Family History and Genealogy Services

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Wisconsin Genealogy Resources

Maps and
Other Geographical Tools

The Wisconsin Historical Society has microfilm copies of Wisconsin county plat books (ca. 1870-1900), which are accessible through interlibrary loan. Early and later county plat maps are not microfilmed but some can be photocopied on request. State atlases were published for Wisconsin in 1876, 1878, and 1881, and include county maps. They show post offices, schools, churches, and road systems, all valuable information in locating an ancestral family in Wisconsin.

Geraldine Strey's Land Ownership Maps of Wisconsin, 1836-1960. Madison, Wisconsin, n.d. is very important in determining precisely what maps are available at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Aerial photographs of Wisconsin are in the collection of the Arthur Robinson Map Library, Science Hall, University of Wisconsin, Madison. The first topographical map of Wisconsin, of the Stoughton quadrangle, is dated 1889. Bird's-eye view maps are significant in Wisconsin research, inasmuch as they cover the period from 1867 to the end of World War I. There are over 200 of these maps for Wisconsin towns and villages. Most are listed in Elizabeth Maule, Bird's Eye View of Wisconsin Communities, Madison, Wisconsin, 1977, and are also available at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The maps were drawn with great attention to the buildings existing at the time.

The Golda Meir Library at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, holds the map collection of the American Geographical and Statistical Society. The worldwide collection includes thousands of bound books, maps, gazetteers, and photographs. It is one of the largest collections of maps for the entire United States. A unique cataloging program at this repository references maps that appear in books. The collection has maps of Milwaukee for 1849, 1857, 1869, 1875, 1886, 1890, 1892, and 1898. Queries by mail or phone are answered, most material can be photocopied, and some holdings may be borrowed through interlibrary loan. The library is located at 2311 E. Hartford Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The mailing address is the American Geographical Society Collection, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Library, P.O. Box 399, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201.

The earliest Sanborn map for Wisconsin in the historical society holdings is for 1883. An earlier one exists for LaCrosse in 1879.

Various online maps and geographic resources include:

Various print resources include:

  • Atlases of Historical County Boundaries. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997.
  • Collins, Charles W. An Atlas of Wisconsin. 2nd edition. Madison, Wisconsin: American Printing and Publishing, 1972. A geological and statistical atlas including land formations, population maps, manufacturing and agricultural information.

  • County Maps of Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin: The Commission, 1935.
  • DeLorme Mapping Company. Wisconsin Atlas & Gazetteer. Freeport, Me: DeLorme Mapping Co., 1988.
  • DeBoer, Gordon. Wisconsin, Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1997.
  • Fox, Michael.  Maps and Atlases Showing Land Ownership in Wisconsin. Madison, Wis.: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1978. Lists maps available at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin .
  • Gard, Robert E. and L.G. Sorden, The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names, 1968. Reprint, Minocqua, Wisconsin: Heartland Press, 1988.  Has an alphabetical list of towns and cities, the county in which they are located, and a brief history.
  • Hale, James B., comp. Wisconsin Post Office Handbook, 1921-1971. Wisconsin Postal History Society. Bulletin no. 10. Madison: Wisconsin Postal History Society, 1971.
  • Herrick Linda M. & Uncapher, Wendy K. Cemetery Locations in Wisconsin. Janesville, Wisconsin: Origins, 1998.
  • Historical Atlas of Wisconsin: embracing complete state and county maps, city & village plats, together with separate state and county histories ... Milwaukee: Snyder, Van Vechten & Co., 1878. Detailed state, county, township and city maps. Includes a business directory, postal and railway guide and illustrations of some businesses.
  • Hunt, John Warren. Wisconsin Gazetteer Containing Names, Locations and Advantages of the Counties, Cities, Towns, Villages, Post Offices and Settlements on the State of Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin: Beriah Brown, 1853. Reprint. Microfiche. Louisville, Kentucky: Lost Cause Press, 1974. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilm.  Identifies the older place names that often are no longer used in Wisconsin. Gives land formations, types and county location using town and range lines.
  • Illustrated Historical Atlas of Wisconsin Containing Maps of Every County in the State with Many Villages and City Plats. Chicago, Illinois: H.P. Page, 1881. Shows roads, townships, buildings and other pertinent land markings. Includes some illustrations of larger businesses and some portraits of prominent leaders and businessmen.
  • Long, John H., editor. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, Wisconsin. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1997. Demonstrates the depiction, both textual and cartographic, of county boundary changes and the relationships between the two sections. Consolidated chronology and individual county chronologies.
  • Long, John H., editor. Historical Atlas and Chronology of County Boundaries, 1788–1980. Scale: 1:633,600. Vols. 1–5. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, 1984. Maps show when and where each county changed boundaries. Maps for Wisconsin are in volume 3.
  • Maule Elizabeth. Bird's Eye View of Wisconsin Communities, Madison, Wisconsin, 1977.
  • Moertl, Frank.  Wisconsin, Its Territorial and Statehood Post Offices. Hartland, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Postal History Society, 1995.
  • Peck, George W., ed. Wisconsin: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions and Persona Arranged in Cyclopedic Form. Madison, Wisconsin: Western Historical Association, 1906. An encyclopedia of persons, places and things of Wisconsin with a short notation explaining each item.
  • Robinson, Arthur, and Jerry B. Culver. Atlas of Wisconsin: General Maps and Gazetteers. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974. This atlas includes an excellent gazetteer. Index denotes whether a place name is a town, village, rural locality, urban locality, city, stream, water body, park or land form.

  • Sanborn Map Company. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Wisconsin. Pelham, New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1884?-1951?
  • Snyder, Van Vechten & Co. Historical Atlas of Wisconsin: Embrac ing Complete State and County Maps, City & Village Plats and With State and County Histories: Also Special Articles on the Geology, Education, Agriculture, and Other Important Interests of the State. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Snyder, Van Vechten & Co., 1878.

  • Snyder, Van Vechten & Co. Historical Atlas of Wisconsin.  Janesville, Wis.: Origins, 1995. This is a reprint of the 1878 publication and contains useful maps for each county.
  • Strey, Geraldine. Land Ownership Maps of Wisconsin, 1836-1960. Madison, Wisconsin, n.d.
  • Uncapher, Wendy Z. & Herrick, Linda Z., compilers. Wisconsin, Its Counties, Townships & Villages. Janesville, Wisconsin: Origins, 1994.
  • Walling, H. F. Atlas of the State of Wisconsin. Detroit: Walling, Tackabury and Co., 1876.
  • Walling Henry Francis. Atlas of the State of Wisconsin Including Statistics and Descriptions of its History, Educational Institutions, Geology and Railroads.  Boston, Massachusetts: Walling, Tackabury, 1876. Includes maps and short sketches of the items in the title.
  • Ward Maps of United States Cities. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1975?

  • Wisconsin Atlas & Gazetteer. Yarmouth, Maine: DeLorme Mapping Co., 2000.

  • Wisconsin Gazetteer. Wilmington, Delaware: American Historical Publications, 1991.
  • Wisconsin Geographic Names. 2 volumes. Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1981. Prepared from a computer file of geographical names.
  • Wisconsin's Past and Present: A Historical Atlas / The Wisconsin Cartographers' Guide. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998. Historical and geographical data with full color maps and descriptive text, photos and illustrations.