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Wisconsin Genealogy

Depending on the area, you may be able to get Wisconsin genealogy documents going back to mid 1800s. But if you are getting official vital registrations (births, deaths and marriages) from the state, then you will only be able to go back as far as 1907.

Wisconsin Vital Records

Rather than have privacy restrictions on their records, the state of Wisconsin offers 2 different types of documents. Certified copies can be used for any sort of legal purpose as ID and they are only issued to immediate family members. For those just looking into Wisconsin genealogy, the non-certified copy is ideal. These are issued to anyone regardless of relationship. They are not good for anything except for the information they contain.

Whichever document you want, you can make your request at the Department of Health's Vital Records department. Their website has the forms which will require dates, names and locations for the record you want. Along with the search fee, you can either mail your application to their office in Madison or drop it off at their service desk. Mailed forms take about month but it will be about 2 hours if you go in person. If you are mailing, be sure to include a stamped self-addressed envelope.

The fee to get any type of vital record is $20 each. If you need multiple copies of the same record, the additional copies are $3 each. These fees will not be refunded if they are unable to find the record you request (so double-check your facts before ordering).

When looking for documents older than 1907, you can also make a request at the county clerk's office where the event took place. They may have their own archives that go further than the state office. Another source for pre-1907 documents is the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Their archives include a good collection of Wisconsin genealogy reference material that is accessible to the public through their library. many indexes and databases are searchable online so you can even do some research from home.

Overall, their holdings include census records, old vital records, immigrations documents, church records, cemetery records, local histories, maps, military records, newspaper archives, photos and a genealogy index to help you locate people.

Their library is located in Madison, and the archives room is open 6 days a week during typical business hours. They do not necessarily follow the same opening hours as the rest of the library though (which is usually open later in the evening). It's open to the public, and you do not need to be a member of the Historical Society to access the material.

Other Wisconsin Genealogy Groups

As just mentioned, you don't have to be a member of the Historical Society to use the library but you may still want to in order to take advantage of extra privileges for members. They get regular newsletters and publications, and free admission to several Wisconsin historical sites.

There are other groups as well, if you prefer to focus most strictly on genealogy. The Wisconsin State Genealogical Society is the largest group, and there are smaller groups for nearly every county. Some are genealogical and some are just historical groups. You can learn a lot from other people doing similar research.

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