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Wisconsin Name Index 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 birth year.

First Name:
This field is optional. The first name field will return names that begin with the letters entered. For example, if you enter "Ed," you will get Edith, Edmund, Edward, etc.

We are currently in the process of identifying a county for all Wisconsin Name Index records. However, many records do not have a county identified yet, so when searching by county, be aware that this may result in fewer records being returned. Until we have a county assigned to all Wisconsin Name Index records, we suggest leaving the County field blank.

If you do choose to search by county, enter the county where you think the person spent most of his or her life. 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:
This search field is only available for Vital Records records. If you enter a date in this field, you will not receive any WNI results.

This field is optional. Enter the four digit birth or death year.


1. What is the Wisconsin Genealogy Index?
The Wisconsin Genealogy Index searches both the Pre-1907 Vital Records Index and the Wisconsin Name Index. The Pre-1907 Vital Records Index includes over 1 million names entered on Wisconsin marriage records dated between 1852 and September 30, 1907. Vital records, including marriage records, were maintained at the state and/or county level. The Society owns microfilm copies of state level vital records. The online database was created in 2005 by reformatting the state’s microfiche index, adding 27,000 names from delayed birth records, courtesy of the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society, and adding several hundred thousand names from marriage records in counties (Richland through Wood) that had not been included on the microfiche index. The Wisconsin Name Index includes 150 county and local histories, dozen of professional directories and biographical encyclopedias, more than 60 scrapbooks containing 30,000 obituaries, and selected articles in Wisconsin magazines and newspapers.  These publications were indexed by Wisconsin Historical Society librarians between roughly 1870 and 1970 but contain information on individuals from earlier date ranges. 

2. How can I use the index?
You can search the index in order to find records and articles of your ancestors. 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 marriage records or copies of the indexed books . 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?
Upon placing your order, you will receive a photocopy of the original text. View an example  You can estimate the number of copies you will receive by noting the page numbers in the results screen.  Most texts are only one page long.  Some include a portrait.

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What sources are indexed?
More than 1500 publications were indexed by Wisconsin Historical Society librarians between 1870 and 1970. These included 150 county and local histories, dozens of professional directories and biographical encyclopedias, more than 60 scrapbooks containing 30,000 obituaries, and selected articles in Wisconsin magazines and newspapers.

2. Where can I find the texts cited here?
Most of the publications in which these short biographies appeared are owned by various libraries around Wisconsin; check the catalog of your local public library. Out-of-state researchers may be able to find copies at the nearest university or large public library, or they may be able to order reprints from Northern Micrographics of LaCrosse, WI.

3. Can I order copies from you?
Yes. Most items are available for purchase from the search results screen. Just click "Buy a Copy".

4. How was the Wisconsin Name Index created?
Starting about 1870, staff made a catalog card for every biographical sketch in each new Wisconsin county history. They made a similar card for every obituary added to the scrapbooks they called the "Wisconsin Necrology," and 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).

5. Will the Index be expanded?
In coming years we expect to contribute thousands of additional records from other Society databases to this index. If you'd like to be notified whenever we add more resources, send a request using our Feedback page.

6. What will I receive if I order a Wisconsin World War II obituary?
Many sketches are a page in length, but some are a paragraph or less, some are simply names and hometowns in a list of the dead or captured. Other clippings list more complete biographical information as well as portraits. There is no way of determining length prior to an order. There may be multiple pages for an individual. Wherever possible we have grouped those pages under one entry. However, if the entries are from separate volumes, each entry will need to be ordered separately.

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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