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Retsbetjent meant Court Officer - Danish Genealogy Words

Lene Dræby Kottal
Retsbetjent meant Court Officer - Danish Genealogy Words

The Danish word retsbetjent meant court officer aka bailiff. Today retsbetjent means officer of the court. In this post, I am discussing the obsolete meaning of the word because that is more relevant for genealogists.

Retsbetjent was the generic term for a court officer. Court officers had specific titles depending on the level of jurisdiction:

  • Byfoged means town bailiff. Byfogeden was the court officer in a market town such as Faaborg Købstad.
  • Herredsfoged means district bailiff. Herredsfogeden was the court officer for a district such as Hatting Herred.
  • Birkefoged aka birkedommer means birch bailiff or judge. Birkedommeren was the court officer of a birch such as Riberhus Birk.

Retsbetjente had a variety of tasks, such as police officer, local judge, and tasks like those of today's mayor. Retsbetjente referred to amtmanden (the chief county administrator).

Source Reference:
The image at the top is a photograph of District Bailiff Andreas Peter Friderik Buchwald, see "Digital collections," database with images, The Danish Royal Library (https://www5.kb.dk/images/billed/2010/okt/billeder/object447242/en : accessed 18 April 2022), entry for "Andreas Peter Friderik Buchwald" by J. W. Lund. The image is public domain.

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