About the Wisconsin Historical Society Family Histories Collections | Wisconsin Historical Society

Resource Description

About Our Books of Family Histories

The Wisconsin Historical Society has 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. Family histories provide stories along with names, dates, and places of our ancestors over many generations. The Society has been collecting family histories, also known as genealogies, since the 1850s.

We also have a small collection of unpublished family histories. Items in the collection include diaries, journals, documents and manuscripts of families connected to Wisconsin history.

How Books of Family Histories are Organized


Family history books are listed in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library Catalog. Search by family surname and the word "family" or "genealogy" (for example "Smith family" or "Smith genealogy").  Once you find a genealogy you are interested in, write down the call number.  Also, the catalog record will note if the family history is available through Google Books. Google Books is accessible at the Society Library or from your home computer.

Many family history books have been digitized by the Google Books Library Project. Check the Google Books website to see if the family name you are interested in is listed.

A family history's full text may be available if the book is out of copyright, or if the publishers or authors have asked to make the book fully viewable. A "full view" option allows you to view any page from a book." If a family history is in the public domain, you can download, save and print a PDF version to read at your own pace.

Published Materials
Published family histories are located in the Society's Library in both the open book stacks and the closed pamphlet collection. Compiled genealogies vary in scope and organization. Some follow only the male lines, while others may follow female lines for generations. Not all genealogies are indexed. Many rely on the reader knowing through which line they descend.
Unpublished Materials
Unpublished family records are located in the Society's Archives. Unpublished family histories are listed in ArCat, the Society's online archives catalog. Search by the family surname and the word "family" or "genealogy" (for example "Smith family" or "Smith genealogy"). Once you have the call number, an archivist will retrieve the materials for you to view.

Checking Out Materials

Family history books and unpublished family records are non-circulating and must be used at the Society's Library or Archives.

Purchasing Copies

Photocopies of published and unpublished materials can be made by the Library Archives staff for a fee. If the material is still under copyright, only portions may be photocopied. The staff is unable to print entire publications or collections.

How to Cite

For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model.

Family History Book Citation
Richard Currier, "The Courier Family in America," (Bennington, VT: Family Press, 2002), p. 45.

Learn More

See more articles about researching your family history.

Have Questions?

Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.

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