Newspapers publish marriage, divorce, death, funeral notices, and obituaries. These may include names, dates, and places. Marriage and death notices may contain maiden names and names of parents and other living relatives.
Newspapers also publish articles of local interest that often cover religious and social events in the community and include the names of people involved. Some newspapers serve several communities and devote columns to the social events in the area. Newspapers also include legal notices, estate sales, and advertising for local businesses.
One strategy for using newspapers in research, is to select a time period in which your ancestor lived and look for obituaries and birth, marriage, and death notices. Read all the articles generated in the county where your ancestor lived, especially articles that give information about the churches and schools your ancestor may have attended.
Resources for Wisconsin Newspapers
Directories that can help you locate copies of newspapers are:
- Hansen, James L. Wisconsin Newspapers, 1833-1850: An Analytical Bibliography. Madison, Wisconsin: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1979.
- Oehlerts, Donald E. Guide to Wisconsin Newspapers, 1833-1957. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1958. (Family History Library book 977.5 B3o.) This source is primarily helpful for finding pre-1950 newspapers.
Libraries and Archives
The Wisconsin Historical Society has the second-largest collection of newspapers in the United States. Many, including all Wisconsin newspapers, are on microfilm and can be loaned to public libraries through interlibrary loan. Newspapers produced by German and other ethnic groups are especially valuable for research about residents of the state.
From the state historical society, the Family History Library has obtained microfilms of 52 volumes of obituaries for 1846 to 1968 known as the Wisconsin Necrology (Family History Library films 977684–91). These are primarily from 1846–1944. There are 52 chronological volumes, and each volume has an index. The Milwaukee Public Library has a card index to the Milwaukee Sentinel for 1837–1890. It is also on microfilm at the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present is a national directory from the Library of Congress of over 140,000 newspaper titles. The directory provides a list of libraries from around the country that have the newspapers in their collections.
Digital Issues Online
NewspaperArchive.com ($) has a large collection of Wisconsin newspapers online. This database is sometimes free at libraries. It may be under the name Access NewspaperArchive.
There is an index to the Green Bay newspapers:
- Noonan, Barry Christopher. Index to Green Bay Newspapers, 1833–1840. Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin State Historical Society, 1987. (Family History Library book 977.5 A1 no. 194.)
Some newspaper articles published before 2000 are indexed in the Wisconsin Genealogy Index.
Some newspaper indexes:
- Bookstaff, Manning M. Index to Deaths Reported in "The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle," 1921–1961. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: M. M. Bookstaff, 1994. (Family History Library 977.595 B32b)
The Wisconsin Historical Society has indexed some of the obituaries in Wisconsin newspapers. Contact them at:
Wisconsin Historical Society
816 State Street
Madison, WI 53706-1417