Denmark Social Life and Customs

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Effective family research requires some understanding of the society in which your ancestor lived. Learning about everyday life, religious practices, customs, and traditions will help you appreciate your ancestor and the time he or she lived in. This information is particularly helpful if you choose to write your family's history. Research procedures and genealogical sources are different for each area and time period, and they are affected by the local customs and traditions.

For example, infant mortality rate was high in most areas before the twentieth century. Families were large, but many children died young. Adults also had shorter average lifespans than they do today, so it is necessary to search death records to get a complete picture of a family.

It was also common for young people to leave home at about the age of confirmation (ages 14 to 16) to earn their own living or prepare themselves to do so. A young boy might sign a contract for apprenticeship for a period of four to seven years to learn a trade such as shoemaking, tailoring, or ropemaking. A young girl might become a servant in a well-to-do household or live with relatives to learn housekeeping.

The birth of illegitimate children was not uncommon. One reason may be that it was hard for the parents to find a place where they could live together and the husband could support a family.

The patronymic naming system was commonly used in Denmark. To learn more about this custom, see the "Names, Personal" section of this outline.

The Family History Library has collected a few sources that discuss a variety of subjects related to the social life and customs in Denmark. These records are listed in the catalog under:



The following is a good book describing Danish social life and customs:

MacHaffie, Ingeborg S., and Margaret A. Nielsen. Of Danish Ways. Minneapolis: Dillion Press, 1976. (FHL 948.9 E6m.)