trefoder- tripod for placing cookware over a fire
tromle- barrel or drum
trug- trough
træ- wooden
træbismer- small portable wooden scale
trækar- wooden vessel
træskoe, træsko- wooden shoes
træhaver, træe haver- wooden extensions for wagon sides
trøje- sweater
tækkelad- a kind of wide ladder which can be hung below the roof thatching
tøj- clothes
tønde- barrel
tørklæde- head scarf
tørvespade- peat spade
ulmerdug, olmerdug- striped fabric made in Olmer, Germany
underkjole- petticoat
underdyne- type of quilt where a person lies on one side and covers themselves with the other side
ungsvin- young pig
vaar, vår- pillowcases
vadmel- homespun
vandspand- water bucket
vanter- mittens
vest- vest
vin- wine
vindovn- stove with combustion door facing the living room
vogn- wagon
vraaskab- corner cabinet
vugge- crib
væder, vædder- ram
vægge- wedge
ærmer- loose, dressy sleeves wgich were interchangable with different vests
øl, ølle- ale, beer
øl kande, ølkande- beer jug or pitcher
øltragt, ølle tragt- funnel for pouring beer into bottles
øreballie, ørebalje- wooden tub with ear-shaped handles
øxe, økse- ax

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