In order to find a person, you must have some basic information, like full name, date and place of birth, marriage or death or an exact address in a year with a census.
What You Need To know Before You Start
It would be almost impossible to find a great-grandmother for instance, if all you knew was her name, and that she came from Denmark. Our records come from hundreds of local agencies, and there is no huge index or computer file that covers all of them.
In order to find a person, you must have some basic information. Otherwise, you will not know in which records to look for him or her. Information to get you started could be:
* Full name
* plus either
* Date and place of birth, marriage or death or
* An exact address in a year with a census.
Things That Could Give You A Clue…
If you only have scanty information about your ancestors, the first thing to do would naturally be to ask elderly relatives or friends what they remember. Make notes of names, places and dates, although they may not be totally accurate. If there are none left to ask, you may find valuable clues in for instance:
* Certifcates of birth, death, etc. – bring copies if you come to the archives
* Old letters – look for names, places, etc.
* Envelopes – look for addresses and postal stamps.
* Photos – look for photographer´s address, it may be a clue.
Beware Of Family Myths
Most families have various stories about their past. Such traditions can have lots of valuable information – but beware!
Family tradition is – as oral tradition in general – often colourful and vivid, and tends to concentrate on the exciting things, that made this particular family something special.
Not all stories are reliable, and it happens frequently that an alleged illegitimate daugther af a local count will end up with parents who are smallholders or farmers – but not necessarily less interesting!
Beware Of Suspicious Names And Places
From parents or grandparents you might have been given names of various ancestors. You might also have been told where they came from, or where they lived. Such information is not always 100% correct.
Please remember that many emigrants changed their names. Maybe friends and authorities in the new country had difficulties spelling or pronouncing the original name. Or maybe the emigrant just wanted to change name in order to “blend in”.
Places of origin that you have been told about might also be slightly wrong. Many mistakes, misspellings etc. can have occurred during the trip across the Atlantic.
If an emigrant was asked “where she came from”, she might not give her place of birth, but instead the name of a city or village, that was her last residence before leaving. And if she lived in the vicinity of a market town or larger city, she might give the name of this – to her – more dominant landmark. And so, “Marie Jensen” from the suburb of Valby might quickly end up as “Mary Johnson from Copenhagen”.