About Our Immigration Records
The Wisconsin Historical Society owns passenger lists for the United States and Canada, and naturalization records for Wisconsin.
Passenger lists offer insights about your ancestor's voyage to the North America and connections to the old country.
Naturalization records may provide a vital link for tracing an ancestor to his or her country of origin and can be a rich source of information about the immigrant and his or her family. Naturalization is the legal procedure by which an alien becomes a citizen of the United States.
Passenger Lists: The Society maintains a collection of pre-20th century passenger lists for ports in North America (United States and Canada). The collection also includes pre-1950 passenger list indexes. The Society doesn't own records of ports of departure (emmigration records) but Ancestry.com has some collections available.
Naturalization Records: The collection includes naturalization records for people who became naturalized through the Wisconsin state courts. Records were consolidated from jurisdictions around the state and then assigned to the Society's regional Area Research Centers (ARCs) based on the record's nearest county. Naturalization records for Wisconsinites who became naturalized through the federal courts are available at the National Archives and Records Administration Great Lakes Region facility in Chicago.
How Immigration Records are Organized
Passenger lists are available for online viewing on the Society's Library public computers via our Ancestry Library Edition subscription. If you have a personal subscription to Ancestry.com you can view censuses anywhere. Passenger lists are sorted by port of entry into North America and then by date of arrival.
The Society does not have any naturalization records online. Ancestry.com has an index of federal naturalization records held by the National Archives.
Indexes for passenger lists are located in the Society's Library.
- 1565-1819, indexes were compiled by different authors using different formats. Read the index's introduction for explanations of abbreviations and criteria.
- 1820-1954, some alphabetical and Soundex indexes were created by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
- User guides for passenger lists are located in the Society's Library. User guides are compiled by nationality. Search the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library Catalog, by ethnic group to see what the Society has. Always read the introduction for each user guide to find out its compilation criteria. Most user guides are far from comprehensive.
- Indexes: Naturalization records are indexed by name. Contact or visit the ARC that handles your ancestor's county to research indexes.
- Microfilm: Naturalization records are organized by county and kept on microfilm. Most Wisconsin naturalization records are held at the Society's regional Area Research Centers (ARCs). Contact or visit the ARC that handles your ancestor's county to research records there. The Society's Archives has records for Dane, Sauk and Columbia Counties.
Checking Out Materials
Immigration resources are non-circulating and must be used at the Society's Archives or your Area Research Center.
Library-Archives staff will make photocopies for a fee. See your Area Research Center for its photocopying policies.
How to Cite
For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model.
- Passenger List Citation from a Website
- Port of arrival: New York, Oct 10, 1884, Ship Name: Republic, Passenger number line 179, Ancestry.com.
- Passenger List Citation from a Book
- Port of arrival: New York, Oct 31, 1910, Ship Name: Caronia, Passenger number line 65, National Archives Microfilm number T715, Wisconsin Historical Society
- Naturalization Record from a Book
- Ancestor's Name, County, Volume, Page Number, Wisconsin Historical Society (or the name of your Area Research Center)
Researching your family history
See more articles about researching your family history.
Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.