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Danish Military Leyving Rolls: The Earliest Rolls from about 1788

Lene Dræby Kottal
Danish Military Leyving Rolls: The Earliest Rolls from about 1788

The first Sunday of Advent 2018 has finally come, and I am excited to start my series about the Danish military levying rolls. The index of the 1787 census of Herlufmagle Parish shows the twenty-one-year-old Mads Jensen, son of Jens Madsen,1 but the writing in the original record is unclear. Can the military levying rolls be used as evidence for the name of this young man?

Danish military levying rolls (Danish: lægdsruller) are lists of males, who could be enlisted for military service. A key word here is “could,” because not all the males in these lists were enlisted, but they could be. Therefore, the military levying rolls are a kind of census of all males eligible for enlistment.

From 1788 to 1849 a father’s social class defined whether his sons had military obligation. Sons of fathers who belonged to the peasantry class, had military obligation, even if the sons were born in a market town. A person, who had military obligation is called a værnepligtig.

Before 1849, the military division of Denmark was based on the counties, which were subdivided into lægder, military levying areas. Each lægd had a number and most often covered the same area as a parish.

To find a værnepligtig person’s first registration in the military levying rolls, you need to know the following:

  • Year of registration
  • Residence at the time of registration
  • Number of the lægd and name of the county

Year of registration in the Danish military levying rolls

The age of registration varied over time. Before 1849, værnepligtige persons were registered immediately after their birth. When the system was taken into use in 1788, all værnepligtige males were registered. From 1788 to 1802 a person was værnepligtig until the age of thirty-six, which means that males born before 1752 were not listed in the rolls in 1788, because they were not værnepligtige.

In some lægder the first roll is not from 1788, but from 1789 or the early 1790s. Mads Jensen mentioned above was twety-one years old in 1787, so he was born about 1766. His father was a farmer, so Mads therefore ought to be listed in the first roll from about 1788.

Residence at the time of registration

Mads Jensen lived in Herlufmagle Parish, Tybjerg Hundred, Præstø County in July 1787. He may have left Herlufmagle before his first registration in the military levying rolls, but not having any evidence of that we will base our search on the theory that he resided in Herlusmagle at his first registration.

Number of the lægd and name of the county

The parish registers are categorized per the 1793 county names. Before 1793 there were more counties and to find the right military levying roll, you need to know the name of the county at that time. Luckily the Danish National Archives has a booklet with an overview of the county and lægd number for each parish over time. You can see and download the booklet here: https://www.sa.dk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Sognefortegnelse-oversigt-over-laegdsnumre-i-sognene.pdf

The parishes are listed alphabetically in the booklet. Look up the relevant parish to find the needed information. For Herlufmagle Parish, the listing is as shown below.

The listing shows that the first roll covering Herlufmagle was from 1791 and belonged to Vordingborg County, lægd number seven.

Looking up a person in the military levying rolls

Now we have identified the needed information and we can look up Mads Jensen in the military levying rolls. I prefer accessing the rolls at the Sall Data website, which mirrors the images from the Danish National Archives. Access the site at http://ao.salldata.dk and start by choosing the type named Lægdsruller. In the second dropdown menu, choose the county (Danish: amt) named Vordingborg. In the third dropdown menu, choose the year 1791. A list of rolls from that year is then shown, as below.

Open the scan by clicking the small grey icon in the overview next to the word Hovedrulle, which means main roll. Within the record book, the lægder are arranged in numerical order. Find the first page of lægd number seven by going through the images. I found that lægd number seven begins at image 31.

To find Mads Jensen, you must read through all the names, because they were not listed in any specific order. Notice that some names are preceded by a dash rather than an entry number. These lines list the name of the father of those who are listed below. I found Mads Jensen at image 41. If you jump to that image, the way of registration in this first roll from that lægd becomes clearer. Entries 232 to 235 are all listed below the father named Jens Madsen.2 By correlating with the information from the 1787 census, we can conclude that this is the same family.

  • Hans, 13 years old in the 1787 census, 17 years old in the 1791 roll (entry 232)
  • Mads, 21 years old in the 1787 census, 25 years old in the 1791 roll (entry 233)
  • Rasmus, 7 years old in the 1787 census, 11 years old in the 1791 roll (entry 234)
  • Jørgen, 4 years old in the 1787 census, 8 years old in the 1791 roll (entry 235)

The name of the oldest child of this family living at home at the 1787 census was therefore Mads, and the index of the census is correct.

The information in the Danish military levying rolls are most often used as evidence for birth, marriage, death and relationship between father and son. In fact, they most often give very little information about a person’s military career.


Source references:

  1. Herlufmagle Sogn [parish], Tybjerg Herred [hundred], Præstø amt [county], Denmark, Folketællinger [census records], 1787, page 273, dwelling 41; digital images, Sall Data (http://ao.salldata.dk/vis1.php?bsid=532&side=6 : accessed 30 November 2018).
  2. Vordingborg Amt, Lægdsruller, 1791, Lægd 7, entries 232-235; digital images, Sall Data (http://ao.salldata.dk/vis1.php?bsid=17264&side=41 : accessed 30 November 2018).