Use the site

This thematic website conveys the history of the Danish colony in the West Indies. At the same time, the website is the access point to millions of original records, which were digitized in the years 2013-2016 and made available on this website in 2017.
The Danish National Archives’ storerooms.
Photo from the Danish National Archives’ storerooms at Kalvebod Brygge in Copenhagen. Photographer: T. Eskerod.

The timeline, themes, and “fates” (life stories) on the website create an overview of the 250 years of history and establish an initial structure in relation to the original records. This provides several points of access to the material and creates an outline of the most important events. The articles offer samples of the events documented in the original records. The Danish National Archives hopes that the website will strengthen interest in Danish colonial history and the original records.

The website has various access points depending on the purpose of the visit. There is an access point to interactive teaching materials about the Danish slave trade including a guide for instructors and “The Golden Book on Source Criticism.”

For those who wish to go directly to the original records the section Search the records gives access to searches in the original records. However, as it takes patience and knowledge about the records to find what you are looking for, the Danish National Archives has prepared an overview of the records according to the archival structure in which they are organized. In addition, the Danish National Archives has prepared a series of good advice, which will help you get started if it is the first time you search for information in archival records.

Download full list of record creators and record series.

Go to “This is how you start searching: Five pieces of advice”.

Furthermore, we have prepared a series of specific guides to the records regarding the Danish West Indies, which can help you if you are looking for:

To accompany these guides the Danish National Archives has also prepared a guide to how to use the search facility on the website, for example how to use truncation symbols (Link to How to search).

Five million files – approx. 15,000 series of images and more than 130,000 transcribed items

Original records from the West Indian local government take up approximately 870 linear meters. The documents from the Danish-West Indian central administration take up about 414 linear meters. Therefore, we are talking about a substantial amount of preserved records, letters, accounts, and other documents that have been scanned in 2013-2016 and made available through this website 2017. The collection was included on UNESCOs World Heritage List in 1997.

After scanning, the documents make up more than five million image files which are stored in the databases of the Danish National Archives. From there they are accessible and available for download. The search facility is equipped with a counting mechanism which gives the researcher a sense of the number of hits and records being searched. The records are grouped into digitized records and transcribed records, respectively. The latter are records to which volunteers have added search data (see below). The five million image files of scanned records are subdivided into more than 15,000 series of images. At the time of writing, the transcribed records contain approx. 130,000 single entries, which have been entered into the system by volunteers. This number is dynamic since the transcription of the records continues by means of crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing: Join us as a volunteer

Most of the documents are in Danish and handwritten in the Gothic script. Users who do not read Danish or can decipher Gothic handwriting will not really be able to benefit from the documents.

Transcribing and translating all the documents into English is a major task, and one that was not part of the framework and timeline of the project. However, since June 2015 the Danish National Archives has tested to what extent this task can be accomplished by means of a crowdsourcing pilot project. Concurrent with the development of this website, the Danish National Archives has established an IT platform for crowdsourcing. It acts as infrastructure for volunteers who wish to participate in transcribing and translating the original sources. In this context, the Danish National Archives has prioritized documents that can provide West Indian, Danish, and other descendants with insight into the doings of their ancestors, including censuses, land registers, and slave lists. As a volunteer you can help by adding search terms and text to the digitized records and thereby make it easier for others to find the information they are looking for.


If you would like to know more or to join us as a volunteer you can visit the crowdsourcing portal here.