Dansk Data Arkiv

Probate Index: Thisted, Viborg, Aalborg, & Randers Counties

This article is to give a summary of who created this index and how this project came to be.

Over a period of about 20 years many volunteers in Utah helped to create some genealogy aids for Danish probate records. These volunteers were mostly older, retired Scandinavians. They were not always experts on reading old Danish handwriting and there are mistakes in their work. Since probate records are particularly difficult for people without Danish language skills and are extremely valuable for genealogy research, these volunteers who could read Danish hoped to help others by creating indexes and extracts to these records.

This group of volunteers started two projects dealing with probates:

  1. They created extracts of probate records for parishes in each county of Denmark where the original church records had burned about 1750-1814 and there were no early church records. This was a way of making substitute records that could be used.

  2. They started a general index of all probate records for each county in Denmark. The most difficult part of doing research in Danish probate records is identifying which probate jurisdiction to try. There were often four or five estates, as well as other jurisdictions (cavalry, hospital, cloister, county, district) that may have kept probates in a particular parish. It is often difficult to identify which of these need to be searched and to make sure every possibility was covered. By making a composite index of each of the probate books for a county, one would only have one source to look at instead of 5-10 different sources.

The first project was finished and resulted in published volumes for each county of Denmark. Unfortunately these are not in electronic format, but hopefully in the future they can be digitized and made available on the Internet. In the meantime they are available on microfilm through the Family History Library or Family History Centers. I do have a list of all the parishes and probate jurisdictions that were extracted as part of this project which I will try to put on the Internet soon.

The second project was to complete a composite index to all the probate records for each county. The first county that was done was Hjørring County. This project was completed and the result is found on the films FHL #1145509-1145519. These records were done on cards.

The next county was Ålborg county, which was done on an old Tartan system computer. It was possible to convert these files to our present system through the help of Jed Allen. The format for the Ålborg county database was a little different than the next three counties. The main difference is that when a surname was given besides a patronymic name, two entries were made in the database, one for each surname. This made the Ålborg database bigger than the other subsequent counties and also makes it look like some entries are duplicated in the index.

The Ålborg county index and the next three counties: Viborg, Thisted, and Randers were all for the most part completed and prepared in electronic format. This project took a lot of time. The counties of Århus and Skanderborg were also started and included about 150 films to be indexed, but the managers at the Family History Library decided there would be no more work on indexing projects. David Otteson, who had supervised and been involved with this project longer than anyone else decided to continue to work on those films after his retirement in 1998. At that time the four counties that had been completed were turned over to me.

Over the space of two years several inquiries and attempts were made to convert the data in this index to microfiche cards so they could be made available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. There was no funding available, but if I wanted to pay out of my own pocket, they might reimburse me. Without better computer expertise it would cost quite a bit to have the data converted to microfiche cards. Instead I decided to pay a friend (Richard Hansen) to create a search engine and post the information on the Internet. That way it would be able to help more people and at the same time save me some money.

Since I really believe this database can help a lot of people, it seemed more beneficial to have it posted with other Danish databases where it will be easy to find and search for people doing genealogical research. I have therefore contributed this database to the DDD to be added along with their databases on census, emigration, and dannebrogsmend, where it can be of most help to genealogists. In doing this I am hoping the sacrifice of time that many volunteers made over several years will finally be able to do what they intended. This is dedicated to their hard work. Hopefully someday similar indexes or a project to do the other counties of Denmark will also be done. 

There is also another possibility. A copy of this database was also given to the digitizing team at the Family History Library. It should be possible to link this index to thousand films that were indexed so that a person could do a search and from the index go to the image of the original probate. That way you could look at the original probate records in your own home over the Internet and be able to search these images with this wonderful index. In order to do that, they would need permission of the Danish archives to digitize the original probate records, but this is not a difficult task. They are doing several similar projects. Hopefully this possibility will be available in the future either through the Family History Library, the Danish National Archives, or a private group like Ancestry.com. 

In the meantime, at least this index will be able to help those doing research in these counties. The part I am most excited about is to be able to search by town name and be able to sort things on different levels. Play with it, have fun, and good luck with your family research endeavors!

Gary T. Horlacher

Some other things to be aware of:

  • There may be mistakes. These were done by many different volunteers over many years. Each volunteer had different abilities and experience with Danish language and the old style handwriting.
  • They did not have access to the letters Æ, Ø, Å, in the old days on their computers. If you are looking for a place name or given name with these letters in them, you may wish to try different possibilities and keep an open mind.
  • They often write names of places and people how they appeared in the record and not in their standard modern spelling. Try alternate spellings if you can or truncate the word so that various possibilities show up.
  • Some of these jurisdictions overlap county borders.
  • There is a lot of information in the original source. If you find a record, please go to the original probate to find a list of heirs, where they live, etc.