Poor in Denmark

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Background[edit | edit source]

There are many sources that tell about poor people's lives. In earlier times, particularly in the country, one can find these in the archives rectory, or præstegård. Look also in the county archives.

In 1708 it was decided that the deserving poor had the right to welfare in the parish where they lived, and the rectory (præstegård) was to have poor protocol and keep poor records. It was the diocesan authorities, who had oversight of the local poor districts. The poor received money for rent, clothing etc. The poor received food by begging, a right that was given to the "worthy poor".
For more information about beggars, see Forordning om Betlere i Danmark, 24. september 1708 - in Danish.

After 1734 it was the county magistrate overseeing the local poor districts. Therefore, material on the poor and the poor farms can also be found in the county archives. Use registrant tours enhance investor in Class A in registraturbiblioteket or leaflet registry in drawer cabinet at the instructions. You can also try one of deanery archives. In towns or cities, look in rådstuearkivet (city hall archive) - Class N. After 1869, search the borough municipal archive.

Marriage of the poor was often forbidden, as communities were concerned it may simply lead to more impoverished people.

After 1868 it is in the parish council archives - in municipal archives, where cases of poor relief can be found. If the file has not been returned, you must contact the municipality. One hint that somebody has been helping the poor, can be found for example in the censuses. It may be that a person is almisselem or benefiting from charity. Church books can also help. There may be something, for example, by a couple's marriage that one party has received poor relief, which has been repaid. If one were poor, one could not get married without asking the authorities.

The law that people receiving welfare benefits would obtain official permission to marry was repealed in 1961.

Poor and Foster Care Records in Copenhagen[edit | edit source]

Poor relief records (Fattighjælpprotokollerne) are an essential help in tracking families that may otherwise be lost from other records. These records run from 1799 to 1940 at the Københavns Stadsarkiv in Copenhagen. The poor records are available online.

When a family received poor relief they were given a so called “charity card” (almissekort) and a number. The number listed on the “charity card” is the number written next to the family in the poor records. When the individual or family stopped receiving support, the “charity card” was returned to the poor relief department and given to another family who needed relief. Along with the poor, these records also include information on foster children and the families that were taking care of them. These records are indexed alphabetically on index cards in the archive, and are available up to 75 years ago.

1799-1815, 1816-1857[edit | edit source]

The poor relief records began with the poor ordinance of 1799. With the new law, poor families were able to receive help from the state in obtaining food and paying the rent. Up until 1855 the records were entitled Mandtalsprotokoller. The earlier records have minimal information, usually recording just the head of household and information on him/her. Starting in 1816, more information, though still basic, is recorded about those receiving poor relief, including more members of the family.

1855-1915[edit | edit source]

In 1855, the poor records changed. The records were renamed to “charity records” (Almisseprotokoller), and detailed information was kept about each individual receiving support from the department. Also, more information about foster children was recorded, including where the child was sent for foster care.

The Records[edit | edit source]

The poor records contain a vast variety of information concerning the individual or family receiving support from the state. Information varies from year to year and record to record, but there is common information in all. Some of the information you may find in the poor relief records are:
-Birth date (from 1855) and place
-Occupation (from 1816 the records contain work ability)
-When the individual or family recieved either public or private support and for how long
-Marital status of women
-How long the family or indiviual has lived in Copenhagen
-and other miscellaneous information including remarks about the family

(These records are not available at the Family History Library)

Access[edit | edit source]

Online access to Poor Records, Copenhagen City Archives:

Online access to children in foster care, Copenhagen City Archives.

References[edit | edit source]