Wisconsin County records can vary extensively from county to county in either quality not to mention quantity. Some are already very carefully maintained while some have been significantly abused and neglected. Some Wisconsin records have merely disappeared. For genealogists performing research in Wisconsin you will find no valuable replace for an on-site research of county court house records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia

Wisconsin divided into 72 counties. Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders. Counties in Wisconsin are run by county boards, headed by a chairperson. Counties with a population of 500,000 or more must have a county executive as well. Smaller counties may either have a county executive or a county administrator.
Wisconsin State Government is located in Madison.

Wisconsin Counties

The register of deeds office in each county holds the land records for that county, as well as death, birth, and marriage records. The clerk of the courts holds court records, while the county probate court holds probate records for that county.

County governments were generally established in three phases. The first phase, known as “establishment,” defined a specific area as a county. The second phase, known as “organization for county purposes,” created a land registry office, a fiscal structure, and a governing body. The third phase, known as “organization for judicial purposes,” created a system of law enforcement, including a county court. In certain counties, all of those phases went into effect at the same time. However, the process took several years in other counties. In those cases, the parent county might have maintained records for the new county for several years. So, researchers need to familiarize themselves with the dates of total county establishment for the counties of interest.

One good example is Ashland County. In 1866, it was judicially attached to Bayfield County, even though the Ashland County courthouse stayed open. Marriages, land transactions and county board meetings were all still recorded in Ashland County by the register of deeds. Ashland County also continued to collect its own taxes. However, Bayfield County kept Ashland County’s law enforcement records from 1866 to 1873.

Estimates indicate that fewer than half of all vital records in Wisconsin were actually permanently filed for years before 1907. Typically, probate records, court records, and land deeds go back to the date of each county’s organization. Earlier records can be found in parent counties (the counties from which new counties were formed). Some property deeds from parent counties were transcribed and kept with deed records for the new counties.

In mailing requests to any Wisconsin county office, use the name of the county and “County Courthouse,” with the address listed on the county page (linked below). Records at the county level are the responsibility of the following offices: birth, marriage, death, and land—register of deeds; court—clerk of courts; probate—county probate court.

The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Wisconsin county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database.

County Date
Parent County County Seat
Adams March 11, 1848 Portage County Friendship
Ashland March 27, 1860 La Pointe County Ashland
Barron March 19, 1859 Polk County Barron
Bayfield February 19, 1845 St. Croix County Washburn
Brown October 26, 1818 unorganized territory Green Bay
Buffalo July 6, 1853 Jackson County Alma
Burnett March 31, 1856 Polk and Douglas Counties Siren
Calumet December 7, 1836 Brown County Chilton
Chippewa February 3, 1845 Crawford County Chippewa Falls
Clark July 6, 1853 Jackson County Neillsville
Columbia February 3, 1846 Portage County Portage
Crawford October 26, 1818 unorganized territory Prairie du Chien
Dane December 7, 1836 Crawford, Iowa and Milwaukee Counties Madison
Dodge December 7, 1836 Brown and Milwaukee Counties Juneau
Door February 11, 1851 Brown County Sturgeon Bay
Douglas February 9, 1854 La Pointe County Superior
Dunn February 3, 1854 Chippewa County Menomonie
Eau Claire October 6, 1856 Chippewa County Eau Claire
Fond du Lac March 18, 1882 Marinette and Oconto Counties Fond du Lac
Florence December 7, 1836 Brown County Florence
Forest April 11, 1885 Langlade County Crandon
Green Lake March 8, 1858 Marquette County Green Lake
Grant December 8, 1836 Iowa County Lancaster
Green December 8, 1836 Iowa County Monroe
Iowa October 9, 1829 Crawford County Dodgeville
Iron March 1, 1893 Ashland County Hurley
Jackson February 11, 1853 La Crosse County Black River Falls
Jefferson December 7, 1836 Milwaukee County Jefferson
Juneau October 13, 1856 Adams County Mauston
Kenosha January 30, 1850 Racine County Kenosha
Kewaunee April 16, 1852 Door County Kewaunee
Lafayette January 31, 1846 Iowa County La Crosse
Langlade February 27, 1879 Oconto County Darlington
La Crosse March 1, 1851 Crawford County Antigo
Lincoln March 4, 1874 Marathon County Merrill
Manitowoc December 7, 1836 Brown County Manitowoc
Marathon February 9, 1850 Portage County Wausau
Marinette February 27, 1879 Oconto County Marinette
Marquette December 7, 1836 Brown County Montello
Menominee May 1, 1961 Oconto and Shawano Counties Keshena
Milwaukee September 6, 1834 Brown amd Iowa Counties Milwaukee
Monroe March 21, 1854 La Crosse County Sparta
Oconto February 6, 1851 Brown County Oconto
Oneida April 11, 1885 Lincoln County Rhinelander
Outagamie February 17, 1851 Brown and Winnebago Counties Appleton
Ozaukee March 7, 1853 Washington County Port Washington
Pepin February 25, 1858 Dunn County Durand
Pierce February 25, 1858 St. Croix County Ellsworth
Polk March 14, 1853 St. Croix County Balsam Lake
Portage December 7, 1836 Brown, Crawford, Iowa and Milwaukee Counties Stevens Point
Price February 26, 1879 Chippewa and Lincoln Counties Phillips
Racine December 7, 1836 Milwaukee County Racine
Richland  February 18, 1842 Crawford and Sauk Counties Richland Center
Rock December 7, 1836 Milwaukee County Janesville
Rusk May 15, 1901 Chippewa County Ladysmith
Sauk January 11, 1840 Crawford, Dane and Portage Counties Baraboo
Sawyer March 10, 1883 Ashland and Chippewa Counties Hayward
St. Croix January 9, 1840 Crawford County Hudson
Shawano February 16, 1853 Oconto, Waupaca and Winnebago Counties Shawano
Sheboygan December 7, 1836 Brown County Sheboygan
Taylor March 4, 1875 Chippewa, Clark, Lincoln and Marathon Counties Medford
Trempealeau January 27, 1854 Buffalo, Chippewa, Jackson and La Crosse Counties Whitehall
Vernon March 1, 1851 Crawford County Viroqua
Vilas April 12, 1893 Oneida County Eagle River
Walworth December 7, 1836 Milwaukee County Elkhorn
Washburn March 27, 1883 Burnett County Shell Lake
Washington December 7, 1836 Brown and Milwaukee Counties West Bend
Waukesha January 31, 1846 Milwaukee County Waukesha
Waupaca February 17, 1851 Brown and Winnebago Counties Waupaca
Waushara February 15, 1851 Marquette County Wautoma
Winnebago January 6, 1840 Brown, Calumet, Fond du Lac and Marquette Counties Oshkosh
Wood March 29, 1856 Portage County Wisconsin Rapids

Interactive Map of Wisconsin Counties Formation

(Wisconsin maps made with the use AniMap Plus 3.0 & with the Permission of the Goldbug Company)

Wisconsin Extinct Counties

Wisconsin contains counties that no longer exist. They were established by the state, provincial, or territorial authorities. Many of these counties were created and disbanded in the 19th century; county borders have adjusted very little since 1900 in the vast most of states. These counties need to be checked out when performing family history and genealogy research. Pay close attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was abolished or merged with a different county.

  • Bad Ax County: Formed on March 1, 1851. Renamed Vernon County in 1862
  • Dallas County: Formed in 1859. Renamed Barron County in 1874
  • Gates County: Formed in 1901 from Chippewa County. Renamed Rusk County in 1905
  • La Pointe County: Formed in 1845 from St. Croix County. Renamed Bayfield County in 1866
  • New County: Formed in 1879 from Oconto County. Renamed to Langlade County in 1881

Wisconsin Counties with Burned Courthouses

The harm to Wisconsin courthouses considerably has a effect on genealogists in every way. Not only are these historic structures torn from all of our lifetimes, so are the documents they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, among others. Once destroyed they’re lost permanently. Although they have already been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn up too. The most tragic side of this is the reason that virtually all of our courthouses are destroyed at the hands of arsonist. However, not all records were destroyed. Many Wisconsin counties have suffered a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

  • Calumet County Courthouse – Courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1882.
  • Dodge County Courthouse – A fire in 1877 destroyed birth, marriage, and death records from before that date, though the indexes still refer to the records.
  • Manitowoc County Courthouse – The County Courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1852.
  • Oconto County Courthouse – County’s first courthouse burned down in 1891.
  • Rock County Courthouse – first Courthouse was built in 1841 and was destroyed by fire in 1859.
  • Waushara County Courthouse – On April 30, 1928, the Waushara County Courthouse was completely destroyed by fire. Fortunately, the vaults withstood the intense heat and the records and valuable papers were saved. More About Fire