Theories Are a Part of My Genealogical Research Planning Process

Theories Are a Part of My Genealogical Research Planning Process

Most family historians formulate theories during the research process, either consciously or subconsciously. I write down any theories as a part of my research to make the foundation of the research plan clear to myself and other readers.

1801 census record for Hans Andersen's household in Skovby parish, Denmark

The snippet of athe 1801 census record above1 shows a household with the couple Hans Andersen and Gertrud Hansdatter, both in their first marriage, residing at a farm with their two children, a daughter Karen, age 13, and a son Anders, age 2. Also in the household were an elderly couple, tenants Hans Hansen and Apolone Hansdatter, both in their first marriage and pensioners.

A research question related to the farmers in this household could be the following:

Who were the parents of Gertrud Hansdatter, born about 1767
and wife of farmer Hans Andersen in Kærby, Skovby parish in 1801?

Many farms - self-owned and rented alike - were passed on to either a son or a son-in-law. If the old farmers were still alive, they would most often be granted room and board etc. by the new farmer (called aftægt). The transfer of property or tenancy typically took place around the time of the marriage of the new farmers. Gertrud’s patronymic surname Hansdatter indicates that her father’s given name was Hans. The given name of the male pensioner in the same household was Hans, so he is a candidate for Gertrud’s father.

My theories at this stage of the research process are as follows:

  • The pensioner Hans Hansen was Gertrud Hansdatter’s father.
  • Hans Hansen’s wife Apolone Hansdatter was Gertrud’s mother, because Hans and Apolone were in their first marriage.
  • Hans Andersen took over the farm after Hans Hansen, possibly about the time of Hans Andersen and Gertrud Hansdatter’s marriage.
  • Hans Andersen and Gertrud Hansdatter married in or before 1788, when their oldest child in their 1801 household was allegedly born.

My first research steps taken to research the question and test my theories are the following:

  1. Examine the 1787 census of Skovby parish. If both couples were listed in the same household, their familiar relationship (if any) may have been specified at that census. Image copies are available at Rigsarkivet, Arkivalieronline (https://www.sa.dk/ao-soegesider/da/rif/select/7/16431718).
    • Were Hans Andersen and Gertrud Hansdatter listed as a married couple?
    • If not, are there any candidates for Hans Andersen and Gertrud Hansdatter as single persons in Skovby parish?
    • Were Hans Hansen and Apolone Hansdatter listed there?
  2. Examine the parish register for Skovby parish for birth records for children of Hans Andersen and Gertrud Hansdatter from 1787 to 1801; there may be more than the two listed in the 1801 census. Remember to make note of the godparents for each child, because godparents were often family members. If the findings of step 1 indicate that the couple had children born before 1787, the range of years shall be broadened accordingly. Image copies are available at Rigsarkivet, Arkivalieronline (https://www.sa.dk/ao-soegesider/da/geo/geo-collection/5).
  3. Examine the parish register for Skovby parish for a marriage record for Hans Andersen and Gertrud Hansdatter about 1787; the range of years to be examined depends on the results of the findings in the first two steps. Image copies are available at Rigsarkivet, Arkivalieronline (https://www.sa.dk/ao-soegesider/da/geo/geo-collection/5). A copy of a handwritten index of marriages in Skovby parish 1690-1891 is available in the same place.
  4. Major landowners in this area were Harritslevgård Hovedgård (main farm) and Dallund Gods (manor). Examine copyhold records from these two landowners for a copyhold of a farm in Kærby held by Hans Hansen but passed on to Hans Andersen about 1787. Copyhold records often state the relationship, if any, between the old and the new tenant.

Completing the steps of this simple research plan and analyzing the findings might not provide an answer to the research question. The analysis might result in new theories and thus a need for a revision of the plan. To avoid having to revise a long list of research steps, I like to keep my research plans short. When the listed steps have been completed, new steps can be added to the plan, if needed.

You might be wondering why I have not included a step to examine the Skovby parish register for a birth record for Gertrud Hansdatter. A marriage had to take place in the bride’s home parish. If no marriage record is found for Hans Andersen and Gertrud Hansdatter in the Skovby parish register, Gertrud was probably not born in Skovby parish, and then examining the Skovby parish register for a birth record for Gertrud would not be an efficient research step. On the other hand, if their marriage record is found in the Skovby parish register, the step to examine the parish register for Gertrud’s birth should be added to the research plan. Revision of the research plan is a natural part of my process and is done whenever needed.

As shown by this sample research plan, copies of all the listed sources are available online. If you are capable of reading and understanding Danish script, you might be able to research your Danish ancestors yourself, because many records are available online. However, determining which records are relevant to examine is often more complex than examining the records. You can hire me to make a research plan for you with a list of online records which you can examine yourself, or you can hire me to do the research for you; either way, you are welcome to book a free planning call where we can discuss your options based on your specific research problem.

Source References

1. 1801 folketællingen [census], landsogne [rural parishes], Odense Amt [county], Skovby Herred [district], Skovby Sogn [parish], page 235, Kierby Bye [town]: family 9; image copy, Rigsarkivet, Arkivalieronline (https://www.sa.dk/ao-soegesider/da/billedviser?bsid=26809#26809,2909600 : accessed 20 January 2021) > image 18 of 42.



Start the discussion...
Type your name

The form contains errors