I come from pretty standard Irish-German-English stock, so I've long been intrigued by my lone outlier line, the Bergs of Copenhagen, Denmark. My 3x great-grandfather, Peter Hansen Berg, was born there in 1824. I had the names of his parents - Hans Pedersen and Ane Margarethe Christensdatter, that a distant cousin had discovered, but other than that, I knew nothing. The Bergs remained an exotic (to me, anyway) mystery.
But as often the case with my research, my best discoveries, my most interesting and enlightening discoveries, occur when I get off the index, get off of Ancestry, and jump head first into the records. There are SO many records available, on both Ancestry and FamilySearch, that are unindexed and they are a virtual treasure trove of information...but the search without an index can be time-consuming as you go record by record, page by page, for possibly 1000s of pages...complicated by having to decipher handwriting in a language you don't understand. It's maddening. It's exhilarating.
So that's what I did. I did a Google search and discovered that there are at least two websites that have Danish census records online, both transcribed and actual images, and unlike U.S. census records which become less helpful prior to 1850, Danish records list whole families backward through the late 1700s. I had to learn to recognize important genealogical words in Danish - father, mother, baptism, marriage, death, the usual. Anytime you do family research, it's handy to keep a little cheat sheet of these words in the language of the records you're looking into - some important info might get lost, such as parents' occupation or other little notes, but you can often figure out the general gist of an entry with these key words, proper names, dates, and place names. I also jumped into Danish vital records, mostly unindexed, on FamilySearch and Ancestry. I started getting used to following the patronymic naming system, which is extremely helpful in finding a person's father and children, but not necessarily helpful in grouping a person to their spouse. So while I had often done earlier searches for Peter Hansen Berg, I ended up looking for Peder Hansen, and found him. I found his baptismal record and his Lutheran confirmation record. I found the birth and death of many of his siblings, and I found his family in several Danish census records. I discovered that the family didn't live in Copenhagen city, but from two small towns just southwest of the city, which made it easy to find the family in early census records, when the populations of those towns were under 1,000.
It was a major breakthrough what has been an enduring brick wall for me. I found my 4x great grandparents' marriage and death records. I found my 5x great-grandparents, Peder Pedersen and Birthe Christensdatter, both working in a household as 20 year old servants in 1787...maybe that's where they met. I found my 6x great-grandparents, Christen Pedersen and Cidse Pedersdatter, born in the 1730s. I have no idea what was going on in Danish history from the 1730s to the 1860s, when my last living direct ancestor still over there finally died, but I want to find out. I knew nothing about this branch of my family tree. And now I have so much to learn...I can't wait to get started!
Websites I used in this research: