If you’ve never heard of ArkivDK, you’re in for a treat! This is a hidden gem that’s highly underrated by many, and it’s just an amazing genealogy research tool. There are so many sources out there that haven’t been digitized yet, sources you may not know about, and ArkivDK shows you exactly what they are and where to find them!
What is ArkivDK?
ArkivDK is an amazing resource. In fact, in my opinion, it’s one of the best ones out there when it comes to Danish genealogy. This database lets you search over 500 Danish archives at once, for both digitized and non-digitized materials. Considering the amount of non-digitized materials that are available in the archives, this is a website that’s not to be missed. ArkivDK will show you exactly what is held by what archive, and how you can get your hands on it!
Yes, it’s in Danish, but don’t let that stop you. This is an amazing tool for anyone searching for ancestors in Denmark, so give it a try! Once you know how to use it, it’s not that hard to understand.
Here’s a tutorial on the basic features:
How to Search
In ArkivDK, you can officially search for a place, a person, or a topic in the database, but I have also successfully searched for professions, events, and addresses. You don’t have to specify anything up front, so start with a broad search to get the most matches, and then filter your search from there. Just like when searching any archive, try different spelling variations of names to see if you get closer matches that way.
Here are the steps in order:
Step 1: Find the Search Box
To begin searching, find the search box on the site (indicated below by the yellow arrow).
Step 2: Enter Your Ancestor’s Name
In this tutorial, I have decided to search for one of the common names in my family, just to see what comes up, so I’ve entered the last name Kofoed in the search box. You can search for anything really, but for the best results, enter a name, place, address, profession, event, parish, or year.
Step 3: View Results List
The results will display on the next page as a list. You will be able to see how many matches you receive, what type of matches, as well as the repository holding the materials. In my search, I got a total of 1117 results, spanning 38 pages. #Awesome!
Step 4: View Details & Repository
To view the type of material, call number, and repository, look in the right column. The call number appears on top, and then the type. Underneath, you can see what repository holds the item in question. The image that caught my eye was a photo held by Aalborg City Archives.
Step 5: Let the Icons Guide You
The type of icon will give you an indication as to the type of source you’re dealing with, and if it has been digitized or not. Anything that appears with an image has been digitized. As you can see, the photo I’m interested in has been digitized, but the photo below, marked Billeder (Photos) has not been digitized. To view the second photo, I would have to contact the archive (in this case, the Local Archive in Kalundborg).
Step 6.1: Filter Your Search by a Specific Time Period
If you get a lot of matches to your query, you might want to narrow it down to a specific time period. On the left side of the screen, you’ll find a box where you can enter a date range to filter your search. Periode means Time Period, so simply enter a beginning and ending year, and hit OK to search again.
Step 6.2: Filter Your Search by Type
You can also filter your search further by selecting what type of source you need, for example photos, books, or newspapers. The default setting is everything (Alle), and that might not apply to you. You have the following options (at the time of writing): Arkivalier (Records), Billeder (Photos), Film og Lyd (Film and Sound Recordings), Kort og Tegninger (Cards and Drawings), Bøger (Books), Aviser og Artikler (Newspapers and Articles), Plakater og Grafik (Posters and Graphics), and Øvrige Samlinger (Other Collections). You can’t select more than one option, so it’s either one of these options, or searching everything at once.
Step 6.3: Filter Your Search by a Specific Archive
Another way to filter is to search in a specific archive. There are too many options to list in this tutorial, but all you really have to remember is that they’re listed alphabetically by name. Arkiv means “Archive” (as I’m sure you have guessed by now!), while Lokalarkiv translates to “Local Archive,” and Stadsarkiv means “City Archive.” You may also need to know: Lokalhistoriske Arkiv (Archive of Local History), Sognearkiv (Parish Archive), Bibliotek (Library), Samling (Collection). and Egnsarkiv (Regional Archive).
Step 6.4: Filter Your Search by a Location
If you know the home parish of your ancestor, you can filter that under Sted (Place). All parishes are listed alphabetically by name, so you don’t need to know its exact location on a map in order to be able to search. Keep in mind that some parishes may have been renamed or gone by different spellings in the past. Just like with the other filters, you can select only one at a time, so it’s either a specific parish, or all of them.
Step 6.5: Filter Your Search to Digitized Materials Only
The last option in the search filter is a checkbox you can use if you’d only like to see the results that have images. Vis kun med billeder translates to “Show only results with images.” I’d highly recommend that you don’t check this box because there are so many sources that are not digital yet (and not tagged with metadata). If you are limiting yourself to only digital sources, you are missing out on a truckload of good information.
Step 7: Getting the Details
Clicking the search result will show you the details. This information will vary based on the type of matches you get, but it will always include what it is, the call number, and where you can find it.
Looking closer at the details box, you can see that it shows all the above-mentioned details, plus the time period the photo is from (1880s), and the exact date it was taken (October 31st, 1880), which is a neat little fact to have. Keep in mind that anything listed in this archive will be using the European way of dating, which is Day-Month-Year, not Month-Day-Year like it’s written in the United States. Therefore a date like 4-3-1910 would be March 4th, 1910, not April 3rd, 1910. This record is great because it also shows me the Fotograf (Photographer) who took the photo and what type of material it is (in this case Kollodium, a photo similar to a tintype). The last entry confirms that this original photo can be found in the Aalborg City Archives.
Step 8: More from the Same Archive
A very nice search feature is the drop-down option to keep searching in the same archive for more similar matches. If this archive holds one photo, it could possibly hold more of them. It’s possible that more family members had their photos taken by the same photographer. Let’s find out.
Unfortunately, as you can see below, this archive didn’t find any more matches in this archive. This was the only relevant result. I can do another search for a different spelling to see if I get more matches that way. The name I searched for, Kofoed, is a very common Danish name, and I’ve also seen it spelled as Kofod, Kovot, and Covot (tracing backwards in my lineage).
Step 9: Other Features
On the detailed search results page, you’ll see a few icons. Clicking the one with arrows enlarges the image to the maximum size, which is great if you’d like to save a digital copy for your records (allowed for private use according to their terms). The second button shares the image on Facebook, which is great if you are a part of a research group. For maps, postcards, and other location sources, you may also see a clickable pin icon, which will show you exactly where the photographer stood when taking the photo. This is great if you’d like to visit the place in question, or recreate the photo at some point. The last feature is the email button, which lets you to contact the archive (more on that in the next step).
Step 10: Contacting the Archive
If you are interested in finding out more information about a particular source, consider contacting the archive. ArkivDK makes this really easy by giving you an email archive button just below the photo (or icon) you’re viewing. Click this button to auto-populate an email message to the archive (or simply right-click to copy the email address). If you’re planning to visit the archive at some point to view the original source, don’t be shy about sending them a message to let them know that you’re coming. I have found most archives to be very helpful if you tell them what you’re looking for, and why. If you give them a heads up, they will probably have it all ready for you when you get there, saving you both time and energy!
Will You Be Using ArkivDK?
I hope this tutorial helps you find unique sources in the Danish Archives. I have found it to be an indispensable tool in my own research, so it’s my hope that this can be of use in your work too!
What say you, readers? Will you be using ArkivDK?