State Historical Society of Wisconsin

State Historical Society of  Wisconsin

Archives Division

816 State Street
Madison, WI 53706

Phone: (608) 264-6534

Hours: See below


Genealogy Collection | General Information | Researchers | Getting there from Rockford


The State Historical Society Library will be open from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, except for the dates shown below. The Library is always closed on Sunday. The Stacks and Microforms Room close 30 minutes before these hours.

January 1, 1997 ............................................Closed New Year's Day
January 2 - 17 -- 8:00-5:00 ...........................UW intersession
January 18 - 20 .............................................Closed Martin Luther King Day
March 22 - 29 -- 8:00-5:00 ...........................UW spring break
May 19 - June 14 -- 8:00-5:00 ......................UW intersession
May 24 - 26 ..................................................Closed Memorial Day
July 4-6..........................................................Closed Independence Day
August 11-29 -- 8:00-5:00 ............................UW intersession
August 30 - September 1 ...............................Closed Labor Day
November 26 -- 8:00-5:00 ............................Day before Thanksgiving
November 27 ................................................Closed Thanksgiving Day
December 22 - Jan. 16, 1998 -- 8:00-5:00.....UW intersession
December 24 - 25 .........................................Closed Christmas Eve & Day
December 31 - Jan. 1, 1998 ..........................Closed New Year's Eve & Day

This schedule sometimes changes without notice. Before traveling to Madison to use the Library, call 608-264-6534 or 608-264-6535 to confirm these hours.

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The State Historical Society of Wisconsin Library


The State Historical Society Library possesses one of the largest genealogical collections in the country. Nearly one-fifth of the entire library collection, now over three million items, deals with family or local history. The collection is not in any way limited to Wisconsin history and genealogy: the Library attempts to acquire all available historical and genealogical materials relating to any part of the U.S. and Canada. No attempt is made to collect foreign historical or genealogical publications. By agreement the University of Wisconsin Memorial Library collects non-North American historical materials and, though it does not collect genealogical materials specifically, it may have useful materials for the genealogical researcher.


The Library holds microfilm of the births, marriages, and deaths recorded in Wisconsin before October 1, 1907. The researcher should be aware that recording, particularly of births and deaths, was very incomplete. There are statewide indexes of births and deaths and a partial index to the marriages covering the counties alphabetically from Adams to Racine. These records must be used in person as the Library does not have sufficient staff to undertake searches in them. The researcher who desires service by mail or who needs post-1907 records should contact the Bureau of Health Statistics, P.O. Box 309, Madison, Wisconsin 53701, or the Register of Deeds at the appropriate county courthouse.


The Library has acquired on microfilm a complete file of all the available schedules of the 1790-1920 U.S. censuses for all the states as well as the censuses of Canada, 1666-1881. These censuses are not available for interlibrary loan, but may be used by researchers visiting the Library. The Library has also attempted to acquire all available published indexes to these materials and now has indexes to most states through 1860 and a few for later years. There are few indexes to the Canadian censuses except for the earliest years. The Library has only begun to acquire the available Soundex indexes to the U.S. censuses from 1880-1920 and currently holds only the 1880 Soundex indexes for Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, and California as well as the 1900 Soundex indexes for Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Library has 1920 Soundex indexes for most states and plans to acquire the rest as funding permits.


Among the most useful genealogical tools in the Library are the indexes to the U.S. censuses of 1820-1870 for the area that is now Wisconsin. The indexes cover the entire state for each census year and, beginning with 1850, include all the individuals living in a household, not just the household head. The Library also holds a Soundex index to the 1880 U.S. Census for Wisconsin which indexes only households with a child ten years old or younger. Also held on microfilm are the 1900, 1910 and 1920 U.S. censuses for Wisconsin and the Soundex indexes for the 1900 and 1920 censuses. The Library has copies available for interlibrary loan of all the U.S. censuses for Wisconsin, and all the indexes, except the 1920 Soundex.


The State Archives, housed in the Historical Society building, holds manuscript copies of the Wisconsin state censuses of 1836, 1838, 1842, 1846, 1847, 1855, 1875, 1885, 1895, and a statistical abstract of the 1865 census. These censuses resemble the early federal censuses, listing only the head of a household by name and summarizing the number of others. All these state censuses, except for the 1865 statistics, have been microfilmed and are available for interlibrary loan. Published indexes exist for 1836, 1838, 1842 and 1855. The Library also holds the 1905 Wisconsin State Census, the only state census to list all the members of a household by name. A county by county index to this census is available for all counties. The 1905 census and indexes are on microfilm and available for loan.


Passenger lists are among the most frequently requested genealogical materials, and the Library has a strong collection. Most of the existing lists from the colonial period through the early nineteenth century have been published in some form. The Library holds most of the items cited in the standard bibliography, the Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography by P. William Filby (2nd edition, Detroit, Gale Research, 1988). The bulk of the lists from 1820 through the end of the nineteenth century have not been published, but the Library has on microfilm the available lists for the major east and Gulf coast ports (New York, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans (ca. 1820-ca. 1890--the ending date varies from port to port) as well as the available indexes. Note, however that the lists for New York from 1847-1896 are not indexed. The Library also holds lists for Quebec, 1865-1900, and Halifax, 1890-1900. The passenger list microfilms are not available for interlibrary loan nor can the Library staff undertake searcheR in them


Wisconsin materials are often more intensively cataloged than those relating to other states. Many biographical sketches in the histories of Wisconsin counties and communities as well as several thousand selected obituaries (the "Wisconsin Necrology") are indexed in the Library's subject card catalog.


The State Historical Society Library also holds one of the nation's largest newspaper collections. This collection is also national in scope with strengths in colonial newspapers, ethnic and labor newspapers, and papers from major cities. The extensive Wisconsin portion predominates, however. The collection is estimated to contain from two-thirds to three-fourths of all the newspaper issues ever published in Wisconsin. All the Wisconsin newspapers and many of the out-of-state papers are microfilmed and are available for interlibrary loan.

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The State Historical Society is open to the public and genealogical researchers are welcome to use its collections. Because of the large number of mail requests for genealogical research assistance received by the Library, only the most limited searching can be performed in response to a particular request. Genealogical questions by mail may be directed to the Reference Librarian, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 816 State Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706. A more detailed guide to the Society's genealogical materials, Genealogical Research, is available in-person for $5.95, or postpaid for $8.35 from Publication Orders at the above address.

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The State Historical Society of Wisconsin Library

We presently have five record's searchers registered with us who may be able to undertake the research in which you are interested. They are:

Mrs. Jean Skinner
7540 Century Place
Middleton, WI 53562
(608) 836-1375

Ms. Catherine Ostlind
Sol Terra House
Route 1, Box 184-B
Merrimac, WI 53561
(608) 493-2617

Mrs. Mary C. Martin
1122 Frisch Road
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 271-3390

Mrs. Nancy G. Williams
409 Orchard Drive
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 231-1641

Mrs. Joy Reisinger
1020 Central Avenue
Sparta, WI 54656
(608) 269-6361

Each of these researchers is very familiar with our collections and services. They have no official connection to the State Historical Society, however, and you must conduct any business arrangements directly with them rather than with us.

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  1. Take I-90 to Madison
  2. When you see a Golf Course and Ramada Inn on the right, get into the left lane.
  3. Peel left on 12-18 (West)
  4. Stay on 12-18 for almost 5 miles.
  5. You will go past the Coliseum (on your right)
  6. Get into the right lane, go over a long hill.
  7. Turn right (off ramp) onto 14 East, 151 North and Park Street Combined
  8. You should see the State of Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture Bldg. on this corner.
  9. You will go past a McDonald's on the left immediately.
  10. Stay on Park Street 2-3 miles (even though 151 turns off)
  11. You will go under the walkway of Madison General Hospital.
  12. You will go under 2 railroad underpasses close together.
  13. You will enter the University Campus area.
  14. Turn right on Langdon Street or continue on Park Street to the Parking Building on the lake.
  15. You're there.

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[Winnebago County Homepage] [USGenWeb] [ILGenWeb][Boone County Homepage]

Katy Hestand

County Coordinator

Copyright 2005. All Rights Reserved. All materials contained on these pages are furnished for the free use of those individuals researching their family origins. ANY COMMERCIAL USE, PUBLICATION, OR POSTING OF THIS MATERIAL ON ANY OTHER WEBSITE, WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE CO-COORDINATOR/ AUTHOR/SUBMITTER OF THE MATERIAL/PAGE, IS PROHIBITED. All images used on these pages were obtained from sources permitting free distribution, or generated by the author, and are subject to the same restrictions/permissions. All persons contributing material for posting on these pages do so in recognition of their free, non-commercial distribution, and furthermore, are responsible to assure that no copyright is violated by their submission.

Created for the ILGenWeb Project by Cecelia Yeruski.
Last updated: Monday, 10-Sep-2018 12:20:49 MDT