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Biographies provide useful genealogical information such as a person’s birth date and place; names of family members, including maiden names; education; occupation; and social, political, and religious affiliation. They may also contain a physical description of the person, previous residences, and immigration information. Biographies are the product of family knowledge or previous research about early settlers and prominent citizens of a state, county, or town. Local histories may contain biographical sketches of lesser-known people.
Major Biographical Collections
The Wisconsin Historical Society has an extensive biography file created by the staff and volunteers. The biographies come from biographical sketches, local histories, and biographical compendia of the state that were published before 1940. The sketches are indexed in the Wisconsin Genealogy Index.
County histories also contain biographical information on selected residents. The Wisconsin Historical Society has published digitized versions of 80 county histories on its website. The Wisconsin State Genealogical Society has published every-name indexes to about fifty of them. The Family History Library has purchased most of these.
An important Wisconsin collection with biographical information about early settlers, traders, missionaries, etc., is:
- Draper, Lyman Copeland. Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 24 vols. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1855–. (Family History Library book 977.5 B4wc; films beginning with 924580.) Volume 21 is an index to volumes 1–20. These volumes discuss various aspects of the early history of Wisconsin.
An interesting collection of biographical information about persons involved in circuses between 1793 and the present is at:
Circus World Museum
Attention: Library and Research Center
426 Water Street
Baraboo, WI 53913
This center has an index of 360,000 names, personal papers, newspaper ads, periodicals, and route books.
The Family History Library has collected biographical works on subjects such as soldiers, lawyers, women, and prominent citizens and pioneers of various regions of the state. Useful biographical encyclopedias include:
- United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-made Men: Wisconsin Volume. Chicago, Illinois: American Biographical Pub., 1877. (Family History Library film 1000800 item 3; fiche 6051214.) An index is included.
- Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society, 1960. (Family History Library book 977.5 D3w.)The biographies are in alphabetical order.
- Nelke, David I. Columbian Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery. . . . Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Co., 1895. (Family History Library book 977.5 D3n; film 1036216.) An index is included.
- Usher, Ellis B. Wisconsin: Its Story and Biography, 1848-1913. 8 vols. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Co., 1914. (Family History Library book 977.5 H2u; films 1036685-86.) Volume one has an index to the persons for whom there are biographical sketches in volumes 1–8.
- Waterstreet, Darlene E. Biography Index to the Wisconsin Blue Books. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Badger Infosearch, 1974. (Family History Library book 977.5 N2b index.) This indexes the Wisconsin Blue Books, which list 5,000 prominent persons who lived during the period 1870–1973. The Blue Books have biographical information.
See theUnited States Biographies for information on nationwide biographical collections. See also the "History" and "Genealogy" sections for additional sources. You may wish to explore biography, history and genealogy sections in the wiki at county levels also.
Biographies can be found on state, county and local levels. The Family History Library has many collected biographies and local or county histories with biographical sketches on residents. Links to county pages appear below.