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Danish County Records: Letter of Apprenticeship

Lene Dræby Kottal
Danish County Records: Letter of Apprenticeship

The Danish county office used to be responsible for auditing the keeping of military levying rolls. Journeymen could identify themselves via their letter of apprenticeship and could therefore easily leave Denmark. To minimize the risk of conscripts leaving Denmark, it was decided that letters of apprenticeship of conscripts should be kept by the county office until the craftsman had completed his military service. Thereafter, the craftsman was given back the letter.1 Anyhow, some craftsmen did not reclaim the letters and unclaimed letters remain in the collection of the county office. The documents vary in design and detail. The letter shown below is for journeyman in tailoring Niels Hansen.

  • The undersigned alderman and assessors at the tailors association in the royal seat Copenhagen declare: that Niels Hansen born in Funen, 27 years old, has been a trainee for ¼ year with Master Tailor J. Nielsen Haarby … and is delisted as a journeyman on 28 May 1827, as per the association’s minutes page 1023… [left-hand side is in Danish and right-hand side is in German]2

These details are hardly enough to conclude that this is one’s ancestor, however, the document was sent to the county office along with a cover letter, which has also been kept by the county office (shown below).

  • Enclosed letter of apprenticeship for Niels Hansen of Odense County 68[th] military levying area no. 107, sent in by the alderman for the tailors association in this city …3

This is a reference to Niels’ entry in the military levying roll. The military levying rolls state place of birth and father’s or mother’s name; and Niels’ first registration in the rolls states his date of birth or baptism.

The county offices were obliged to keep the letters of apprenticeship from 1805 to 1860.4 This example is from Odense County, which left a separate record series for these letters. Not all counties organized their incoming letters in the same manner.



  1. Tage Algreen-Ussing, Kongelige Reskripter og Resolutioner, Reglementer, Instruxer og Fundatser, samt Kollegialbreve, med flere Danmarks vedkommende offentlige Aftrykker: VII. Deel. 9de Bind. 1822-1823 (København: Den Gyldendalske Boghandlings Forlag, 1829), page 84, 1822, 30 Marts, "Kanc. Cirkl. (til samtlige Amtmænd) ang. Midler til at forebygge, at Værnepligtige, der ere i Lære hos Professionister i Kjøbstæderne, ei skulle erholde Reisepasse." This book contains transcripts of published laws, orders, decrees etc.
  2. Københavns Skrædderlav [Copenhagen Tailors Association], 30 May 1827, lærebrev for skræddersvend Niels Hansen [letter of apprenticeship]; filed in box D-258: "1817-1848 Lærebreve for værnepligtige håndværkere 1817-1829," collection AB004: Odense Amt; The Danish National Archives, Odense, Denmark. To find this record series in the catalog of holdings of the Danish National Archives, see Rigsarkivet, "Daisy," database (https://www.sa.dk/daisy/arkivserie_detaljer?c=l%C3%A6rebreve+for+v%C3%A6rnepligtige+h%C3%A5ndv%C3%A6rkere&d=1&e=2016&heid=11419237&henid=11419237 : accessed 27 November 2019), arkivskaber: odense amt, arkivserie: lærebreve for værnepligtige håndværkere.
  3. Københavns Rådstue [City Hall], to amtmand Cederfeld de Simonsen, 13 June 1827, cover letter for letter of apprenticeship for Niels Hansen; filed in box D-258, collection AB004.
  4. The law was first passed in 1805 and clarified in 1822, see Algreen-Ussing, Kongelige Reskripter og Resolutioner...: VII. Deel. 9de Bind. 1822-1823, page 84, 1822, 30. marts, "Kanc. Cirkl. (til samtlige Amtmænd) ang. Midler til at forebygge, at Værnepligtige, der ere i Lære hos Professionister i Kjøbstæderne, ei skulle erholde Reisepasse." The county ceased to be responsible for approving conscripts' travels outside the county in 1860 and thereby the beforementioned law was repealed, see Jørgen Green, Slægtsforskning i lægdsruller, søruller og i hærens og søværnets arkiver [Family research in military levying rolls, navy levying rolls and in army and navy record collections] (Denmark: Forlaget Grifo, 2009), page 60, the paragraph named "Kig også i amtsarkiverne" [Also look in the county collections].
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