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Wisconsin Genealogy Resources

Ethnic Groups

Small groups of French fur traders came to the Green Bay and Prairie du Chien areas in the 1700s. They were followed by lead miners from the Southern states who settled near the Galena diggings on the Illinois border in the 1820s. Substantial immigration from the northeastern states began in the 1830s. Later, American-born settlers were usually from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

Between 1840 and 1860, hundreds of thousands of immigrants came from Europe. Most of them came by way of the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes to the port of Milwaukee, or they came up the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers and then by the railroads, which crossed the area soon after Wisconsin statehood.

The most numerous of the foreign-born immigrants were from Germany. They came from the Catholic provinces of southern Germany and from Protestant eastern Germany.

Before the Civil War, the Irish were the second largest immigrant group in Wisconsin. There was also considerable emigration from England, Scotland, Wales, and British North America.

Many Norwegians came to Wisconsin before the Civil War and by 1900 had become the second-largest foreign-born group in the state. They were joined by settlers from southern and eastern Europe, especially Poles and Czechs, and by smaller groups of Russians, Yugoslavs, Italians, and Greeks. At the beginning of World War I in 1914, the majority of Wisconsin residents were of German origin or descent, but this had declined to 40 percent by 1930.


  • Buenker, John D. "Immigration and Ethnic Groups - Kenosha County in the Twentieth Century: A Topical History," In John A. Neuenschwander, ed., Kenosha County in the Twentieth Century: A Topical History, 1976, 1-49.
  • Conzen, Kathleen N. Immigrant Milwaukee, 1836-1960: Accommodation and Community in a Frontier City, 1976.
  • Ethnic Groups in Wisconsin: Historical Background.
  • Folkman, Daniel B. and Avelardo Valdez. A Survey of Wisconsin's Migrant Population, 1974.
  • Holubetz, Sylvia Hall. Farewell to the Homeland: European Immigration to N.E. Wisconsin, 1840-1900. 1984.
  • Homes, Fred L. Old World Wisconsin, 2nd ed. 1990.
  • Kenny, Judith T. "Americanizing Milwaukee's South Side, 1900-1925," Wisconsin Geographer 10 (1997) 263-81.
  • Leary, James P. Wisconsin Folklore, 1998.
  • Migrations - movements of families in Wisconsin
  • The Milwaukee Urban Archives is the premier research center for studying the Milwaukee metropolitan area history of African-Americans, banking, business, families, farming, genealogy, German-Americans, housing, Jewish-Americans, labor, Polish-Americans, politics, railroads, sports, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, urban redevelopment, and women.
  • Ostergren, Robert C. and Thomas Vale, eds. Wisconsin Land and Life, 1997.
  • Rippley, La Vern J. The Immigrant Experience in Wisconsin. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1985.
  • Wisconsin Ethnic Settlement Trail. Celebrates eastern Wisconsin's rich ethnic heritage with guided tours, guidebooks, and publications.
  • Zaniewski, Kazimierz L. "Rachial and Ethnic Minorities: A Comparative Analysis,"  Wisconsin Geographer 11 (1996) 26-46.
  • Zaniewski, Kazimierz J. and Carol J. Rosen. The Atlas of Ethnic Diversity in Wisconsin.  Madison: University of Wisconsin Press,1998.

Acadian, Franco American, and French Canadian


Records indicate, according to Zachary Cooper in Black Settlers in Rural Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1977), that African Americans were in Wisconsin as early as the 1700s serving as trappers, guides, boatmen, interpreters to the French voyageurs and fur traders. Southerners from Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina who migrated to Wisconsin during the territorial period settled in the lead mining, southwestern counties of Grant and Iowa, some bringing their slaves. African Americans also came as slaves to military personnel or immigrated as freemen or runaway slaves, In 1840 Wisconsin Territory counted 185 free African Americans and eleven slaves. Ten years later there were 635 free African Americans and no slaves counted. The first abolitionist society was formed in Racine county in 1840, followed by the publication of the anti-slavery newspaper, Wisconsin Aegis, in 1843. African Americans from the South were assisted in the 1850s through the "underground railroad" of Wisconsin to freedom in Canada. In 1857 the legislature passed a "personal liberty law." The 1890s the African-American population in Wisconsin grew because thousands escaped the racial violence and poor economic conditions of the South. In 1990, African-Americans made up about 5% of the state's population, and 80% lived in Milwaukee.
  • African American Cemeteries Online - Wisconsin 
  • African American Collections - University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Special Collections
  • AfriGeneas | African Ancestry in Wisconsin 
  • Clark, James I. "Wisconsin Defies the Fugitive Slave Law: The Case of Sherman M. Booth." Chronicles of Wisconsin. Vol. 5. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1955.
  • Coffin, Levi, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the reputed president of the underground railroad, 1876
  • Cooper, Zachary. Black Settlers in Rural Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1997.
  • Danky, James P., ed. African American Newspapers and Periodicals: A National Bibliography. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.
  • Davidson, John Nelson. Negro Slavery in Wisconsin and the Underground Railroad. No. 18. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Parkman Club Publications, 1897.
  • Early African American Settlers  - The largest rural African American settlement of freed and newly free slaves in the state of Wisconsin. Began in 1850 - 1940. Detailed info on Arms and Shivers families.
  • Gilson, Norman Shepard. Papers, 1860-1901. Wisconsin Historical Society. These papers include muster rolls for the 58th Infantry Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops from Wisconsin, MS 62-2651 at Wisconsin Historical Society.
  • John Parker Exchanges in the Markesan Journal, 1861 [WLHN]
  • Legler, Henry E., "Rescue of Joshua Glover, a Runaway Slave," from Leading Events of Wisconsin History, 1898 [Wisconsin Electronic Reader]
  • Ripon's Booth War, 1860 [WLHN]
  • Slesinger, Doris P. and Pelar A. Parra. Blacks in Wisconsin: A 1980 Chartbook. 1988.
  • Trotter, Joe William. Black Milwaukee: The Making of an Industrial Proletariat, 1915-45. 1985.
  • WI-AfriGeneas. A mailing list to coordinate, network and strengthen the efforts of African ancestored family researchers within Wisconsin. You can subscribe from or by sending the following to subscribe
  • Wisconsin Black Historical Museum
    2620 W. Center St.
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53206
    Is a collection of museum artifacts, photographs, papers, and books related to Wisconsin's African American population.
  • Zachary Cooper. Black Settlers in Rural Wisconsin. Madison, Wis.: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1997.


There were very few Asians in Wisconsin in the nineteenth century. A few Chinese came to Milwaukee from other states.  A few Filipinos came after the Philippine Islands became an American possession. Some Japanese-Americans were interned in the state during the Second World War. Most Asian immigration has taken place in the recent decades. The largest number of Asians to settle in Wisconsin came as a result of the US war's in Indochina. The largest group is the Hmong, a tribal people from the mountains of Laos. The largest centers for Hmongs are the cities of Madison, Wausau, La Crosse, and Eau Claire.
  • Fass, Simon M. The Hmong in Wisconsin: On the Road to Self-Sufficiency, 1991.
  • Haines, David, ed.  Refugees as Immigrants: Cambodians, Laotians, and Vietnamese in America. 1989.


The first Belgians came to Wisconsin in 1853 and settled among the Dutch in Sheboygan County. Many soon moved north the the Green Bay area where there was a small French-speaking area. Most Belgians that came to Wisconsin were Catholic and spoke French. By 1860 there were over 4,500 Belgians in Wisconsin, with most living in Brown, Door, and Kewaunee counties. Towns with Belgian names include Brussels, Namur, and Rosiere.  This area today is the largest Belgian settlement in the US.
  • Belgian-American Research Collection  - University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

  • Defnet, Mary Ann. Belgium: Places of Origin of Our Immigrant Ancestors. 1995. Shows the places of origin for Flemish (Dutch-speaking) and Walloon (French-speaking) immigrants to the United States, highlighting the Walloons of Luxembourg Province who settled in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.
  • Laatsch, William G. and Charles F. Calkins. "Belgians in Wisconsin" in Allen G. Noble, ed. To Build a New Land: Ethnic Landscapes in North America, 1992, 195-210.

  • Mertens, John Henry. The Second Battle: A Story of Our Belgian Ancestors in the American Civil War, 1861-1865. [Wisconsin?]: J.H. Mertens, 1987.
  • Peninsula Belgian American Club

  • Pierre, Joseph J. Historical and Genealogical Information on Our Belgian Ancestors. S.l: s.n.], 1976.
  • Rentmeester, Jeanne and Les Rentmeester, The Flemish in Wisconsin.  [Melbourne, Florida]: L & J Rentmeester,1985.
  • wibelgians. A mailing list for anyone with a genealogical interest in Belgian immigration/settlement in Wisconsin. You can subscribe from or by sending the following to subscribe


Immigrants from Cornwall, the southwestern tip of England, formed an ethnic island in the southwestern Lead Region. Arriving in the 1830s and 40s, the Cornish became a large part of the mining industry and settled in rural communities and in the towns of Mineral Point and Dodgeville.  When the mines gave out, many moved to the copper mines of Michigan or to the gold mines of California.
  • Birch, Brian P. "From Southwest England to Southwest Wisconsin: Devonshire Hollow, Lafayette County," Wisconsin Magazine of History 69 (1985) 129-170.
  • Our back pages : obituaries of Cornish and North Devonshire settlers of Jefferson, Walworth, and Waukesha counties, Wisconsin, USA / compiled by Jean Saxe Jolliffe. Brookfield, Wis., USA (2405 N. Brookfield Rd., Brookfield 53045) : J.S. Jolliffe, 1992-<1997 > v. <1-2 > : ill. ; 28 cm.


  • Rentmeester, Les. The Wisconsin Creoles / by Les and Jeanne Rentmeester.
    Melbourne, Florida: L. and J. Rentmeester, c1987. vi, 374, 2 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.

Czechs / Bohemians

The Czechs arrived in the 1850s and settled along Lake Michigan in Kewaunee and Manitowoc counties and in Richland and La Crosse counties. Later arrivals established Czech communities in Price, Taylor, and Langlade counties. By 1890, there were 12,000 Czechs in Wisconsin, mostly farmers or skilled craft workers. Czech settlers became known for their brass bands.
  • Bicha, Karel D. "The Czechs in Wisconsin History," Wisconsin Magazine of History 53 (1970), 194-203.

  • Swacina, Douglas, and Henrietta Swacina. Svacina/Swacina Genealogical Record: Ancestors, Descendants, Relatives. Springdale, Ark: D. and H. Swacina, 1995.


Danish immigrants to Wisconsin settled in Winnebago, Racine, and Dane counties prior to 1870. Immigration began in the 1840s due to overpopulation in rural areas of Denmark. Wisconsin was attractive because of the cheap land that was available. By 1860, there were 1,150 Danes in Wisconsin, mostly in small farming communities such as New Denmark in Brown County and Hartford in Waukesha County. In the late 1960s large numbers settled on small farms in Waupaca and Polk counties.  Racine became "the most Danish city in America," home to several Danish libraries, the Dania Society, and several mutual-aid societies.  By 1900 the majority of Wisconsin's 33,000 Danes lived in Racine.


Most of the Dutch who immigrated early to Wisconsin, lived in Sheboygan, Brown, and Milwaukee counties. By 1860 there were around 5,000 Dutch in the state, mostly in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties. The Dutch were religiously divided -- the Protestants from in the interior northern provinces settled in Sheboygan County and the Catholics from the southern provinces settled in the Fox Valley.
  • Bird, Miriam Y. Town of Milwaukee Settlers: Dutch Settlers and Historical Tidbits. Whitefish Bay, Wis: M. Bird, 1992.

  • Dutch Settlers in Alto, Wisconsin
  • Lucas, H.S. "The First Dutch Settlers in Milwaukee," Wisconsin Magazine of History 30 (1946) 174-83.


The English settled in the southern counties, coming to the lead region as early as 1827. Colonies of English settlers were established in Racine, Columbia, and Dane counties. They normally did not settle in ethnic enclaves, but assimilated into the local societies. A few town names of south-central Wisconsin bear the English influence: Exeter, Leeds, Albion, Manchester, and Sussex.
  • British Influence on Wisconsin, 1763-1814 -  This database is a collection of materials originally published by the Wisconsin State Historical Society in the nineteenth century. The most important part of the collection is a series of papers detailing the British influence on the region between 1763 and 1814. It also contains a listing of American Fur Company employees, a chronicle of the Black Hawk War (1832), and a history of the early schools in Green Bay.
  • University of Wisconsin Memorial Library at Madison has extensive material on United Kingdom research.


The Finns left their homeland because of changes in agriculture, political discrimination and compulsory  military service. Finns arrived in the state after 1900. They found work in the lumber industry, shipping and fishing, and iron and copper mining. In 1920, there were over 6,700 Finns in Wisconsin, with most living in Douglas, Bayfield, Iron, Ashland, and Price counties. Town names with Finnish influence include Oulu and Waino. Many Finns eventually established small farms. In the 1910s, many Finns became active in the Wisconsin labor movement and worked to organize farmers, miners, and lumberjacks. The Finnish influence led to the establishment of some of the nation's largest farmers' cooperatives in Northern Wisconsin
  • Finnish Genealogy Group
  • Knipping, Mark. Finns in Wisconsin, 1977.
  • Kolehmainen, John I. and George W. Hill. Haven in the Woods: The Story of the Finns in Wisconsin, 1965.
  • Perrin, R.W.E. "Log Saunas and the Finnish Farmstead: Transplanted Architectural Idioms in Northern Wisconsin," Wisconsin Magazine of History 44 (1961) 284-86.


French-Canadians were the earliest European immigrants in Wisconsin. They had crossed the border as fur traders and military personnel, settling in Prairie du Chien, Green Bay, and points west, marrying into the native families. Later French-Canadian immigrants came to the state with the lumber industry, and many migrated from previous homes in New York state.
  • Alderson, Jo Bartels. Wisconsin's early French habitants / Jo Bartels Alderson & Kate Alderson Rennert. [Bowie, Md.] : Heritage Books, [1998] xi, 208 p. : maps ; 21 cm.
  • French Canadian/Acadian Genealogists of Wisconsin
  • French in Wisconsin  - Historical material on French settlement in Wisconsin, with emphasis on Pepin County.
  • The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest
  • Huguenot Society of Wisconsin
  • LaBelle, Beverly. Nous nous en souvenons! : genealogical data about members of the French Canadian/Acadian Genealogists of Wisconsin and their ancestors / compiled by Beverly LaBelle. Greenfield, WI (4627 W. Tesch Ave., Greenfield 53220) : The Genealogists, c1990-c1994. 2 v. ; 29 cm.
  • Lareau, Paul J. and Elmer Courteau. French-Canadian Families of the North Central States: A Genealogical Dictionary. 8 volumes. St. Paul, Minnesota: Northwest Territory French and Canadian Heritage Institute, 1980.
  • Wisconsin's French Connections: Photo Album


Germans played a great role in the peopling of the United States. Even in colonial times, Germans constituted the largest non-English speaking group of settlers. The numbers of Germans crossing the Atlantic increased dramatically between 1820 and 1910, when nearly five and a half million arrived. Most of these newcomers settled in the North Central states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin.

By 1900, out of Wisconsin's total population of a little over two million, 709,909 or 34 per cent of its citizens were of German background. German farmers provided a sizable and stable rural population. German cultural societies and institutions influenced the state.

Milwaukee, with its active literary life and a professional stage dating from 1868, was known as the "German Athens." The German influx began in the late 1830s, the first German colony of 800 landing in Milwaukee in 1839. By 1850 first-generation Germans constituted about 12 percent of the state population.

The government had actively sought German immigrants, beginning in the 1840s, by distributing leaflets in Germany's coastal areas. Later they established, via an 1852 law, a commissioner of immigration to live in New York and promote Wisconsin's advantages. In 1854 a branch office was established in Quebec, although German immigration through that port was small. However, it was the letters sent from Wisconsin to Germany by the first settlers that actually stimulated the continued immigration to Wisconsin. Many of the letters, telling of good available land and the freedom to prosper, were published in Germany.

A large wave of Germans came to Wisconsin between 1865 and 1873. Most of these came from northwestern Germany, specifically from the states of Schleswig-Holstein, Hanover, Oldenburg, and Westphalia.

Another wave of German emigrants began in 1880, with the vast majority coming from northeastern Germany, an area dominated by Prussia and including the states of Pomerania, Upper Silesia, and Mecklenburg. Germans established communities throughout Wisconsin, but the greatest number settled in Milwaukee, Dane, Brown, and Taylor counties.

At the beginning of World War I in 1914, the majority of Wisconsin residents were of German origin or descent, but this had declined to 40 percent by 1930.
  • American Historical Society of Germans from Russia - Fox Valley of Wisconsin Chapter 
  • American Historical Society of Germans from Russia - Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter 
  • Brandenburg Germany Research List
  • Buchta, Carol J. The descendants in the United States of America of Ernst Lüdeke Wehausen (15/06/1788-20/08/1857) and Anne Margrete Meyerholz (06/08/1788-08/04/1859) of Diek, Germany. [Mountain Home, AR] (68 Patricia Lane, Mountain Home 72653) : [C.J. Buchta ; Berkeley, CA : J.V. Wehausen], 1999. 1 v. (unfoliated) : ill., maps ; 30 cm.
  • Clemens, Lieselotte. Freistadt-Lüüd : fiev Generatione pommersche Inwannerer in Wisconsin, USA / Lieselotte Clemens. Husum : Husum Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft, c1982. 144 p., [20] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 21 cm.

  • Early German Immigrants in Wisconsin. Janesville, Wisconsin: Origins, 199?
  • German Americans Collection - University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Special Collections
  • German Genealogical Digestt
  • For German researchers, consider joining the German Interest Group - Wisconsin, PO Box 2185, Janesville, Wisconsin USA 53547-2185. This group publishes a newsletter and sponsors workshops. For more information see their Web site at
  • GERMANS-WI. A mailing list for the discussion of the genealogy, history, and culture of Germans in Wisconsin from Territorial times to present including immigrants from all parts of Germany, Pomerania, Saxony, etc. Discussion of migration patterns, immigration, heraldry, historical sketches, settlements, census data, wills, family Bibles, vital records, web sites, etc. is encouraged. In addition, seasonal (holiday) traditions relative to favorite German recipes handed down from generation to generation will be allowed. Additional information can be found on Kathi's Mail Lists at Rootsweb. To subscribe send "subscribe" to (mail mode) or (digest mode).
  • Glazier, Ira A. ed. Germans to America: Lists of Passengers Arriving at U. S. Ports. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1988–.
  • Hessischer Verein, Germantown
  • History of German Methodism in the Town of Forest
  • Kamphoefner, Walter and Wolfgang Helbich.  German-American Immigration and Ethnicity in Comparative Perspective. Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, 2003.

  • Krumrey, Karl, and John Konrad Meidenbauer. Germans in the United States collection. 1837. A collection of manuscripts, chiefly letters, from various sources relating to German immigration to the United States and, in particular, to Wisconsin. Half of the collection consists of exchanges between Joseph Schafer of the State Historical Society and Joseph von Scheben of the University of Bonn about a cooperative study of emigration from the Eifel district of Rhenish Prussia. The results of that project consist of German language transcripts of letters written in the United States to people in Germany; English translations are present for a few letters. Less than half of the project letters concern families for which some members settled in Wisconsin. Most thoroughly documented Wisconsin places are Calumet County, Milwaukee, and Sheboygan. Among the prominently noted surnames are Boger, Goebel, Grones, Hullen, Hutter, Karst, Klinkhammer, Leuthert, Metzen, Michels, Mies, Musseler, Niederhofen, Pitzen, Radermacher, Schaefer, and Schmitz.
  • Merrill, Peter C. German-American Urban Culture: Writers and Theaters in Early Milwaukee. Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, 2000.

  • Ouimette, Helen E. Country Catalog of Memories: A Childhood on a German-American Farm in the Late 1920's and 30's. Neillsville, Wisconsin: H.E. Ouimette, 1986.

  • Pomeranian History
  • Pomeranian Immigration to Wisconsin. Compiled by Doug Plowman.
  • Die Pommerschen Leute German-Pomeranian Newsletter
  • Pommerscher Verein Freistadt
  • 26th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers - consisted of mostly German speaking immigrants of southeastern Wisconsin, some of Jewish background.
  • Transplanted but not Uprooted: 19th-Century Immigrants from Hessen-Darmstadt in Wisconsin [Helmut Schmahl, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany]
  • Wallman, Charles J. The German-Speaking 48ers: Builders of Watertown, Wisconsin. Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies.
  • Wisconsin's German Element: J. H. A. Lacher's Introductory History -
  • Zeitlin, Richard H. Germans in Wisconsin. The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1977.


Many Greeks came to Wisconsin to earn enough money to buy land back in Greece. Many of these Greeks ended up staying. By 1920 there were only about 4,000 Greeks in the state, almost all living in the cities. About half lived in Milwaukee, with smaller groups in Fond du Lac, Janesville, Superior, and Madison. They tended to live in distinct neighborhoods centered around a Greek Orthodox Church.
  • Salutos, Theodore. "The Greeks of Milwaukee," Wisconsin Magazine of History 53 (1970) 175-193.


There were few Hispanics in Wisconsin until the 1950s.  This group includes immigrants from different Latin American Nations with different cultures, histories, and sometimes languages. Mexicans are the largest Spanish-speaking group in Wisconsin. Most came in the 1950s as part of the Federal "Bracero" program that brought Mexican laborers north. While many Mexicans worked as migrant agricultural laborers, most worked in Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Racine as blue-collar workers. A few Puerto Ricans came to Wisconsin after the Second World War, settling primarily in Milwaukee and working in industrial and service jobs. Cuban refugees from Fidel Castro's revolution arrived in small numbers in the early 1960s living temporarily at Fort McCoy.  Small populations from Central and South America, a result of wars in El Salvador, Columbia and Nicaragua, also have immigrated to the state.
  • Basurto, Elia, Doris P. Slesinger, and Eleanor Cautley. Hispanics in Wisconsin, 1980.
  • Berry-Caban, Cristobal S. A Survey of the Puerto Rican Community on Milwaukee's Northeast Side in 1976. 1977.


Icelanders settled on Washington Island in Door County in the early 1870s attracted by glowing reports of fishing in Lake Michigan. Washington Island is the oldest Icelandic settlement in the US. Some Icelanders settled in Milwaukee and worked on the docks as well as on fishing boats. In 1924 there were over a 1000 Icelanders living on Washington Island and in Door County.  This was about 10% of the total number of Icelanders living in the US.
  • Eaton, Conan B. "The Icelanders in Wisconsin," Wisconsin Magazine of History 56 (1972) 3-20.


Before the Civil War, the Irish were the second largest immigrant group in Wisconsin. In 1850 there were over 21,000 Irish living in Wisconsin. Their population was spread across the southern counties, with the largest number in Milwaukee county and a sizable number in the lead-mining county of Lafayette. Many also found work in northern lumber camps and on railroad lines. Today, the Irish are the state's third largest ethnic group.

  • Irish Emigration Library
    Irish Cultural and Heritage Center
    2133 W. Wisconsin Ave.
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233
    Has a small but growing collection of resources.
  • Irish Genealogical Society of Wisconsin
  • Kanetzke, Howard. Irish in Wisconsin, 1978.
  • McDonald, Grace. A History of the Irish in Wisconsin in the Nineteenth Century, 1976.


Italians arrived in the state after 1900 from the southern provinces and Sicily in search of economic opportunity, which they found in the industrial cities of southeastern Wisconsin. By 1920 there were over 11,000 Italians in Wisconsin, with about 75% of these living in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Waukesha, Rock and Dane counties. Smaller communities developed in the north, including a settlement in Marinette County that became well known for the production Italian cheeses. The "Greenbush" Italian community in Madison began as a settlement of Italian stonecutters who worked on the State Capitol and the State Historical Society Building.


Russian Jews relocated to Milwaukee in 1910 and 1911.


Six families from Luxembourg arrived in Wisconsin in 1848 and settled in Port Washington in Ozaukee County. A small number arrived over the next few decades, with most establishing small farming communities throughout the Lakeshore counties of eastern Wisconsin. The town of Luxemburg in Kewaunee County was named by these settlers. This group was Catholic and German-speaking.

Native Americans

Wisconsin was first inhabited by varied Native American tribes in the 17th century. They included the Algonquian-speaking Menominee, Kickapoo, Miami, the Siouan-speaking Winnebago, Dakota (or Sioux) and Iowa. In the mid-1600's other groups entered Wisconsin, including the Fox, Sac, Potawatomi and Ojibewa (Chippewa).

When Jean Nicolet landed at the Red Banks of Lake Michigan in 1634, he would have been met by the Winnebago tribe, which lived in large numbers in the Green Bay region.

The first wave of American settlers in Wisconsin came in the 1820's as a result of a lead mining boom in northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin. The movement of white settlers into the Midwest caused intense conflict when the federal government and settlers attempted to move Native Americans from their lands. Federal policies included uprooting entire tribes and forcing them to resettle west of the Mississippi. In some cases, land vacated by one tribe was occupied by another resulting in two treaties on one parcel of land, requiring at times the repurchase of the same land. When the Sac people tried to return in 1832, the Black Hawk war started ending in the Bad Axe Massacre with less than 1000 Native Americans surviving. There were eleven treaties between 1829 and 1848 with the Native Americans of Wisconsin. The Kickapoo, Winnebago, and Potawatomi migrated to Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Mexico after surrendering all their land except for their reservations. The Menominee nation remained in Wisconsin, as did a few Potawatomi and many Chippewa.

In 1984 there were six Chippewa reservations in northern Wisconsin, a group of Potawatomi on federal trust tribal land in Forest County, and a Menominee reservation in Menominee County. The Stockbridge-Munsee reservation is in Shawano County, and the Brotherton tribe has been assimilated into this group. The Oneida reservation lies in Brown and Outagamie counties. The Wisconsin Winnebago, unlike those removed to a reservation in Nebraska, live in tribal settlements and scattered tracts of land across the state.

For the study of Native American genealogy in Wisconsin, a search of county court records could be useful. Many Native Americans tried to sue those settlers who they believed had unjustly acquired their Indian land allotments. Probate files may contain guardianship records. National Archives collections of treaties and annuity rolls are of utmost importance.

The Family History Library has some copies of Bureau of Indian Affairs records from Wisconsin. Most of these records are at the National Archives—Great Lakes Region.

The Family History Library Catalog lists Indian censuses taken as early as 1836, and annuity rolls as early as 1849. Also listed are Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian census rolls, which were taken during the years 1885–1940. The catalog lists some records of the various tribes under WISCONSIN - NATIVE RACES and others in the Subject Search under the name of the tribe.


Many Norwegians came to Wisconsin before the Civil War and by 1900 had become the second-largest foreign-born group in the state. In 1840, there were two sizable communities, Rock Prairie and Jefferson Prairie in Rock County. About the same time, 40 Norwegian families from Upper Telemarken district settled near Lake Muskego in Waukesha County, and the following year, the largest of these early colonies was founded at Koshkonong in southeastern Dane County. Two-thirds of all Norwegians in the United States in 1850 resided in Wisconsin. Other later settlement areas included Indilandet colony in Portage and Waupaca counties. After the Civil War, they settled primarily in western Wisconsin, from Prairie du Chien to Barron County.  Most lived on small farms, and tobacco farming in Wisconsin was almost exclusively a Norwegian enterprise.

  • Bjerke, Lucille, 1942- Our Norwegian heritage : from Kvikne, Ringebu, and Jostedal parishes / compiled by Lucille Bjerke ; edited by Lucille Bjerke and Charles Arneson. [Wisconsin] : L. Bjerke, [1992?] vi, 246 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
  • Digitalarkivet - Norwegians in US  - Searchable online database of 1850, 1860, 1870, and primarily 1880 US censuses for various states. Individuals listed are identified on the censuses as being from Norway.
  • Erber, Audrey. Norwegian Family Histories, 1585-1850: A Peek at the Lives of the Ancestors of Our Families Who Settled in Columbia County, Dane County, and Green County, Wisconsin, in the 19th Century. Oak Park, Ill: Audrey Erber, 2004.

  • Fapso, Richard J. Norwegians in Wisconsin, 1982.
  • Foss, Asbjørn. A tale of two countries : four families from Overhalla, 1846-1996 : a follow-up study / by Asbjørn Foss. [Overhalla] : Overhalla History Society, c1996. 55 p. : ill., maps ; 30 cm.
  • Gregerson, Merle Winton, 1923- 220-year history, 1778 to 1998, "Nattestad" Norway settlements established in Faeroe Islands and Rock County, Wisconsin in 1778 and 1838 / by Merle W. Gregerson. Onalaska, WI : [M.W. Gregerson], 1998. [10] p. : ill., 1 map ; 28 cm.

  • Halvorson, Morris. Our Norwegian Ancestors of 1868. S.l: s.n.], 1939.
  • Haugen, Einar and Cai, Camilla. Ole Bull: Norway's Romantic Musician and Cosmopolitan Patriot. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992. Bull was a hero in native Norway, a virtuoso violinist, an international ambassador for Norwegian culture, and a frequent visitor to Wisconsin.

  • Naeseth, Gerhard B. Norwegian Immigrants to the United States: A Biographical Directory, 1825-1850. Madison, Wisconsin: G.B. Naeseth, 1993-
  • Norwegian Genealogy  - List of Reference Sources in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Library
  • The Norwegian Historical Data Centre at the University of Tromsø - includes a searchable 1865, 1875 and 1900 census database, and a great article on tracing Norwegian ancestors.
  • A Select Bibliography of Works: Norwegian-American Immigration and Local History
  • The Vesterheim Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library collection focuses on Norwegian genealogical research. The facility holds one of the world’s largest collections of materials relating to Norwegian immigration and Norwegian family history including Norwegian parish records, family histories, Norwegian census records, American Lutheran church records and much more. The Center is located in Madison, Wis. -- Vesterheim Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library, 415 W. Main, Madison, WI, 53703. Telephone (608) 255-2224.  The center acts as a clearinghouse of Norwegian-American research.
  • Wisconsin's Norwegian-American Community, 1915 -
  • Xan, Erna Oleson. Wisconsin My Home: The Story of Thurine Oleson as Told to Her Daughter. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1950. The story of a Norwegian immigrant family.


From 1870 through 1920 there was immigration from Poland to Wisconsin. It is difficult to give numbers of immigrants because there was no Poland until 1918. The ethnic Poles were either German, Russian, or Austrian, since these three countries controlled Polish areas. Both German and Russian governments discouraged Polish language and customs and demanded military service, and this was a key factor for emigration. The first Polish settlers in Wisconsin settled in Polonia in Portage County, one of the earliest Polish communities in the US. Later Polish immigrants also settled in Portage County, making it still the largest rural Polish settlement in the US. About half of the later immigrants settled in Milwaukee. A few settled in Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Superior. Towns with Polish names include Pulaski, Sobieski, Krakow, and Lublin.  Poles were Catholic, and the church was the center of their communities.
  • Goc, Michael J. Native Realm: The Polish-American Community of Portage County, 1857-1992. 1992.
  • Pienkos, D.E. "Politics, Religion, and Change in Polish Milwaukee, 1900-1930," Wisconsin Magazine of History 61 (1978) 179-209.
  • Polish Genealogical Society of Wisconsin
  • PGSW. A mailing list for the discussion and sharing of Polish genealogical and cultural information sponsored by the Polish Genealogical Society of Wisconsin (PGSW). All persons are welcome to join the list. To subscribe send "subscribe" to (mail mode) or (digest mode).
  • Siekaniec, Ladislas J. "The Poles of Upper North Wisconsin," Wisconsin Magazine of History 39 (Spring 1956).

Russians / Lithuanians / Latvians / Ukrainians / Estonians / Armenians / Romanians

By the 1890s Russians made their way to the state. In 1920 there were 21,000 Russians living in the state, but with Russians were included  the Lithuanians, Latvians, Ukrainians, Poles, Estonians, Finns, Armenians and Romanians. About half of the number were Jews, with 75% of these settling in the southeastern quarter of the state. Lithuanians settled almost exclusively in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, and Sheboygan counties. While many arrived in the 1890s, a large number came in the 1940s as displaced persons seeking political asylum.
  • Veidemanis, Juris. "Latvian Settlers in Wisconsin: A Comparative View," Wisconsin Magazine of History 45 (1962) 251-255.


The Scots settled, although not in great numbers, in the southern and eastern sections of the state.

Slavs / Serbs / Croats / Slovenes

This ethnic group began arriving in Wisconsin in the last decades of the 19th century, and nearly all found work in the various industries in the southeast corner of the state. They were often lumped under "Austrian" by immigration officials and therefore the number of these immigrants is difficult to determine. The Slovenes were the earliest to arrive, and they established a small colony in Milwaukee in 1872, with additional communities developing in Sheboygan and Kenosha. In 1907 a small group went to land in Clark County. There were about 5,500 Slovenes in Wisconsin in 1920.  By this same date, there were about 5,000 Serbs in Milwaukee, who established several Orthodox churches.


The Slovaks were subjects of the Austrian Empire until 1918, when they united with the Czechs and Moravians in the nation of Czechoslovakia. The Slovak immigrants were more urban, settling primarily in Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine, with smaller numbers in La Crosse and Superior, where they worked as industrial laborers.


There were a few Swedish settles in Wisconsin before the Civil War in Waukesha County and in Pepin County, but the larger influx of Swedes did not happen until the 1870s to the 1890s. These Swedes settled in the northwest part of the state along the St. Croix River, particularly in Burnett and Polk counties. Here you will towns with Swedish names: Lund, West Sweden, and Karlsborg, among others. Many were farmers, but some also worked in the lumber camps and as domestic servants. There were only about 26,000 Swedes in Wisconsin in 1900, and they quickly assimilated to American customs and established no unique Swedish communities.
  • Bruce, William E. Those Swedish Bruces (Bruses) of Wisconsin and upper Michigan / by William E. Bruce.
    [Lakewood?, CO] : W.E. Bruce, 1980. 58 p. : ports. ; 24 cm.
  • Hale, Frederick. Swedes in Wisconsin, 1983.


A few Swiss were in the state as early as 1834 but came in larger numbers in the 1840s. The village of New Glarus in Green County still maintains the Swiss heritage of the original settlers in 1845. In 1870 there were over 7,000 Swiss in Wisconsin, most of them from German-speaking cantons. They quickly became known for their Limburger and Swiss cheeses.
  • Hoelscher, Steven D. Heritage on Stage: The Invention of Ethnic Place in America's Little Switzerland. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998. New Glarus, Wisconsin.

  • Schelbert, Leo. New Glarus 1845-1970: the Making of a Swiss American Town. New Glarus, Wisconsind: Komm. Tschudi, 1970.
  • The Swiss Connection (Swiss Newsletter)
  • Swiss Immigration To Wisconsin Project 1826-1900
  • Hale, Frederick. The Swiss in Wisconsin, 1984.


The Welsh immigrated to Wisconsin in the 1840s and 1850s. The first immigrants from Wales settled in Racine in the 1840s.  Settlers established farming communities in Wales township in Waukesha County, and across southern Wisconsin, most prominently in Dodge, Columbia, Iowa, and La Crosse counties.
  • Davies, Phillips G. Welsh in Wisconsin. 2nd edition.  Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2006.