The Danish Brotherhood
For persons researching their Danish ancestry the Danish Brotherhood (DB) membership rolls are one of the most important sources for clues to family origins in Denmark and to original name spellings.
The Danish Brotherhood (DB), originally Det danske Brodersamfund, was a national fraternal insurance association for Danish immigrant males. Formed in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1881, as an outgrowth of several Danish immigrant veterans' organizations, the organization was initially open to “honorable men, born of Danish parents or who were of Danish extraction." The first six lodges were chartered in July, 1882, and lodges were soon started in many communities where significant numbers of Danes had settled, providing a forum for nurturing Danish culture and language as well as providing financial assistance to members in case of death or illness.
Some 350 lodges were formed in the U.S.; as well as three in British Columbia, and one in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1916 a monthly publication, Det danske Brodersamfunds Blad/The Danish Brotherhood Magazine, later renamed The American Dane, was started to further communication among members and lodges. After 1920, as Danish immigration lessened and the number of eligible males dwindled, lodges opened their membership to include both American-born daughters, and later, spouses and children of lodge members, gradually evolving into a social organization for the entire family.
Some lodges were disbanded after a few decades due to economic conditions or changes in the ethnic base of their communities. Remaining members were then transferred to nearby lodges or paid their insurance premiums directly to organization headquarters in Omaha (Lodge #600).
In August 1995 the insurance function of the DB in America was merged into Woodmen of the World and/or Assured Life Association. A number of DB lodges remain active today as organizations promoting pride in Danish origins and culture.
Danish Brotherhood Records
The following information is included in DB membership records through 1974:
- lodge location and number
- individual member lodge and national organization numbers
- full name of each member
- place of birth
- residence and occupation
- date of membership in the DB
- age at time of membership
- date of birth
- insurance beneficiary (if insurance taken out)
- amount of insurance ($250, $500 or $1000)
- transfers to and from other lodges
- whether dropped from membership and cause
- date of death (if a DB member at time of death)
The Genealogy Center has microfilms of DB membership rolls from 1881 through 1995. Through an ongoing collaborative effort with the Danish American Archives and Library in Blair, Nebraska, which holds the original record books, membership registers through 1974 have been indexed for each lodge and are available for searching at the FHGC. Click here for our Translation & Research Guidelines and Research Request Form for ordering a search and copy of DB records.
Pre-1916 Danish Brotherhood Death Index
The Pre-1916 Danish Brotherhood Death Index consists of nearly 1800 names of DB members who died between the founding of the organization and the end of 1915, i.e., prior to the publication of the organization's monthly magazine. The data were extracted from the records of lodges 1 through 309, all formed prior to 1916. For deaths beginning in 1916, see the following database. Please refer to the Translation & Research Guidelines above for obtaining information on members listed in the database.
Danish Brotherhood Death Index
The Danish Brotherhood Death Index is a listing of over 21,300 deceased DB members published in the monthly publications Det danske Brodersamfunds Bladand its English-language successors, The Danish Brotherhood Magazine and The American Dane, between 1916 and 1995. In most instances each individual's date of death, age, place of birth and lodge number are given, but in earlier years death notices took the form of less-informative resolutions of condolence passed by a member's lodge and sent in to the publication. By the time many of these deaths occurred local lodge secretaries were no longer familiar with Danish handwriting and thus many misinterpretations of Danish place-names were put into print. Although glaring spelling errors have been corrected and some standardization of place-names made, many archaic and/or misspelled place-names remain in the index. (One good source for checking Danish place-names is Krabsens Stednavnebase.
Although the spelling of names in DB records tends to be more 'Danish' than that found in many contemporary US sources, viewers should be aware that name variants are numerous and search accordingly. In addition, many Danish immigrants changed the spelling of their names over the course of their American lives.
Individuals wishing additional information on names found in the index from lodge membership records prior to 1975 should refer to the above Translation & Research Guidelines for submitting requests and cite the relevant listing information. A list of DB lodges by number may also be found above.
Note: Deaths of DB members prior to 1916 are not included in this index.
|The Danish Brotherhood Death Index, 1916- 1995, Surname Breakdowns|
Danish Brotherhood in America Lodge #318 - Copenhagen, Denmark
DBiA lodge #318 was formed in Copenhagen on May 8, 1925 with 42 members. Over the next four decades nearly 600 men joined the lodge. While some had been members of the organization in the US prior to returning to Denmark, others appear to have become members here before emigrating and some perhaps never left Denmark. A number of men joined the lodge, subsequently dropped their membership, only to rejoin at a later date. The following list of lodge members was take from microfilmed membership rolls. Some entries were quite dim, so spelling errors may have occurred. Names with non-traditional Danish spellings may reflect misreading of the entries or name changes indicating residency in the US. Presence on this list may provide the answer to the otherwise unexplained disappearance in US records of some male Danish immigrants.
See above for how to obtain copies of the original membership entries.
Danish Brotherhood Lodges in Canada
The three Canadian lodges -- all located in British Columbia -- were formed relatively late. They were located in Vancouver (chartered in May 1931), Prince George (chartered in January 1944), and Port Alberni (chartered in April 1951). See above for how to obtain copies of the original membership entries.
The Danish Sisterhood of America
The Danish Sisterhood of America was formed in Negaunee, Michigan, in 1883, as a social and financial aid association for Danish immigrant women similar to its male counterpart, The Danish Brotherhood. Additional lodges were gradually established, first in the Midwest, and then extending throughout most of the U.S. as well as parts of Canada.
By 1910 the Danish Sisterhood (abbreviated DSS - Danish Sisterhood Society) had grown to 119 lodges, totaling 6,000 members. Today some 50 lodges are still active promoting the Danish cultural heritage in 7 districts, which include two Canadian lodges. The Danish Sisterhood News is the organization’s monthly newsletter.
Membership records for the various Sisterhood lodges are scattered in various places. As of 2016, the official DSS archive is in the collection of the Museum of Danish America. A collection also exists at the Danish American Archive & Library in Blair, Nebraska.