Our names are Marianne & Dan Nicolaysen and we are the team behind Danish Family Search. We are both IT professionals and have several years experience in developing IT systems and online services. Dan was born in Aalborg and Marianne was born in Nuuk, Greenland. We both grew up in Northern Jutland, Denmark, but moved to Luxembourg in 1996 because of work. We spent 5 years in Luxembourg, followed by 3 years in London. In 2003 we took the plunge and moved to Australia. Today we live on the Gold Coast in the state of Queensland. We have our own IT business offering various technical IT solutions.
In 2009, we started on genealogy and very quickly got hooked. In 2011/2012 we had added over 3,000 people to our tree. A few surprises along the way, it turns out Dan's 4 x great-grandfather was Johan Hindric Drank Berg, who was the son of Kaijsa Katarina Charlotta Catharina Fraser. Kaijsa was the daughter of Robert Gustaf von Fraser, and then we're back to the Fraser clan from Scotland. We could then trace Dan's roots dating back to the 1100s, and found out that Dan's 20 x great grand uncle was none other than Robert the Bruce 1274-1329, King of Scotland from 1306 to 1329. Ever since Dan refuses to reply unless I say "Your Royal Highness".
Like all other genealogists we came to a point where we needed to dig deeper into the Danish sources to find more information, and the tools that we had available on the web was no longer sufficient. As "IT geeks" we got the idea to combine our two great passions - genealogy and databases. We loaded the data from the State Archives DVD released in 2011, after which searching on people got a lot easier. The loading of the data was not as easy as first thought. It lacked standardization. Names were shortened and fields were filled with almost anything but letters which made the search very difficult. The original sources should be true to the source, but we decided to make use of many of the great features of the database, so the data were "cleaned" of all these impurities. We have "cleaned" the data in more than 78 areas, so there is today a difference between the original data entered in Danish Demographic Database compared with our own database (See also Source Reference). Therefore, we are not always true to the source, and so recommend you verify with the original source. With the cleaned version of the data, we could finally locate a lot more people for our family tree. Friends and family were also allowed to try and search in our database with great success, so much that we were recommended to share the system with the public.
The creation of Danish Family Search
As the very first thing we needed to make sure we did not do anything illegal by publishing our cleaned database. Most of the data comes from the database of Danish Demographic Database, and we were not sure about the copyright. We contacted the Danish Demographic Database, where we explained the whole scenario, and asked for permission to use the data from their database. We got permission from the National Archives to make use of data from the Danish Demographic Database, provided we clearly stated the source reference. It was also a requirement that the data should remain available to all. So we opted to go "live" with the data we had whilst continuing to add new records as we got them cleaned.
We therefore created a web system whose primary purpose was searching in our database. We discussed a number of different names. We decided on Danish Family Search. Simply call it, what it is. We choose the English name "Family " and " Search" for 2 reasons: 1 Because the Danish letters æ ø and å are not commen in a domain name, and the second reason because there are a lot of people outside Denmark, with Danish roots, and we had the desire to make this a global web site, not only for the Danes in Denmark.
Danish Family Search went live in late May 2013 and had 827 visits the first day. This figure has grown steadily since. In October 2013 saw 30,374 visits and 520,000 page views. Within the first 6 months, we had approximately 85,000 visits and approximately 900,000 page views. For a web page which is only 6 months old, we believe that is quite impressive.
What is available on Danish Family Search?
We want to build a web system that is useful for Genealogists. The future holds new exciting features. But following functions and features are already possible on Danish Family Search:
- Overview of censuses and church records by county, district and parish.
- Search across census data, church records and Police Register Archive.
- Phonetic search.
- Data entry of censuses.
- Scrolling through the original sources without using Java.
- View the original sources using the integrated image tool where you can zoom in and out or see the page in full screen.
- Link between the Searchable data and the original source.
- View deciphered records and original source.
- Highlighting the key post in yellow on the original source (only for DFS entered records).
- Decipher original sources and enter them into the system (Danish speaking only).
- Identification of page type in the original sources.
- Direct links to all pages so they can be shared on Facebook.
- Statistics on age, gender, religion, disability, etc. by county, district and parish.
- User Account for handling and managing own entries
- Tree building where the original sources can be attached directly.
- API to our database so that other systems access our cleaned data
We have a long list of future developments, but as we are just 2 people, with 3 young children and full time jobs, time is limited. The following new features are under development:
- Inclusion of data from trees on the search page.
- More functions under the user account making it possible to extract own entries to formats such as Excel, Word, pdf, csv, etc.
- Search across multiple sources and work with several external providers of data.
- ...plus more initiatives which we will write about later
Free web system with advertising
We do have some operational costs of running Danish Family Search. There are 2 hosting servers at a hosting company in Europe, as well as licensing costs associated with database and other software. We want the website to be free, so we have allowed a few advertising slots on the system. The ads come from Google, and we do not determine which advertisements will be displayed, however we have chosen to prohibit certain categories. We have tried to allow advertising only related to genealogy, but our experience says it is not always limited to this area. We have tried to place advertisements on the web page so they do not interfere with the primary function.
Advertising is today as common on websites, as in all other medias. You see advertisements on TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, buses, trains and pretty much everywhere. All major websites like Facebook, Google, etc. have advertising, unless they are under Government, State or Municipality, in which case they are paid for through taxes. Advertising is unfortunately a necessity if the website should remain free of charge.
Danish Family Search has been 100% free since 2013, and so it continues with the display of all records and original entries. But the advertisements are not enough to pay for Denmark's most popular website in genealogy. That is why we have chosen to take a modest amount of $30 USD a year for a paid membership that will open up some of the smart features and tools Danish Family Search offers.
A paid membership allows:
- Ad-free access to the website
- Unlimited access to the Family Database
- Auto search, so the system sends the user a message when there are new records on the saved searches
- Automatic notification when forum posts have received replies
- Support the development of Danish Family Search
There will be many more features and smart search options for paying members, and the Family Database will also be expanded with the option of suggestions on possible ancestors. The time for this comes quickly by working full time on the system. That's the whole plan with the paying membership, so we can allow more work on DFS.
By combining information from different sources so you can search far and wider. It's exciting when a search for "John Doe" from Ubberslev returns with records and you find him in the census in 1840, but also in church records as a father of a child born in 1842 and fathering a second child born in 1845. It gives more information about the person. With the purification of the data we have tried to make it easier for everyone to find all occurrences. As previously stated, we are not always true to the source. We believe cleaning the data broadens the search and then combined with verification with original sources is a much more powerfull tool.
We hope that everyone with an interest in genealogy researchers can benefit from our website. The more tools available to help in search of ancestors, the better. For us it is both fun and exciting to get these old data structured and made available to all. We also hope that other genealogists can provide material for our website, and that it all can be offered in an open forum.
We have urged the Danish State Archives, Danish Demographic Database and various associations and organizations within genealogy in creating a common database, which we all can obtainaccess. A database that would serve as the foundation for all data. As long as the information can be included in the database based on specific rules for validation and proofreading, it should be enough to ensure that the original sources are secure. There should not be monopoly on the past. The original censuses and church records are public and should remain that way.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us