Wisconsin Historical Society

Resource Description

About Our Church Records

About the Wisconsin Historical Society Church Records | Wisconsin Historical Society

When there is no registered birth, marriage or death record, church records can serve as alternate sources for these vital records.  The Wisconsin Historical Society Library-Archives holds records from many churches throughout Wisconsin as well as published histories and periodicals from churches throughout the United States and Canada. Any search for church records must begin with the family religion, family residence and approximate dates of events being researched.

Use published county histories to identify churches in locations where the family lived. Published denominational histories, yearbooks and conference reports can tell you when a where congregations were established. For urban churches, check city and telephone directories. The Society's Library-Archives holds these for many metropolitan locations across the United States and Canada.

Types of Church Records Available

Catholic Church Records

The Library holds the following resource books on Catholic Churches in Wisconsin and the rest of the United States. These will assist you in finding the specific parishes by residence of the family.

  • The Official Catholic Directory (BX 845 C5, Reference Desk)
  • The Catholic Church in Wisconsin (BX 1415 W6 H4, Reference Desk)
  • Directory of Catholic Churches in Wisconsin (BX 1415 W6 H5, Reference Desk)
Other Church Records

Most of the non-Catholic church records relate to Christian Protestant denominations.  Because there are so many of these denominations, each broken down into different conferences and synods, determining a family's religion and identifying the relevant church is a necessity.

The Library Archives owns the microfilm collection of many churches of the American Lutheran Church synod (which is primarily Norwegian). A full list of churches that are included in this collection is found in the library catalog.

You will find listings of specific church record collections in A Guide to Church Vital Statistics Records in Wisconsin (CD 3590 H46, Reference Desk).

How Church Records are Organized

Online

There are many church records that can be found on www.FamilySearch.org. This site has digitized some church records but most of them are still only available to borrow on microfilm from the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) through their website. You can have these microfilm reels sent to the Wisconsin Historical Society since we are an affiliate public library of the GSU.

Physical

The collections of church records held here at the Library Archives are listed in the Library Catalog, the online catalog for both library and archival resources.  Search the online catalogs by using the location along with the search terms "church records" or "registers of births, etc".

Checking Out Materials

Church records are mostly non-circulating. Contact the Library Archives staff for details on specific collections.

Purchasing Copies

Photocopies of church records are available for a fee.

How to Cite

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

Name of the Church/Author, year, state, county, city, volume number, page number.

Learn More

See more articles about researching your family history.

Have Questions?

Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.