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Wisconsin Censuses

Overview

Censuses were taken by the state of Wisconsin from 1836, when it was a territory, until 1905. The 1836, 1838, 1842, 1846, 1847, 1855, 1875, 1885, 1895, and the surviving fragments of the 1865 censuses resemble the early federal censuses, listing only the head of a household by name and summarizing the number of others. The 1905 census was the only state census in Wisconsin to list all the members of a household by name.

Search Strategies

Censuses are the most heavily used genealogical sources. Unfortunately, most people rush through them and don't get the most out of these fabulous records. There are many valuable tips for using censuses. We recommend that you read chapter 5, Research in Census Records, in The Source (Salt Lake City, Ancestry, 1997 edition). This will outline the use of censuses and the many tips for getting the most information.

Key points to consider:

  • Photocopy the page on which your ancestor is found. You may see something later that you didn't notice the first time you found the page. You will lose information if you choose to transcribe instead of photocopying.
  • Read the pages before and after the ancestor's page. You may find other family members living near by. 
  • Find each census for the life span of your ancestors. Compare the information that is given every ten years. You are bound to see differences in ages, years of immigration, and number of children living at home.
  • Consider the source of the information given. The census pages do not indicate who gave the information so the researcher must consider that these pieces of information are leads and not necessarily facts. The researcher must compare these sources with others.

What the Society Owns

The Library has all of the 1836-1905 Wisconsin State Censuses. The Library also has indexes to the 1836, 1838, 1842, 1855, 1865 and 1905 censuses. At present, the Library has a small collection of state censuses for other states. You must use the Library Catalog (formerly MadCat) to locate these.

How to Access These Records at the Society

Interlibrary Loan
We have circulating copies of the Wisconsin State Censuses available for loan. Request these from your local library's Interlibrary Loan office. Provide the year and county. We also circulate indexes to the 1905 state census. Provide the name of the person and year.

Research by Mail/Fax
If you would like our Reference Staff to locate and photocopy pages from the censuses, it is very important for you to view our Library Services page for an explanation of charges before you place any order.

Who will you find?

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