I understand that an absolution is an event to clear a couple from the sin of having a child out of wedlock.


If a child was born out of wedlock, the mother (and in some countries the father) had to be absolved of this sin. There may have been a separate record kept of this event, listing the parties involved by name. Or the date of the absolution may just be listed to the side of the child's christening entry in the church record.

Did this mean that the child was born before a marriage, or simply that the child was conceived before a marriage?

I am researching a couple who married on January 7th, 1781, and had their first child on April 8th, 1781.

I am wondering whether I should be expecting the existence of an absolution record.

2 Answers 2


According to the law that applied in Denmark at the time, people who had a child out of wedlock made themselves liable to a (very considerable) fine, and to confessing their sin in church, in the presence of the entire congregation, after which they would be absolved.

I have never read about any formal records of such confessions and absolutions being kept, although I wouldn't rule it out. (One reason why absolutions would not have been recorded is that the confession was not considered a punishment, but a way for the guilty persons to re-establish themselves as honourable members of the community.)

However, if a marriage took place, the fine was reduced and no confession or absolution was required. Since the couple you are researching did marry, and before the birth of the child at that, no such record is likely to exist.


I have found an absolution in the Communion Records of Skt Olai in Helsingor in 1716. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L94Q-TQSR?i=322&wc=M5VL-3T5%3A357516401%2C357516402%2C357694001%2C357742101&cc=2078555, Image 323 column 2, #6-7. This couple had a child before the absolution whose birth was recorded at the back of the birth records book and the vicar specified the child being illegitimate. This couple also later married and had 5 more children together although their second child was born just seven months after their marriage.

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