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Vital Records

Overview

Vital records document births, marriages and deaths. They are maintained by governmental agencies and are used as primary sources in genealogical research. The researcher should be aware that recording, particularly of births and deaths, was very incomplete. 

Although Wisconsin law required counties to register these events since 1852, only a limited number were actually recorded by the counties before 30 September 1907.

Search Strategies

Vital records were maintained at the state and/or county level. The Society owns state level vital records. The researcher should also check the appropriate county courthouse for possible additional birth, marriage and death records.

One of the most important details about a birth, marriage or death record is the informant. This person varies and, therefore, the accuracy of the information varies. A parent may give the information on their child's birth record. A bride or groom will usually provide the information for the marriage record and the widow or nearest family member may give information on a death record. It is also possible for non-related persons to give information on any and all of these types of records. Many records will provide the name of the informant toward the bottom of the form.

What the Society Owns

Pre-1907
The Society Library holds microfilm of the births, marriages, and deaths recorded in Wisconsin at the state level before October 1, 1907. These records on microfilm are arranged by county and by date of registration. They are not filmed by the date of the event. Therefore, it is necessary to use the indexes first.

Record

Holdings 

Indexes 

Births  1852-September 30, 1907 by name or date
Marriages  1836-September 30, 1907 by name (groom & bride)-partial
Deaths  1852-September 30, 1907 by name

After September 30, 1907
The Society Library does not own any Wisconsin vital records dated after September 30, 1907. We do have a small microfiche collection of indexes to some post 1907 Wisconsin vital records. These indexes include the following:

Record

Years

Indexed by

Marriages  1973-78 groom & bride
1979-97 groom & bride
1979 (City of Milwaukee) groom & bride
Divorces 1965-78 (except 1966) husband & wife
1979-83 husband & wife
1980-84 husband only
Deaths  1959-67 & 1969-79 surname 
1979-97 surname

States Other Than Wisconsin
The Society Library has some collections of vital records for states other than Wisconsin. Massachusetts vital records and an index to North Carolina marriage bonds are found on microfiche, the Barbour Collection that indexes Connecticut vital records is on microfilm and there are miscellaneous collections in other formats. For a complete listing of our collections, check the card and computer catalogs under "{state}-registers of births, etc".

How to Access These Records at the Society

Pre-1907 Record Options

Online

You may search pre-1907 birth, death, and marriage records by last name, first name, county, and/or year and place orders online.

In Person

If you plan to visit in person, you will find the vital records and indexes in the Microforms Room of the Library, located on the second floor of the Society's headquarters building in Madison.

Research by Mail or Fax

Visit Library Services for details on fees and procedures.

If you would like a certified copy, you must contact:

Wisconsin Center for Health Statistics
Dept. of Health and Social Services
P.O. Box 309
Madison, Wisconsin 53701

or

Register of Deeds at the appropriate county courthouse (View a list of addresses).

Post-1907 Record Options

The Society does not own vital records after September 30, 1907. You must contact one of the following:

Wisconsin Center for Health Statistics
Dept. of Health and Social Services
P.O. Box 309
Madison, Wisconsin 53701

or

Register of Deeds at the appropriate county courthouse (View a list of addresses).

Both the state registrar and local registers of deeds are required by the law to charge various fees for copies; contact them for details about those costs.

Who will you find?

10-percent discount on vital records, microfilm and more at the Wisconsin Historical Society!

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