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Scandinavian Genealogical Research Center, Kim  Melchior

Scandinavian Genealogical Research Center


Usually when we speak about census records from Denmark, we say they start in 1787, which was the year the first census covering the whole country was completed. However, there are some examples of other censuses, which may only cover a smaller area such as a town or a very localized area . One of these censuses is from the island of Møn and was completed in 1644. It was to be used as a base for a head tax levied in 1645 for the whole island. Miraculously the census has survived for five out of the six parishes on the island, in addition to the actual tax lists.

The census has been hidden in obscurity for many years, collecting dust on the shelves of the National Archive in Copenhagen, Denmark. Only a handful of local researchers have been aware of its existence. Therefore, it has not been recognized and utilized as the great resource it is for the genealogists who are searching for their ancestors on Møn.

This is a very important Danish census because of the years covered. It goes hand in hand with the Lutheran church records from five of the six parishes on the island, which also began during the same time period, namely: Borre beginning in 1645, Elmelunde beginning in 1630, Keldby beginning in 1682, Magleby beginning in 1645 and Stege beginning in 1661.

This census has great genealogical value. While the tax lists basically only give names, there is a lot of additional information to be gleaned from the census. It lists whole family groups, with the information varying from parish to parish. Information such as names, ages and family relationships can be found for the majority of the households on Møn. Many of these families can be traced in the church registers from the island.

For example in the census for Borre parish, the names were listed for all residents of the parish along with their positions in the households. Ages were only listed for the children and servants, never for the head of household or his wife. In the census for Magleby the names were listed for the head of the household along with the names of the children and the servants, but the names of the wives were never recorded. The census of Fanefjord parish upon which the tax list was based did not survive. Only the tax list from this parish still exists. No children under the age of 15 are listed in the tax list, so we do not get a picture of complete families from this parish as we do from the rest of the parishes on the rest of the island.

Nobody knows exactly how many people were living on the island of Møn in 1644, but the census gives us a very good idea. There are a total of 1,581 people listed on the census records. They are distributed as follows:

1)Borre: 634 people
2)Elmelunde: 365 people
3)Fanefjord: (Taxlist) 415 people
4)Keldby: 505 people
5)Magleby: 740 people
6)Stege: 2,523 people

Not everyone in the parish was listed because the tax was not paid on everyone. There were some people who did not have to pay the head tax. An example of people who did not have to pay were some of the older inhabitants. They may or may not be listed in the census. It was totally up to the census taker (the minister of the parish) to decide who was to be included.

The following is an example of a family group taken from the original census of the village of Budsemarke in Magleby parish:

Peder Smed
His wife
Anna Pedersdatter 2 child
Kirsten Andersdatter 11 Stepdaughter

There is actually a lot more information than what initially meets the eye. Much can be inferred from the entry. We have the husband Peder Smed with his wife and their two children, one of which actually is a stepchild of Peder. The name of his wife is not given, but we can assume that she had been married before to a man named Anders. We come to this conclusion based on the information given about the older daughter Kirsten Andersdatter. The patronymic naming system was used in Denmark during this time period. This means that the surname of a man was created by adding a “sen” to the first name of his father. If it was the surname of a woman it would also be created from the first name of her father, but the word “datter” would be added rather than “sen.” So in this case Kirsten was literally the daughter of Anders. We can also assume that the marriage between Peder Smed and his wife took place sometimes between 1633 and 1642 based on the ages of the children in the family.

But it gets better than that. Because the church records for Magleby parish began in 1645 we do have the ability to glean additional information from this other source. By reading through the burial registers from 1645 forward, we find that Peder Smed from Budsemarke also was known as Peder Hansen Smed. We know this because that is how he was listed when he was buried. By doing a closer reading on the christening records for Magleby parish, and especially paying attention to the witnesses who were listed in connection with the christenings, we find that the wife of Peder Smed was Inger. Based on these findings we now have the enhanced entry:

Peder Hansen Smed - Husband
Inger - Wife
Anna Pedersdatter 2 Daughter
Kirsten Andersdatter 11 Stepdaughter

Now let us take a look at another family found in the census. This one selected from the village of Nyborre in Borre parish:

Mads Rasmussen - Husband
Thyra Hemmingsdatter - Wife
Hans Jensen 11 Stepson
Hemming Madsen 8 Son
Sidsel Madsdatter 10 Daughter
Bodil Madsdatter 3 Daughter

Here we have a family group consisting of husband, wife and four children including a stepson. Based on the given information we can assume that the wife probably had been married before. We know her first husband would have been named Jens, again based on the surname of the oldest child (Jensen, the son of Jens). We can also reason that her first husband died somewhere between 1632 and 1634 based on the ages of the two older children. Hans, the son of Jens being 11 years old and Sidsel, the daughter of Mads being 10 years old. We can deduct that Thyra Hemmingsdatter remarried very quickly after the death of Jens because Sidsel was born about one year after Hans was born. From the information listed above we can figure that Mads and Thyra got married somewhere around 1633/1634.

The parish registers for Borre parish began in 1645. By reading through the burial records from Borre parish register we find that Mads Rasmussen also was known as Mads Rasmussen Saxe because this is how he was listed at the time of his death and burial. His age was also listed at the time of his burial. By use of simple math we can now calculate how old he would have been in 1644. We can do the same for Thyra, because her age was also listed at her burial. Now we can compile the enhanced entry based on the known facts and information from other sources as:

Mads Rasmussen Saxe 30 Husband
Thyra Hemmingsdatter 41 Wife
Hans Jensen 11 Stepson
Hemming Madsen 8 Son
Sidsel Madsdatter 10 Daughter
Bodil Madsdatter 3 Daughter

The information from the census helped me add a new generation to my pedigree chart and also gave me the names of the siblings of Hemming. Before I found the 1645 tax list all I knew was that Hemming was born about 1636 based on his age at death. I knew his father's name was Mads, but I did not know which one of several men named Mads, who were living in Borre parish during this time period, was his father. I was also able to establish that Thyra Hemmingsdatter had been married to a man named Jens before she married Mads Rasmussen.

Continued ...

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