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Death Records Help


Search Tips

Last Name:
This field is generally required. The last name field will search for all names that begin with the letters entered. You must enter at least three letters. For example, if you enter Roger, you will get Roger, Rogers, Rogerson, etc. This field is not case sensitive. Do not use apostrophes. You can use spaces in names, but it is not necessary (i.e. O Malley will bring up the same results as Omalley). You do not need a last name if you are searching by exact date or by county and death year.

County:
This field is optional. Enter the county where you think the person died. You can view a map to determine adjacent counties, which can be helpful in your research, especially if your ancestor lived near a bordering county. You can search county and year without using a last name.

Event Date:
Entering the exact date of the event can be helpful when searching for possible name variations or when you have a date but an unclear name.

Year:
This field is optional. Enter the four digit death year.

Information

1. What is the Wisconsin Pre-1907 Vital Records Index?
The Wisconsin Pre-1907 Vital Records Index includes approximately 400,000 names from Wisconsin death records dated between 1852 and September 30, 1907. Vital records, including death records, were maintained at the state and/or county level. The Society owns microfilm copies of state level vital records.

2. How can I use the index?
You can search the index in order to find your ancestors in the pre-1907 Death Records Index. You can then use the information from the index to find the records on microfilm at the Wisconsin Historical Society or any other institution that holds the microfilm of pre-1907 Wisconsin deaths. You can also order copies directly from our website, simply by clicking "order a copy."

3. What will I receive if I order a copy?
A photo copy of the record that is on microfilm will be created by our staff and mailed to you. At the end of the online order process, you may also print out a receipt that summarizes your request. Due to Wisconsin state law, we can only issue uncertified copies of the records and no vital records can be digitized and published in electronic form.

4. How long will it take?
Orders are usually mailed within two weeks of receipt.

5. What does it cost?
Each death record costs $15. Wisconsin Historical Society Members receive a 10% discount. Learn more about how to become a member.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why didn't I find my ancestor?
Some death records may be indexed in unexpected ways, perhaps under a name variation. You many want to take a look at these search tips which are meant give you some different ways to search the index and some guidance on how to track down vital records.

However, there are some records that were never registered with the state and are not part of our index. There have also been indexing errors that make it difficult to find ancestors in the index. Some of these errors were part of the fiche created in the 1970s and some were introduced when we digitized the index and other errors exist because the person writing the name on the record misspelled the family name and it was then misspelled in the index. All of these combine to make genealogy challenging.

2. What records are indexed?
After a death was recorded at the county level, local officials normally forwarded that information to the state. Wisconsin law required counties to register these events since 1852, but the law was not strictly enforced prior to roughly 1880. Most records date from 1880 or later. The index contains approximately 400,000 death records. No single statewide index exists for vital records created after September 30, 1907.

3. What information can be found on a death record?
It varies from record to record. Any of the following may be included on a death record: full name of deceased, maiden name (if wife or widow),occupation of deceased, age, name of father, birthplace of father, name of mother, birthplace of mother, birthplace of deceased, date of birth of deceased, name of spouse of deceased, date of death, cause of death, duration of disease, place of death, residence at time of death, military service, name of physician, coroner or justice, residence of such person, name of undertaker or other person conducting burial, place of burial, number and date of burial permit, date of certificate & registration.

4. How was the Death Records Index created?
The Society holds microfilm of the deaths recorded by state officials prior to September 1907. The microfilm is not arranged by name, however, and an index was necessary to locate a specific record. During the 1970s, state officials created such an index on microfiche. With grant funding from the Schoenleber Foundation of Milwaukee, this microfiche index has been converted to electronic form and published here as a searchable database.

5. What will I receive if I order a death record?
You will receive a photo copy of the selected death record, printed from the microfilm.

6. Where can I get a certified copy of a death certificate?
You can get a certified copy from:

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

7. Where can I get a copy of a death record from after 1907?
You can 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.

8. What if I don’t find the person I am looking for?
Take a look at these additional search tips.

9. How Should I Cite This Information?
If you wish to cite vital records data found in this online index, please first bear in mind that this information is not a legal vital record and that its information does not constitute legal verification of the fact of the event. For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, you should follow this model:

Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin Genealogy Index: Death Record Entry for Dane County, Volume No. 02, Page No. 257; viewed online at http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/vitalrecords/ on [insert today's date here]

Who will you find?

Society members receive a 10-percent discount on:

  • Vital records and microfilm
  • Civil War service records
  • Plus more!

Become a member today!

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