Naming a child in Denmark

Here’s a weird post, but I figured I should leave a breadcrumb trail on the Internet for people who will be following in my path – if there are any, that is!  At the least, this is information that would have been useful to me before hand.

If you’re having a child in Denmark, the process by which you give your child and name, and subsequently have proof of said name is not obvious, unless you’re a Dane.

Contrary to what I expected, a child is given a CPR number as soon as they are born.  Within minutes of being born, in fact. This number roughly translates to the SIN or Social Security Numbers for North Americans, so I was expecting to have to apply for it, which is not the case.  In fact, the process is a little different in that the child is entered into the Danish system immediately, and the rest of the process is simply filling in the details in the computer.

The first thing you need to do is decide on a name, which isn’t as easy as it might sound.  First, the name you pick MUST be on the list of acceptable names for a child.  If it is unusual, foreign or otherwise novel to Denmark, you must apply to have the name recognized.  This does not apply to last names, however, just given names.  Fortunately, the name list is quite extensive, and any reasonably common name (and some that really aren’t) are already there.

[Edit: I forgot one thing – the usage of names in Denmark is different from North American in an odd way – middle names, here, are not the same – at least, they are not analogous.  In the end, despite trying to convince me to use the Danish convention where “middle names” are maternal last names or something similar, neither I or tr woman at the church office felt strongly enough about it to change what I’d already entered into the computer.]

Once you’ve selected the name, you can head over to https://www.personregistrering.dk/, where you must log in using the mother’s identification.  (If you’re not in Denmark, you won’t be familiar with the system, but it involves using your CPR number, a password and a disposable key card with ~200 key/response pairs.  It’s quite a neat system, really.)  The mother can then enter the name of the child into the system. At this point, the computer then will Email the father and require that the father log in (using the his own CPR number, password and key card) and confirm the name in the system.

However, this is where it starts to become interesting.  If you will be christening the child, you’re more or less done the process at this point, and you can head over to your local church to finish the process.   If you won’t be christening the child, you’re more or less done as well – unless you’d like a birth certificate – in which case, the process is a little more involved.

What you need to do, at this point, is to figure out which parish you live in.  In my case, I went to city hall, and told them I wanted a birth certificate for my child, and they said “Go Here” and handed me a piece of paper with an address.  That address (Vestregade 21) turned out to be a church run office, where I had to figure out that I needed to enter through the front door, walk up a flight of stairs, and through a sitting room to find a woman who is in charge of church registrations.

What you then find out is that the church waits exactly 15 days after the child is born to enter the baby’s name into the system from the information in personregistrering database manually from a printed out copy.  Once it’s in the church system, they can simply print off a sheet of watermarked paper with the information on it – in both English and Danish, if you ask politely.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t contain the basic information on “where the child was born”, simply in which parish they’ve been registered, which took me by surprise.  In any case, at this point, you will have the equivalent of a birth certificate for your child – which, if you can read the Danish, you will find out is actually a certificate that you have registered the name to the child, not that the child was born.

And there you have it, now you know how to name a baby in Denmark!

12 thoughts on “Naming a child in Denmark

  1. Huh ?
    So in Denmark part of the job of the municipality (giving out birth certificates) is run by the church ?

    • Actually, yes – although I don’t think the Danes feel like it’s part of the municipality’s responsibility. The church has always done it, and so I don’t think they feel they should pass the function back to the government.

  2. So did you give your child an English middle name? My fiance and I were debating about what kind of names we’d like to give our kids when we decide the time is right, but couldn’t find anything really about non-maiden name middle names!

    We’ve decided we want something to work in both English and Danish, but being a child who had to suffer embarrassing surnames as a middle name and will be deleting that name with marriage, I would prefer to give my kids English names as middle names. For example, for a girl named Emma Charlotte [surname] and for a boy we liked Oliver Sebastian [surname], though of course they would only go by the single first name, not the double barrel.

    • Hi Grace,

      In the end we gave our daughter two names (as is often the custom in Canada), and then hyphenated our last names to form the last name. The Danes at the registration were slightly confused by the concept, and were unsure of which part to put in which box in the form, but they didn’t object to any of it. Of course, for that part of the process, you’ll be dealing with someone at a local church, so your milage may vary, as they say.

      My advice is that you should figure out what you want – and then figure out how you want to fill in the forms – before worrying about what the Danes might say about it.

  3. Hi and thank you for a very informatic blog post! I’m well aware of this post being 5 years old, but I’ve just give birth my first born here in Denmark and looking for some info concerning the names! We’re not part of the church so we have just few days a go submitted our sons name online at borger.dk. According to them, we should get a confirmation later on that the name have been approved. Do your have any memory how long this took? Million thanks advance!

    • Hi there – I definitely remember the process, but the name of our daughter was already on the list at borger.dk, so we didn’t have to submit the name for approval. If I recall correctly, the church was very open to us doing more-or-less what we wanted with the name, as long as each individual part of it was either on the list, or a current family name. The woman at the church and I had a long conversation, but overall I think she was just surprised by the Non-Danish way in which we wanted to fill in the birth certificate.

      Either way, It’s kind of a ridiculous process. Once the church gets through the process, you have to go on borger.dk and then make the official submission to the government, and I think that’s the point at which the naming approval happens. It’s pretty odd for a foreigner, but it’s not hard – and the official name approval came in about a week or two, after submitting it through the web.

      Good luck!

    • I’m sorry – I don’t know where to find it, anymore. If I recall correctly, you could access the list through borger.dk, which is available in english. I no longer have access to borger.dk, so I can’t check for you.

      Good luck!

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