Translating the census record: occupation and profession etc.



Census Records & Enumeration

Translating the census record: occupation and profession etc.

Driver of a horse drawn cart

In the Danish censuses, Enumerators/census takers were asked to record "Persons Title, Office, Business/Trade, Profession, Livelihood, Position in the Family or what they live from". The pre-printet census forms during the 1800s is specified as: "Personernes Titel, Embede, Forretning, Haandværk, Næringsvei, Stilling i Familien eller hvad de leve af".

Until the mid-1800s most people lived in the rural areas of Denmark. The capital of Copenhagen accounted for about 10% of the population, the Cities or Marked Towns ("Købstæderne") about another 10% while the rural areas accounted for the remaining 80 %. Each household were off course composed differently, but taking a general looking at a census record in the rural areas of Denmark, you'll find the following persons living within the same household as the family:

  •  Aftægtsmand = Former owner/copyholder, now pensioned, who receives contractual support from the successor on the farm
  • Aftægtskone = Wife of the former owner/copyholder, now pensioned, who receives contractual support from the successor on the farm
  • Aftægtsfolk = Husband and wife, former owner/copyholder, now pensioned, who receives contractual support from their successor on the farm
  • Tjenestefolk / Tyende / Tjenestetyende = Servants (M/F), both farmhands, maids etc.
  • Tjenestekarl = Farmhand
  • Tjenestepige = Servant girl, maid

Note that both servants and pensioners (or other people living within the same household) may have a family relation to the head of household, possibly unknown, directly or indirectly, but is might also be that there are no known connection at all. So recording the family, be sure you take notes of all members of the household, in case a connection may be revealed as you dig further vital records about the family. However be aware not to make any conclusions based on surname alone as many danish surnames are very common.

Position in the family or relation the the head of household has been covered in my article: Translating the census record: family relation. Also see my article A closer look at a census record where I look at a specific census record.

Other people living within the same household

While going through a large number of Danish census records I've recorded some of the most common entries of "Titel, Office, Business/Trade and Profession" and their Danish translation. Most are old professions etc., now obsolete:

  • Logerende = Lodger
  • Almisse Lem = Pauper
  • Avlskarl = Farmhand (usually at larger farms or rural estates)
  • Bager = Baker
  • Beboer = Dweller
  • Blind = Blind
  • Bonde = Peasant/farmer
  • Brygger/Bryggerske = Brewer
  • Brændevinsbrænder = Distiller, maker of "scandinavian gin" (snaps)
  • Bødker/Bødkermand = Barrel maker
  • Consumtions Betient/Contiumsbetient = Customs Officer, usually checking farm produce coming into the a Marked Town (city) to be sold
  • Dagleyer/Daglejer/Dagleier/Daglønner = Day labourer
  • Degn = Deacon, assistant to the Parish vicar
  • Drager = Porter
  • Farver = Dyer
  • Fattig/Fattiglem = Pauper
  • Fiskemand = Fish monger
  • Fisker = Fisherman
  • Forpagter = Tenant farmer (usually larger farms, rural estates but could also be at mills, factories etc.)
  • Fæster = Leaseholder / copyholder
  • Gaardbeboer = Farm dweller (could also be farm owner or leaseholder)
  • Gaardejer = Farmer / farm owner
  • Gaardmand = Farmer / farm owner
  • Geworben Soldat = Enlisted soldier, usually local defense
  • Gæstgiver (Giestgiver) = Inn keeper (see also ''Kromand'')
  • Glarmester = Glazier
  • Grovsmed = Blacksmith (see also ''Smed'')
  • Hiulmand (Hjuler) / Hjulmager = Wheeler, wheelwright
  • Huseierinde = House owner (F)
  • Husmand/Huusmand = Cottager / smallholder
  • Husmandssted = Smallholding
  • Husjomfrue = Housekeeper (unmarried) in charge of the servants, usually in large manorial households or in other wealthy homes
  • Hyrde = Herder, e.g. sheep or livestock
  • HĂĄndværker = Craftsman/artisan, although usually specified on the specific trade
  • Inderste = Lodger/renter/tenant at a farmer or smallholder, but with own household
  • Indsidder = Lodger/renter/tenant at a farmer or smallholder, but with own household
  • Købmand/Kiøbmand = Groser
  • Kromand = Inn keeper
  • Krøbling = Cripple
  • Kusk / Kudsk = Coachman / driver (of a horse drawn cart or ox-wagon for farm use)
  • Land-Dragon / dragon = Cavalryman (dragoon)
  • (Landmilitæer) Underofficer = Non-commisioned officer (army)
  • Landsoldat = Soldier (army), conscript
  • Maler = Painter
  • Matros = Able-bodied sailor, seaman
  • Militairarbejder/Militærarbejder = Military labourer
  • Militaerskræder/Militairskræder = Military tailor
  • Møller/Møllersvend = Miller
  • National Soldat = National soldier, by order of the King (for national defense)
  • Postbud = Postman
  • Provst = Rural dean
  • Reebslager/reebslaaer/reber = Rope maker
  • Sadelmager = Saddler
  • Selvejer = Farm owner (of a farm, distingues from leaseholder/copyholder)
  • Skærsliber/skjersliper = Grinder
  • Skipper = Skipper
  • Skoleholder = School teacher, usually small rural schools with only one teacher
  • Skolelærer = School teacher
  • Skomager (skoemager/skoeflicher) = Shoe maker
  • Skovfoged = Forester
  • Skræder/skrædder = Tailor
  • Skrøbelig = very old or sick, literally "fragile"
  • Slagter = Butcher
  • Smed =Smith, blacksmith
  • Snedker = Carpenter / cabinet maker
  • Sognefoged = Official performing certain judicial functions in the parish. Appointed locally, usually among the most influential freeholders or farmers in the parish
  • Sognepræst / præst = Parish vicar
  • Spinderske = Woman working with a spinning wheel
  • Styrmand = Steerman
  • Svagelig = very old or sick, literally "weak"
  • Sypige = Seamstress
  • Træskomager = Clog maker
  • Tækkemand = Thatcher
  • Tømmermand / tømrer = Carpenter
  • Vanfør = Physically Disabled
  • Vanvittig = Insane
  • Vognmager = Cartwright
  • Vognmand = Haulier/hauler
  • Væver = Weaver
  • Værthusmand = Inn keeper
  • Vægter = Night watchman

A few numbers and facts...

  • 500,000

    ...Danes emigrated up to 1968, and of these about 70% departed for the USA. In the 1800's alone a vast majority of 90% went to the USA. Read more...

  • 261,065

    This many individuals, comprising of 4.6 percent of all Danes, carries the surname JENSEN followed by NIELSEN, HANSEN, PEDERSEN and ANDERSEN. Read more...

  • 1,000

    Of the 5,000 basic words in modern English, as many as 20 percent are so-called loan words from the Old Norse language (ON). Read more...

  • 1769

    This year the first Danish census was taken. The next censuses were taken in 1787 and 1801 and from 1834 onwards every 5-10 years. Read more...

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