Vaccinations in Denmark

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Overview[edit | edit source]

Smallpox has historically been one of the worst killers of humanity. In the 18th century, smallpox was a leading cause of death in Europe and killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year. Although there were some earlier procedures done to help prevent smallpox, the real breakthrough was discovered by an English doctor named Edward Jenner in 1796. Jenner proved that milkmaids who had been exposed to cowpox did not contract smallpox and on 14 May 1796 successfully vaccinated an 8 year-old boy named James Phipps. The vaccination reached Denmark in 1801 when Frederick Christian Winsløw received the vaccine directly from Denmark. Around the same time, Denmark was hit by a severe smallpox epidemic and on 4 March 1810 a law was passed that required all persons to become vaccinated unless they had had smallpox naturally. A subject's vaccination information would be recorded in both the parish records created by the priest as well as in the medical records by the district doctor. Both are of value to the genealogist.

Vaccination Information Recorded by the Parish[edit | edit source]

Starting in 1812-1814 (depending on the parish) Danish priest's began using standardized forms. As vaccination was required before a child could be confirmed, the form for the confirmation records provided a column in which the child's vaccination information was to be recorded. Additionally, a person's date of vaccination may sometimes be recorded on any moving on or out records pertinent to them. The vaccination date can therefore be used to confirm that two sources are indeed for the same individual.

Vaccinations Information Recorded by the Medical District[edit | edit source]

Due to the seriousness of the smallpox disease, the 1810 law required that district doctors keep protocol lists of all those who had been vaccinated. As vaccination had reached Denmark by 1801, some of these protocols begin as early as 1802, but the majority begin when they were legally required in 1810. These lists record each person’s name, age, residence, and the name of their father. Because these lists were created and stored by a separate entity from the parish, they are especially useful to those researching in places where the parish records prior to 1812-1814 are missing. The protocols can act as a substitute to the birth records in these cases. By 1811 most people were being vaccinated as small children, but in 1810 it was common for children as old as 8 to get vaccinated and some of the people on the list are even in their twenties since anyone who had never contracted smallpox was supposed to get vaccinated. Because of this, the vaccination protocols and especially the ones for the first year in 1810 are a great source to identify missing children who were born after the 1801 census but before the parish records begin. While other sources can and should also be used to supplement missing parish registers, the vaccination protocols are unique because of their near universal coverage. All children regardless of their sex, rank, or social status were to be vaccinated unless they had already contracted natural smallpox. If a couple living in a place without parish records had a daughter who was born after 1801 but died before 1812, the vaccinationprotokols recorded by the medical district may well be the only source of their existence on this earth.

Accessing the Medical District's Records[edit | edit source]

Except for Jutland, the vaccination lists are viewable online. To find them, go to the Family History Library catalog, click on the “Keywords” search term and type in “vaccinationsprotokol.” These should bring up the majority of them, but the protocols for Fyn have been cataloged under the plural form “vaccinationsprotokoller” and all the medical districts for Odense county have been lumped into one collection while all of them for Svendborg county have been lumped into another. To find the lists, you can also click on the following hyperlinks:

Unfortunately, the Family History Library does not have these records for Jutland, but they can be located in the Danish State Archives using their search engine Daisy.