Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:
Museum of Danish American, Genealogy Center
NOTE: fka The Danish Immigrant Museum, Family History & Genealogy Center
4210 Main Street
PO Box 249
Elk Horn, IA 51531-0249
May – October
Tuesday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
November – April
Tuesday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Daily admission is free for museum members; $5 for non-members
Two genealogy friends and I stopped by the library unannounced and Michele McNabb, Librarian-Manager, was extremely gracious and spent considerable time with us.
Michele told us that they like to think this is THE place to do Danish research, outside Salt Lake City. One third of the patrons of this library are Danes trying to find American cousins.
She said that online resources for Danish records have exploded in the last five years but not all have an English-language interface. Many Danish records have been digitized and can be found through sources such as Arkivalieronline on the Danish state archives webpage, http://www.sa.dk/ao/ at no charge. While not complete, these records include church, census, probate, civil, fire insurance, and court records. In addition, AO has started digitizing military records. She recommended using the Danish research guide to Arkivalieronline that can be found at familysearch.org. Beginning in 1868 Danish immigrants had to register with the Danish police when leaving the country. Currently, transcriptions of records from 1868 -1905 are online at http://www.emiarch.dk/search.php3?l=en. An English-language portal to transcriptions of many Danish censuses may also be found at http://ddd.dda.dk/ddd_en.htm.
The Danish Brotherhood in America was a national fraternal organization, which also offered insurance to its members between 1882 and 1995 (the organization became less active after 1975). The membership records for this group have been microfilmed and are available at this library, using database finding aids. A corresponding women’s group, The Danish Sisterhood of America, also has informative records, but these are only available by contacting the organization at http://www.danishsisterhood.org/DanishHTML/default2.asp.
The library offers research as well as translation services which could be very beneficial for Danish descendants who have old letters written in the native tongue.
The library’s collection includes ten file cabinets of vertical files and approximately forty linear feet of family histories (many have little or no documentation), and a large number of biographies, memoirs and collections of letters. Many three-ring binders contain clippings from the area newspapers including:
Audubon County Journal 1897-1995: clippings of weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays.
Audubon County Journal 1897-1995: obituaries
Audubon County Journal 1897-1921: Kimballton & Elk Horn News Columns
Kimballton-Elk Horn Record 1916-1921; 1926-present
The Danish-American obituary index is a nationwide collection of obituaries and funeral notices of immigrants and their descendants.
As is often the case with specialized libraries, the catalog for this library is not accessible through WorldCat.
For the past eight years, a private company has funded young interns to come from Denmark to Elk Horn for a semester of work in the library and other museum departments.
Through a grant from Denmark several Danish-American newspapers, including The Danish Pioneer, Bien, Dannevirke and Bikuben, have been digitized and should be searchable from the museum webpage, http://www.danishmuseum.org in late autumn of 2013.
Background information on Danish immigration, lists of useful genealogical links and other resources are at http://www.danishmuseum.org; Library and Genealogy.
Even though none of us have any Danish ancestors, we came away believing that if we did, we’d find them here.