My great-great-grandmother Maria Sofia Wikstedt died 8 May 1900 in Odense. When a resident of Denmark dies, the death has to be reported to the jurisdiction that is going to administer the probate. In this case it was the bailiff for Odense market town (Danish: Odense byfoged). The record translates as follows:
“Year 1900 on 8 May it was reported that glassmaker Jacob Sóderlund’s wife Marie Sophie nee Wikstedt, 53 years old, has died today, leaving behind 5 heirs-at-law, namely:
- The son Frantz Viktor Sóderlund - 28 years old
- The son Axel Alfred Sóderlund – 22 years old
- The son Otto Anton Sóderlund – 17 years old
- The daughter Anna Marie Sóderlund – 19 years old
- The son Rudolf Lambert Sóderlund 13 years old
With these heirs, the widower intends to remain in the undivided estate, [at the address] Lille Glasvej 6a.
[Signed] Otto Sóderlund”1
A death report is the first record to be found, when looking for a Danish probate record. The death report records indicate if further proceedings took place or not. Notice that I use the word "indicate," because it is not explicitly stated in the record that no further proceedings took place. Current Danish probate law dictated whether further proceedings were required or not.
Laws regarding the right to remain in an undivided estate
From 1683 to 1845 widows and widowers had to apply the king for permission to remain in an undivided estate. Since 1845 widowers have had the right to remain in an undivided estate without applying for permission. From the same year, a man could also grant his wife that right in a will. Otherwise, a widow still had to apply for permission. In 1926, widows were granted the right to remain in an undivided estate without applying for permission. Since Jacob was a man and he wanted to remain in the undivided estate, the assets of the estate were not listed at the time of Maria Sofia’s death and no further proceedings took place. If Maria Sofia had died before Jacob and he had not left a will, she would have had to apply for permission to remain in the undivided estate.
Danish names of books used during the probate process
The death report for Maria Sofia was found in the actual probate records for the bailiff for Odense market town. If the couple had resided in one of Odense’s suburbs, the death report should have been found in the death report records (Danish: dødsanmeldelsesprotokol), because the bailiff for Odense county (Danish: Odense herredsfoged) had a book specifically for death reports. In some jurisdictions the book for death reports is called a probate case list (Danish: skiftesagsliste). In other jurisdictions the death reports were recorded among the registration records in the book used for registering the assets of the estates (Danish: registreringsprotokol). It thus varies from place to place - and from year to year – in which book the death report can be found.
The books with the actual probate records can also have different names: Probate records (Danish: skifteprotokol or skiftebog), probate cases (Danish: skiftesager) and probate repartition records (Danish: skifterepartitionsprotokol). Furthermore, there are often alphabetical name indexes for the various record types (Danish: navneregister).
When looking for a Danish probate record, it is therefore best to start by making a list of the available books for the relevant years.
- Odense byfoged, Odense amt, Skifteprotokol, 1900-1901, folio 125 recto, entry 84, "Marie Sophie f Wikstedt" death report (1900); digital image, AO genvej (http://ao.salldata.dk/vis1.php?bsid=313132&side=132 : accessed 2 October 2018), path: "Vælg type: Skifter" > "Amt: Odense" > "Type: Retsbetjente" > "Myndighed: Odense."