Denmark: Birth / Christening Records

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Finding the birth / christening date and location of your Danish ancestor is vital to your family history research. A birth / christening record will help you know where the individual was born based on the residence of the parents at the time. The amount of information you find in the birth / christening record depends on the time period, and the record keeping habits of the parish priest, or clerk. You will find your ancestor’s birth / christening entry in the parish records of the parish where the birth / christening took place.

Background[edit | edit source]

On May 20, 1645 King Christian IV sent a resolution to the bishop of Sjælland stating among other things that a church book needed to be kept for each parish within the diocese. The book should record the day and date of when births took place (with the names of the witnesses), along with marriage and death information. A year later the resolution was sent to the bishops of Jylland, Skåne, and Fyn. The resolutions were formalized and the practice tightened with the Danske Lov of 1683. It can be said that all the Danish parishes had a designated church record by the mid to late 1600’s. The question is “when do the parish registers begin for the parish you need”? Many of the early parish registers didn’t survive due to fires, war, misplacement, or physical decay due to water, mold, or mice.

Another resolution was issued in 1812 that required a parish to maintain 2 books, 1 kept by the parish priest (Ministerialbog), and the 2nd by the parish clerk (Kontra-ministerialbog). By law the 2 books could not be stored in the same building (as prevention against loss by fire). The resolution also required a physical formatting of the parish registers. The registers were not standardized throughout the kingdom, but the format of record keeping was organized into registers with columns. The majority of parishes began keeping 2 books and using register formats by 1814 or 1815.

Here is an overview of dates affecting the parish registers.

1645 Resolution by the King to begin recording Births / Christenings to Bishop of Sjælland.

1683 Christian V Danske Lov tightened the record keeping practices.

1812 Resolution that each parish needed 2 separate parish registers. There is a rough standardization to use registers with columns and column headings.

1822 Emphasis on recording when a person moved in or out of the parish.

1828 An ordinance was passed stating that the child’s given and last name needed to be included with the christening entry.

1832 The introduction of Skudsmål books (a workers occupational references) supported the need for the moving in and out records to be better kept.

1844 In cases where the child was born out of wedlock, there should be a note stating where the mother was residing 10 months prior to the birth.

1854 tyendeloven

1875 People could report to the sognefogederne when moving. Many parishes discontinue keeping a moving in or out record.

1891 Revision to modernize the parish record formatting. The parish records are standardized throughout the entire kingdom.

1968 The Danish Luthran State Church uses the Centralt Person Register (CPR) database to record births, marriages, and deaths. The CPR doesn’t include marriages that are performed civilly.

1998 The Kirkeministeriet (Government Ministry of the Danish State Church) began a digital church book to record births, marriages, and deaths in the Den Ny Kirkebog (DNK).

What will you typically find?[edit | edit source]

Birth / Christening Records Pre-1814[edit | edit source]

You will always get:

  • Name of the child.
  • Father’s name (maybe the Mother’s name).
  • Location of the parents’ residence.
  • Information about the Fathers occupation.
  • Name of said to be Father (if child is illegitimate).
  • Name of the person (almost always a woman) who held the child over the baptismal font.
  • Names of the witnesses to the christening (godparents).
  • Date of the Mothers introduction (reintroduction to society).
  • Maybe other clues related to the people involved, such as the mother’s age or information related to the pregnancy.

Birth / Christening Records 1814 – 1890[edit | edit source]

  • Name of the child.
  • Father’s and Mother’s name.
  • Information about the Fathers occupation.
  • Name of said to be Father (if child is illegitimate).
  • Name of the person (almost always a woman) who held the child over the baptismal font.
  • Location of the parents’ residence.
  • Names of the witnesses to the christening (godparents).
  • Maybe other clues related to the people involved, such as the mother’s age or information related to the pregnancy.
  • Small pox vaccination information.
  • Reference to the General index (jævnførelsesregisteret).

Birth / Christening Records 1890[edit | edit source]

Tips[edit | edit source]

  • If you don't know where the birth took place, look for “birthplace” in other sources such as Censuses (after 1845), or the Military Levying Rolls (after about 1790) for clues to the location.
  • If you do not have an alternate record that states “birthplace”, you need to follow the individual through their life cycle going back in time within the records. For example:
  1. -Find the death / burial record.
  2. -Find the christenings of their children (to establish place and location).
  3. -Find the marriage and engagement (engagements pre-1800) record.
  4. -Find the confirmation (when the individual was about 14 – 19 years old).
  5. -Look for clues along the way that may lead you to the birth location for your ancestor.
  • The Hovedministerialbog (the book kept by the Parish Priest) is sent to the regional archive after the book is 100 years old.
  • All Kontraministerial books have been turned over to the regional archives.

For more information about illegitimate births, see the article Paternity Cases in Denmark.
For more information about adoption, see the article Adoption in Denmark.

References[edit | edit source]

1. Worsøe, Hans H. Slægts Historie. Denmark: Politikens Forlag, 2005

See examples of Danish Birth / Christening Records at Denmark: Handwriting Examples