From 1645, pastors across Denmark were obliged under law to keep registers of vital events amongst their congregation. Included in the events recorded were baptisms, confirmations, marriages, burials and lists of people moving in and out of different parishes. The official Church of Denmark is Evangelical Lutheran.
From 1812 onwards, pastors were instructed to keep two separate registers and record every event twice. The registers were to be kept in separate locations, and as a result, nearly all parishes across Denmark have complete parish registers. Additionally, in 1812, parish registers were much more uniform and standardised across the country. This collection includes images and records from Kontraministerialbog, the alternative registers created by pastors.
Until about 1850 to 1870, most ordinary people used patronymics instead of surnames. Patronymics are constructed from the Christian name of a person’s father, followed by “sen” (= son) or “datter” (= daughter). So, for example, Jens Nielsen’s daughter Maren’s full name would be “Maren Jensdatter”, and his son Søren would be “Søren Jensen”.
Patronymics were legally abolished in 1826 since authorities wanted people to use family surnames instead. Nonetheless, it took several decades before patronymics stopped being used. For any person born in Denmark from about 1826-1870, it is impossible to be sure whether their last name is a patronymic or a family surname unless, of course, you already know the name of that person’s parents.
Children were generally christened within a few days of birth and the records often include information such as status of legitimacy and father's occupation.
Starting in 1736, the Danish church introduced a requirement that all young people be confirmed in the Lutheran church. This usually took place between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. You can often find the date of baptism as well.
Marriage records often included the status of the bride and groom, in other words, whether they had been widowed or were single. Marriages usually took place in the parish of the bride's family.
Burial usually took place shortly after death. Sometimes, they listed the deceased's birth date and parents as well.
Arrivals and Departures
These records provide details of individuals arriving at or leaving a parish, together with their intended or previous residence.
The Parish Register will provide information regarding anyone who was born/baptized, confirmed, married or died/buried in that particular parish.
You may be able to find the following information (where available):
- Date of Birth
- Baptism Date
- Confirmation Date
- Date of Marriage
- Date of Departure (from parish)
- Date of Arrival (to parish)
- Date of Death
- Date of Burial
You can find more information about this and further Danish collections held at the Danish National Archives on this page.
Updates: January 2020: Added new indexes and images pre-1892 for regions across Denmark.