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Hospital meant Poor House in 18th Century Denmark - Danish Genealogy Words

Lene Dræby Kottal
Hospital meant Poor House in 18th Century Denmark - Danish Genealogy Words

The Danish word hospital meant poor house in the 18th century. Today it means hospital. To distinguish between the old Danish meaning and today's meaning in this blog post, the word is italicized when I mean the old Danish word.

A hospital was a place for those who were both poor and unable to work. If a person was able to work, even just a little, but too poor to provide for oneself, the person could live at the workhouse. The word fattighus literally means poor house and was a mix of a hospital and a workhouse. A fattighus housed both types of poor people: Some who could work, and some who could not.

Danish Pauper Records

If you encounter paupers among your Danish ancestors, you might benefit from reading my blog posts about poor fund records:

Traces of Poor Ancestors in Online Danish Genealogy Records

Kommuner: Danish Local Government - Children's Homes and Poor Funds

Where to Visit a Former Poor House in Denmark

We have at least two places in Denmark where you can see an old poor house.

One is Greve Hospital, which you can see at the Open Air Museum close to Copenhagen. The other place is Katterød Hospital in the Funen Village close to Odense. You get a clear sense of the living conditions of the poor, when you visit these places, and I highly recommend both. The image at the top shows one of the rooms at Greve Hospital as it looked in the 1890s.

Source Reference:
Photographer Phillipp Bornheimer, "Greve Hospital, interiør;" image copy, Nationalmuseet, Nationalmuseets samlinger (https://samlinger.natmus.dk/flm/asset/255796 : accessed 9 April 2022), license: CC-BY-SA.

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