Find your ancestors and their household on the Link-Lives website

14. June 2022

Find your ancestors and their household on the Link-Lives website

The research project Link-Lives aims to build the largest-ever mapping of a country's historical population. Now, Link-Lives is opening up their data and preliminary results.


Better use of archival data for research

In the project Link-Lives, researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the Danish National Archives and the Copenhagen City Archives are building a coherent life story for every Dane who lived from 1787 to 1901.

The project is intended to pave the way for better use od Danish archival data. One of the long-term implications of the project, for instance, is that it will enable research into both hereditary and environmental incidences of disease across many generations. “Link-Lives is building these life stories to enable entirely new ways of research into life in 19th-century Denmark,” said Anne Løkke, Professor of History at Copenhagen University and manager of the project in collaboration with Barbara Revuelta-Eugercios from the Danish National Archives.

“Life stories for the entire population allow us to zoom in to population groups about which we practically know nothing, such as kitchen maids, wet nurses and women working in traditionally male vocations. We will be able to answer questions on how life turned out for poor children who moved away from home before the age of 10 compared to children of parents who could afford to keep them at home until their early teens. Did blacksmiths live shorter lives than carpenters, pastors and tavern keepers? And were certain causes of death more common among some occupations than others? And how has health, prosperity and causes of death developed over several generations?”.

Find your great-great-grandparents and their household

The Link-Lives search page can be used by anyone for free. With just a few clicks, school pupils, local historians and others can now go exploring among 19th-century Danes, searching for people in certain professions or through censuses to see how many children lived at home at the time, for example.

Genealogists can use the search page to aid in their search for 19th-century relatives. Not only can they search through the 64 million digitised civil registrations from censuses, church records and funeral records, but also via the suggestions for parts of life stories that Link-Lives has already built. So far, the suggestions are limited to a fraction of the population, but as the Link-Lives researchers continue to develop and improve the project’s methods, they will build more civil registrations into the life stories, which will thereby increase in number, detail and quality.

How the life-courses are built

The life-courses are proposals for which civil registrations in censuses, church records and funeral records relate to the same historical individual. The Link-Lives team programs algorithms that allow computers to link civil registrations together if it is likely that they relate to the same individual. The life stories currently available on Link-Lives’ search page are so-called rule-based links, where a person’s name, age and place of birth must be almost completely identical according to a set of rules for a computer to create a link.

Unique Danish source material comes to life with the help of volunteers

The Link-Lives project is the culmination of years’ of prior groundwork. The huge amounts of data that Link-Lives draws on could not have come into being without the long-standing collaboration between archives, volunteers and researchers. The backbone of the project consists of the handwritten and information-packed Danish censuses, church records and funeral records, which hundreds of volunteers have entered by hand into a digital format in collaboration with the archives.  It is this information that forms the backbone of Link-Lives.

Read more about the project in the press release.