The Wisconsin Historical Society Family History Collections | Wisconsin Historical Society

Resource Description

Family History Collections Overview

Among the Top Five Institutions for Genealogy Research in the U.S.

The Wisconsin Historical Society Family History Collections | Wisconsin Historical Society

Researching your family history is a challenging, exciting and rewarding endeavor. Whether you are skimming the surface or immersed deeply into your family tree, the Society has many resources to help you connect with your past.

The Wisconsin Historical Society is among the top five institutions for genealogy research in the United States. Examples of nearly every type of genealogical resource can be found - from vital records, to military records, to passenger lists, to census records. Plus, our 4,000-title newspaper collection is second only to the Library of Congress. Collections span the entire United States and Canada and are an invaluable resource for connecting your family's heritage.

The majority of our genealogy resources are located in the Society's Library, while a small, but rich group of our genealogy holdings is online and accessible for searching by name from your home computer.

Librarians are available to guide you through the Society's extensive collections and resources, and to answer your questions.

Overview of the Family History Collections

Learn about each of our resources. Or you can jump info finding your ancestor by searching all Family History Collections.

Vital Records

Almost 3 million birth, marriage and death records recorded in Wisconsin before October 1, 1907, at the state level. All are searchable by name.

  • 1 million birth records and 27,000 delayed birth records
  • 1 million marriage records
  • 400,000 death records

Browse the Vital Records Index. Learn more about the scope of our collections of Birth Records, Marriage Records, Death Records. Or see Birth Record Research Tips, Marriage Record Research Tips, Death Record Research Tips.

Census Records

Wisconsin State and Territorial, United States Federal, and Canada census records between 1790 and 1920 are available for viewing.

Learn more about the scope of our Census Records. Or see Census Records Research Tips.

Immigration Records

Immigration records include pre-20th-century passenger lists for the United States and Canada; and naturalization records for Wisconsin.

Learn more about the scope of our Immigration Records. Or see Passenger List Research Tips and Naturalization Research Tips (to come).

Local and County Histories

All 72 Wisconsin counties are represented, some are online but hundreds of printed community histories are in the Library.

Learn more about the scope of our Local and County Histories Collection. Or see our Local and County Histories Research Tips.


More than 4,000 United States, Canada and military titles spanning from the 17th century to the present. Second largest collection of newspapers in the U.S., surpassed only by the Library of Congress.

Learn more about the scope of our Newspapers Collection. Or see Newspaper Research Tips for Family History.

Books of Family Histories

One of the largest collections of published family histories in North America, numbering over 40,000 and representing families from across the United States and Canada.

Learn more about the scope of our Books of Family Histories Collection. Or see Books of Family Histories Research Tips.

Military Records

Substantial documentation on military activities, wars, the domestic impact of military actions, and the service and experiences of individual soldiers.

Learn more about the scope of our Military Records (to come). Or see Military Records Research Tips (to come).

Cemetery Records

Many small groups of published and unpublished records from churches and public and private cemeteries around Wisconsin.

Learn more about the scope of our Cemetery Records. Or see Cemetery Records Research Tips.

Church Records

To come

Land Ownership Maps and Atlases of Wisconsin

Examples of almost every early plat map or atlas published for Wisconsin for both pre-and-post Civil War.

Learn more about the scope of our Land Ownership Maps and Atlases of Wiconsin. Or see Land Ownership Maps and Atlases Research Tips (to come).

Civil War

Our digital collection contains more than 20,000 original documents. It provides ready access to dozens of diaries, regimental histories and book-length memoirs, thousands of soldiers' letters, hundreds of newspaper articles, and more than 1,000 photographs, maps and other images.

Learn more about Wisconsin in the Civil War. Or see Civil War Research Tips (to come).

Genealogy Research-Related Websites Accessible in the Library

To help aid your research, the Society has subscriptions to these commercial websites. They are accessible from any public computer in the Society's Library.

  • Ancestry Library Edition
  • Heritage Quest Online
  • American Ancestors
  • Fold3
  • Newspaper Digital Collections

Checking Out Materials

Most family history resources are non-circulating and must be used at the Society's Library or Archives located in our headquarters building in Madison, Wisconsin. Some materials may be available at our Area Research Centers throughout Wisconsin or through interlibrary loan nationally. See individual collection descriptions for more information.

Purchasing Photocopies

Photocopies can be made of most resources by the Library Archives staff for a fee. Staff members are unable to print entire publications or collections.

Learn More

See more articles about researching your family history.

Have Questions?

Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.