| Vital Records
Vital Records on Microfilm
Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin
05 Aug 2001
|by Michael P. Christiansen|
Most of Fond du Lac County's vital records, prior to about October 1907, are available through the Family History Library (hereinafter FHL) system. These records and their indexes are listed in several different places in the FHL catalog. This article consolidates the catalog information and adds several items which should make the films easier to use in conjunction with the indexes.
In the case of marriages, the indexes refer to volume and page numbers, but the FHL catalog does not show which volume numbers are on each microfilm roll. In the chart below, I have added the volume and pages found on each microfilm item. The birth indexes give only a date of birth, and a reel and record number. Those birth index reel numbers refer to films at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and are not directly compatible with FHL films. Since many births were recorded long after the event (but appear in order of registration), they are difficult to find with only a date of birth. In the chart, I have added the equivalent reel and record numbers found on each FHL microfilm item.
The records on microfilm are "not exactly" the same as the records found at the Fond du Lac County Courthouse. The records on microfilm are the written transcripts deposited at the Bureau of Health Statistics at Madison. The statewide microfiche indexes are from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Some of the records at the Courthouse are original records, and some of them are transcripts also. For a more complete synopsis of the vital records of each county and the various laws that have applied (and have sometimes been ignored!), see: Guide to public vital statistics records in Wisconsin (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Records Survey, 1941).
Volume and page numbers of these microfilmed records and indexes are NOT the same as those at the Fond du Lac County Courthouse.
Also, the printed indexes published by the Fond du Lac County Genealogical Society are indexes to the records at the Courthouse. The Society's printed Marriage and Death indexes contain registration dates (date of filing) for the events. These can be used to easily find those events on the microfilms. In the case of births, it will be easier to find them via one of the birth indexes on microfiche. There are two microfiche birth indexes, one alphabetical, and one chronological by date of birth. Generally, you will use the alphabetical index if you do not have the date of birth. However, if you already know the date of birth from other sources such as the Society's birth index, you can use the chronological index. One possible advantage of the chronological index is that it allows you to effectively bypass possible indexing errors regarding the name, since it is easy to carefully examine all the births on a particular date and notice spelling variations and errors, such as a wrong first letter of the surname.
There are minor differences between the Society's printed indexes, and the state microfiche indexes. Each is one individuals interpretation of a handwritten record, although the Society's indexes are probably one step closer to the original records. One other difference noted when spot-checking between the Society's Death index and the microfiche index is that some married women are indexed by maiden name in the Society's printed index, while they were indexed by married name in the state microfiche death index.
To evaluate the completeness of the microfilmed records, I checked
several pages from the first volume of the Society's Birth, Marriage and
Death Indexes against the microfiche indexes. The marriages appeared to
be complete. The births and deaths on microfilm did not contain those few
events for which the Society's index lists a Deed or Mortgage liber as
the source. The deaths recorded before 1871 were not found in the microfilmed
records. This amounts to about 70 deaths which occured between 1867 and
1870, except for two earlier. Otherwise, the microfilmed records appear
to be complete. Of course, this only refers to the completeness of the
microfilmed records versus those at the Courthouse. Many early vital events
were not recorded at all.
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** Ruth Shaw Worthing, The History of Fond du Lac County, as told by its Place-Names, 1976.
** The History of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880.
** Portrait and Biographical Album of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Chicago: Acme Publishing Company, 1889.
** A. T. Glaze, Incidents and Anecdotes of Early Days and History of Business in the City and County of Fond du Lac from Early Times to the Present, Fond du Lac: P. B. Haber Printing Company, 1905.
** Maurice McKenna, ed., History of Fond du Lac County, Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912.
** Wisconsin Volunteers: War of the Rebellion 1861-1865
** Plat Book of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, C. M. Foote & Co. 1893