Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

Birth Records Research Tips

Wisconsin Birth Records Research Tips | Wisconsin Historical Society

Birth records are a useful primary resource for family history. They are considered reliable because they were created at the time of the event.

Work From the Present Back into the Past

Gather all the information that you can from your family members about your relatives. Find out full names, when and where born, and so on. Document who told you each piece of information.

Search the Birth Records Index on the Society's Website

Search the index from the Research Your Family History page. The index is accessible from any computer with internet access. 

Ways to Search the Index
  • By last name. Enter the full last name in the Last Name field. If you are not sure of the exact spelling, enter at least three letters with the wildcard character (*) at the end. For example, if you enter Roger*, you will get Roger, Rogers, Rogerson, etc. This field is not case sensitive. Do not use apostrophes. 
  • By first name. Enter the first name in the First Name field. You can use the wildcard character (*) in this field to find names that begin with the letters entered. For example, if you enter Ed*, you will get Edith, Edmund, Edward, etc.
  • By event year: Entering the exact year of the event can be helpful when searching for possible name variations or when you have a date but an unclear name.

Visit the Society to View the Full Record on Microfilm

Once you find your ancestor, write down the index information to find and view the full record on microfilm in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society's Library; or at any other institution with microfilm for pre-1907 Wisconsin births.

Purchasing Copies

You can buy vital records through the Wisconsin Historical Society. On the individual record, click the orange "Buy" button and proceed through the Online Store purchasing process.

Due to Wisconsin state law, we can only issue uncertified copies of the records. 

Each record costs $15. Orders are usually mailed or emailed within two weeks of receipt. Wisconsin Historical Society Members receive a 10-percent discount. Learn how to become a member.

Information that May be Included on a Birth Record

  • Child's name
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Father's name
  • Mother's maiden name
  • Number of siblings

If You Don't Know The Date of Birth

Check census records
The U.S. Federal Census (1790-1930) can help pinpoint the year of birth. The 1900 Federal Census even asks for the month and year of birth.
Check marriage records
Wisconsin marriage records often ask for the groom's birthplace, and in later years, the bride's as well.
Check death records
Wisconsin death records ask for the birthplace and age of the deceased. Some also ask for the date of birth. Note: Heirs or survivors may have supplied this information long after the deceased person's birth, so it may contain errors.
Check for the record at the county level
Some records were never forwarded to state officials and are therefore not included in the Pre-1907 Vital Records indexes created from the state copies.

More Tips

  • A delayed birth record is a record filed many years after the event, often to help the person named in the birth record qualify for Social Security or military benefits. Although many pre-1907 records of this type are included in our collection, many others exist only in the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services.
  • Errors may exist on the original, handwritten record or in the indexes made from them.
  • The family member who originally provided data may have spelled the name differently than it is spelled today, or the clerk who recorded it may have spelled the name incorrectly.
  • Indexers working on the records in the 1970s may have misread the name, or errors may have been introduced when the manual index was digitized in 2002.

About Our Birth Records

The Society has approximately 1 million state-level birth records and 27,000 delayed birth records through September 30, 1907. They are a part of our Pre-1907 Vital Record Collection.

Wisconsin law required counties to register birth events with state officials starting in 1852, but the law was not strictly enforced until roughly 1880. Most records date from 1880 or later.

It is possible that some records only exist at the county level and are not in our state-level collection. We do not have birth records after September 30, 1907

Learn More

See more articles about researching your family history.

Have Questions?

Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.