Pt 2 Researching Danish Family History from Christening

Denmark: Using Witnesses to Find the Next Generation

Sønder Felding

Denmark Gotoarrow.pngWitness Research

Sometimes, finding the next generation can be very difficult. Depending on the circumstances, witness research can be a vital strategy in overcoming the brick wall. The majority of witnesses at a christening are usually some sort of relative of the parents. Witness research is, in a way, a back door for finding the next generation. Follow these steps for conducting witness research.

What Do You Know

 Part 1 of this post is found here

The first step in witness research is to determine what you already know. Before beginning research, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What information do I have? How accurate is that information?
  2. Are there any living relatives that would already have the information?
  3. Are there secondary sources (such as online Family Trees and Biographies) that would have the information? What have others found?

Whatever information you find, make sure to document where you found that information. Also, make sure to determine whether the information found is merely family hearsay or if it came from original records.

Compiled sources are a great place to start for finding a birth date.Biographies, Genealogies, and Periodicals are just a few of the compiled sources available. Although these records are secondary, they are usually well documented. The information in these sources should be sourced well enough that you could find the original record if you wanted to.

Step 2: Gather Christenings of All Children

Once you know what has been done, the next step is gathering christening records. Let’s say you have Father A and Mother B, and you are trying to find the parents of Father A. The first step you need to do is gather the christening records of every child of the couple. On the christening records is the witnesses that will be needed for witness research. You want to gather the christening records of every child because each child will have different (and similar) witnesses along with different information about each witness.

Step 3: Extract Information

The third step is to extract the information found on each christening record. This includes:

  1. The name of each witnesses (even if it says Lars Larsen’s wife),
  2. The place of residence of each witness
  3. Any descriptive information that may be list (such as occupation, titles, relations, etc.)
  4. Make a note as to which christening record the witness was found in and the year of the record
  5. Any other information that may be listed.
A good note of advice is to put all of this information into a table. Tables are great for making analysis easier. See Case Study 1 for a good example of Table analysis

Step 4: Analyze

Once you have extracted all of the information, analyze what you have found.

  • Does any of the witnesses have the same surname as Father A?
  • Does any of the witnesses show up in multiple christenings records?
  • Are there any key words given (such as faster = father’s sister, Mandens moder = the man’s mother, etc.)
  • Do the majority of the witnesses come from the same village?

As you analyze the information, you will notice clues that may either be the parents of Father A or some other relative.

Step 5: Research the Witnesses

The final step is to research the witnesses that you deem to be possible relatives. One of the quickest ways to begin the research is to find the witness in the nearest census. This step may take a while but it always pays off in the end.

Step 6: What Records Can I Use in Witness Research?

Many Danish records are available online. See the Danish Research Websites for links to the different websites
  1. Church Records: In order to do witness research, you will need to use the Danish national church records. Nearly all of the Danish church records have been digitized and made available online for free. See the article Digitized Danish Records Online – Arkivalieronline.
  2. Censuses: Use Censuses to discover who each witness may be. Censuses not only give a picture of the family as it was at the time the census was taken, but also provides information about where they lived in the city.
  3. Probates: Usually, after a person died, a probate was conducted in order to pay the deceased’s debts and distribute what’s left to the inheritors. these records will usually list when the deceased passed away. If not, usually the probate date is close to the death date.
  4. Civil Registration: Although civil registration did not become a major record source until the 20th century, and was only available in a few areas of Denmark, they are a very useful record. Often the civil registration records will contain more information than the church records, on the deceased individual.

If you still cannot find your ancestor in the city try the following records:

  1. Court Records: there are many different court records and they may not necessarily record vital information, but they can give clues. For example, if the ancestor was murdered, there may be a court proceeding that records the circumstances surrounding the death.

Step 7: What’s next?

If you need additional guidance, consult some of these other strategies:

   How to Find Information for Danish Ancestors
1. Getting Started
2. Birth Information
3. Marriage Information
4. Death Information
5. Place of Origin in Denmark
6. Moving within Denmark
7. Emigration information
8. Immigration information
9. Using witnesses to find the next generation
10. Families in Sønderjylland (Southern Denmark)
11. City People and Research
12. Miscellanious