Deciphering a handwritten place name can be a challenge, especially if it is a place in a country with another language. "Krabsens stednavnebase" (Krabsen's place name database) is one of my preferred tools for looking up Danish place names because it is a user-friendly website – even if you don't know Danish.
The image above shows a part of the landing page. Two search methods are offered:
- Stednavn – Search for a place name
- Sogn – All place names within a parish
In this tutorial, we will use a birth record from Hellevad Parish in Hjørring County as an example.1 The image at top of the post shows a part of the record (child no. 4) where the last word is the place name used in the example. We assume that we are looking for a place name in Hellevad Parish because that's the parish which created the record.2 You might be able to read it already, but I encourage you to keep reading anyway. This post is not about that place, but about the database which is a useful tool for anyone doing Denmark genealogy.
Method One: Search For a Place Name
On the landing page, click the word Stednavn to go to the search page for method one, where you search for a place name.
Below the search box, select either Kun denne stavemåde (only this spelling) or Med 'jokertegn' før og efter (with a wildcard before and after). The former is selected by default, and that is the one I use most often.
You can use these wildcards in the search term:
% (percent) Replaces one or more characters
_ (underscore) Replaces one character only
To search, type the search term in the box and hit enter or click the button labelled Søg (search). You can reset the form by clicking the button Nulstil søgefelt.
If we are trying to figure out where in Hellevad Parish the child Kresten lived, we can search in various ways depending on which letters we can read before doing the search. Here are four examples of how to use the wildcards to find Kresten's birthplace:
- You can use both wildcards within the place name. Imagine that we were able to read the first letter K, the third to last letter o, and the last letter m. Then we could search for K%o_m to show all places beginning with a K and ending in three letters which are an o, an unknown letter, and lastly am m.
- You can use one of the wildcards at the beginning of the place name. If we were able to read the first three letters Kat, we could search for Kat% to show all places beginning with Kat.
- You can use one of the wildcards at the end of the place name. If we could read the last four letters, we could search for %holm to show all places ending in holm.
- You can use only one of the wildcards within the place name. If we could read the beginning letter K and the ending letter m, we could search for K%m to show all places beginning with a k and ending in an m.
The last example gives us 195 results, and that may seem unsurmountable, but you can sort the list alphabetically by parish (sogn), district (herred), or county (Gl. amt før 1970) by clicking the small arrow below the place type you want to sort by. The up-arrow sorts the list in ascending order, and the down-arrow in descending order. Try sorting the results by parish and scroll down to Hellevad. There you should only see four results, and then you can evaluate each of them to see which one matches the place in the record.
Method Two: All Place Names Within a Parish
I always use this method when I know the name of the parish. The spelling of place names varies over time and from record to record. Using the first method might not produce a result because the database does not contain variant spellings but then search method two is useful.
Go back to the landing page by clicking the database name "Krabsens stednavnebase" in the upper left-hand corner. Click on the word Sogn to go to the search page for the second method, where you retrieve a list of all place names within a parish.
Write the name of the parish in the search box and hit enter or click the Søg button to show a list of all place names within that parish. If you search for Hellevad, you will get a list of 179 results, but not all of them are for Hellevad Parish in Hjørring County. Some parish names, such as Hellevad, are used more than once in Denmark. Then you can sort the list of results by county or district to find the parish which is relevant for your search. Ater sorting it, you can examine the list of search results to find the one that fits the place in the birth record.
Final Tips for Searching Krabsen's Place Name Database
If you are looking for a place name with one of the special Danish characters æ, ø, or å, and you do not know how to type that character, replace the character with the underscore wildcard. Å can be replaced by aa if you prefer that.
Before spelling was standardized, some letters were used interchangeably, and the search engine automatically takes some of these variations into account:
- If you search for a place beginning with a C, the results automatically include places beginning with a K.
- If you search for a place beginning with a W, the results automatically include places beginning with a V.
- If you search for a place beginning with or containing aa, the results automatically include places beginning with or containing the Danish letter å.
You cannot save a search result by copying the link so be sure to make a note of the search method, the search term, and the results.
The database is an index, and although Gert Krabsen undoubtedly did his best when he made it, it may contain errors. Beware of that when you use the database, so you don't draw the wrong conclusion.
Screenshots from the website http://www.krabsen.dk/stednavnebase were used after permission from Gert Krabsen.
- Hellevad Parish (Hjørring County), Parish Register 1815-1832, clerk's copy, Fødte Mandkiøn [Male Births], p. 7, 1818, no. 4; image copy, The Danish National Archives, Arkivalieronline (https://www.sa.dk/ao-soegesider/da/billedviser?bsid=410804#410804,75930037 : accessed 10 October 2022).
- In rare cases, the recorded place name is not a place in the parish which created the record. However, for this tutorial, we will assume that the child in the example lived somewhere in Hellevad.