Saturday, 22 March 2014

Soundtoll Registers Online - Danish Maritime Tax Records

Soundtoll Registers Online was created for research into the development of trade and marine transport focused on the Frisian coast, which includes parts of Holland, Germany and Denmark.  The sound between Denmark and Sweden forms a bottleneck entrance to the Baltic Sea, through which a significant proportion of European shipping passed.

A narrow strait, guarded by Kronborg castle and patrolled by warships, made it easy and lucrative for the Danish monarchy to extract tolls for the right of passage and taxes on goods. The resulting records span 1497 to 1857, being almost complete from 1574.

Mariners are often missing from census records and can be hard to indentify. The Soundtoll Registers name the ship’s master, his home port, detail the origin and destination for each voyage and list the cargo carried.

The Missing Master Mariner

Mary Hogg, a master mariner’s wife, appears of the 1851 (HO 107/1806/149/23) and 1861 (RG 9/1194/90/19) censuses at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, but her husband was absent on both occasions.  Mary was born ca. 1826 at Bermondsey, Surrey, a birthplace in common with Robert her eldest known child, born ca. 1847.  Yarmouth was the birthplace of younger children (Emma, Clara Mary, Elizabeth, George, Mary, born between 1847 and 1860) and Liverpool was the birthplace of son Arthur born ca. 1858.  Bermondsey is close to the major port of London.  Yarmouth is the colloquial name for Great Yarmouth. 

As the census information strongly suggests a sea captain named Hogg had a home port at Yarmouth, might he be recorded in the Soundtoll Register?  A search using those criteria yielded records of 2 voyages.

Extract of Soundpoll Register and transcribed record
 The transcriptions and documentation helped me understand what the Danish tax collector recorded.  A bit more work put the records in context.

R Hogg was the master of a ship that transported locally mined sulfur (svovl) from Girgenti, now called Agrigento (see International dictionary of historic places Vol 3 Southern Europe) on the island of Sicily.  The ship passed the Sound on 4 September 1847 headed for Stettin, now known as Szczecin.  The ship took on a cargo of ‘staves’ (staver), which sounds like some sort of lumber, at Stettin before passing through the Sound again on 6 October 1847, heading for London.

Armed with a forename initial R for Mary’s husband, I searched Ancestry’s collection entitled ‘London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921’ and found entry no 164.  Robert Hogg, a mariner, married Mary Calver, daughter of Robert Samuel Calver, a shipwright on 22 April 1843 at St James, Bermondsey.  The marriage was by license, which reduced the period of notice required, an important consideration for a mariner who spent much time at sea.

A Call for Collaboration

The Soundtoll Register Online is available under the generous terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-nonCommercial license, thanks to the University of Groningen and collaborative partners.  There are two ways you can contribute to the project:
  • Volunteers are needed to transcribe the records prior to 1634.  If you already have some paleaographic skills, give it a go, otherwise take a look at the pages that explain old Danish handwriting.
  • Use the Soundtoll register records for your own research.  That is not a big ask, is it?  Then give feedback and let the researchers know this resource has genealogical value.  The people behind this project care about quality and it shows in the website.  It is not yet as polished or extensive as the resource I highlighted last month, because the study has been underway for only a few years.


  1. A fascinating, informative insight into records I knew nothing about.

  2. I stumbled across the website due to a post in an archivist's group on linkedin. Otherwise I too would have no idea the records existed. I wonder if similar records exist for other strategic ports.

  3. Thanks so much. I found one of my forebears listed on these records :)

    1. I used these records in my latest blog post. I was confused about the cargo of Staver too.


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