Wisconsin Historical Society

Resource Description

About Our Obituaries

About the Wisconsin Historical Society Obituary Collections | Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Historical Society has thousands of obituaries available for family researchers through different databases and physical collections.

  • Wisconsin Name Index (WNI) Collection is an online index of three basic categories of information: obituaries, newspaper clippings and biographical book excerpts. The categories draw from a database of more than 60 historical scrapbooks containing 30,000 obituaries, 150 county and local histories, dozen of professional directories and biographical encyclopedias, and selected articles in Wisconsin magazines and newspapers. Most items were published 1870-1970.
  • Wisconsin Local History and Biographical Articles (WLHBA) Collection contains 16,000 historical newspaper articles on notable Wisconsin people and communities. Many of them are obituaries. The entire collection is available digitally, displays the actual clipping, and is downloadable. Most articles were published 1860-1940.

How Obituary Records are Organized

Online
Wisconsin Name Index (WNI)
This database is indexed by name or topic. WNI results will display index information for items related to the topic you entered. Use the information to help you locate and view the actual item at the Library.

Book icon for WNI records.WNI items
use this
book icon
Wisconsin Local History and Biographical Articles (WLHBA)
This database is searchable by name or topic. WLHBA search results will display clippings of entire articles which you can download.

Newspaper icon for WHLBA records.WLHBA items
use this
newspaper icon
Physical

The Society's Library has obituaries available on microfilm for viewing.

Purchasing Copies

Library staff can make copies of obituary articles for a fee.

How to Cite

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

Obituary Index Citation
Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin Name Index: Record Type; Source; Publish Date; Volume Number; Page Number; viewed online at www.wisconsinhistory.org on [insert today's date here]
Obituary Newspaper Article
City, State; Newspaper Title; Issue Date; Page Number; Wisconsin Historical Society.

History of Obituaries Clippings in the Wisconsin Name Index

Starting about 1870, librarians made a catalog card for every obituary in each new Wisconsin county history. Then they added the obituaries to scrapbooks called "Wisconsin Necrology." In addition, they frequently added cards for magazine and newspaper articles about Wisconsin residents. After more than a century of such work, the data on the original cards was typed into a database by state employees. The user interface was designed and implemented in 2002 by Wisconsin Historical Society staff.

In 2003 and 2004, 50,000 more records were added through an agreement with Darlene Waterstreet, compiler of WISDEX: Wisconsin biography index (Milwaukee, 2002; this index, which contains over 200,000 entries, is available from Badger Infosearch, PO Box 11943, Milwaukee WI 53211).

Learn More

See more articles about researching your family history.

Have Questions?

Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.