Friday, November 18, 2016

Furthering Danish Ancestry Research

Copenhagen Police Records of Emigrants
You’ve reached a brickwall in your Danish research, because the names are so similar. This is where genealogy becomes hard. What were our ancestors thinking? Sarcasm: Did our Denmark ancestors have only a limited pool of names to choose from?   

How can you determine which “Cathrine [aka Catharina] Nielsen” is yours?  You have an approximate birthdate, and maybe even a place of origin or immigration date from various sources - census records, death record, children’s death records, etc.  But, there are too many Cathrine Nielsen options on the shipping manifests.  What to do next?

Have you tried the Copenhagen Police Records of Emigrants?

What are Copenhagen Police Records of Emigrants?
The Copenhagen Chief of Police approved and monitored all emigration agents in Denmark and authorized all overseas tickets for Denmark passengers traveling directly from Copenhagen to the United States or indirectly via another European harbor for destinations overseas. These records are stored in the Dansk Data Arkiv.

Emigration lists were compiled by the Copenhagen Police from 1869 to 1940. The lists resulted in 394,000 emigrants being recorded and give the name, last residence, age, year of emigration and first destination of the emigrant from Denmark during those years. So gather all the information you can from the USA records, and now it’s time to be patient and begin collaborating data.

Step 1 Denmark, Emigration Index
Begin with Denmark, Emigration Index, 1868-1908. This third party database abstracts data from the Dansk Demografisk Database . You can find this information also in Dutch on the Data Arkiv Emigration Database

Nielsen, Cathrine
Contract no.:
Registration date:
Birth place:
Birth place:
Last res. parish:
Last res. county:
Last residence:
Destination country:
Destination city:
New York City
Destination state:
New York State
Name of ship:

Tips: Check parish information, occupation, age above.  Our example only mentions occupation as Jomfru (“virgin/single woman”), but it does provide us with her age allowing us to estimate her year of birth, and last resident. Often researchers will find a birth place that will lead us to easily verifying the correct person.

It is possible you don’t have the birth place, but you may have verified a residence in the US records.  Either way, the next step is to find out ship information.  
Step 2 Ship Research
Each traveler recorded has the name of the ship. You will want to extract all possible ship records. This Catherine Nielsen travelled 17 Jul 1889 on the Thingvalla, Norway Heritage Ship Lines.  This ship most often began voyage from Copenhagen. Ship information can be found on the Norway Heritage website.  

Step 3 Contract Number and Ledger
With a list of ancestors that meet your qualifications, it’s time to work.  I gathered 4 Cathrine Nielsen’s that were possible candidates. Again, in this case, I needed two research questions answered.  My abbreviated research questions were 1) Who were the relatives of  my Cathrine Nielsen? 2) From which parish can I find more information for my Cathrine Nielsen.

The key to confirming my Cathrine Nielsen was via identifying her travelling companions.  Who travelled with her helped identify her USA family group and determine their first point of entry. The Danish parish allowed me to narrow additional archives available for research.

So you will want to take special note of the Contract Number specified on the Denmark, Emigration Index, 1868-1908. Often it leads you to the birth place or at least the last parish/residence. Plus, the Contract Number and the ID Code will lead the clerk at the Police Archives to the original copies.

Contract no.:

Researchers can contact the Dansk Data Arkiv and request an original copy of the ledger: Write to:

More Information: Dansk Demografisk Database
For more information, visit Using the Danish Demographic Database for an overview (in English) of other databases that may assist you with your Danish research.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers