Any Historical Wisconsin Map can indicate who owned specific property in the state and which towns held the county seat at the time. This information is a valuable starting point for your research pointing you to the right location of records.
Solving Research Problems with a Wisconsin Map – If you have started your family research, you might have experienced trouble with trying to identify Wisconsin city borders and names that have changed over the course of time. This can make it difficult to understand where your ancestors’ information is kept. Because Wisconsin historic maps were usually commissioned by the county seat, they often display information about the county, including town names. Reading a Wisconsin map from the time period you are researching can help tremendously in solving these problems by leading you to the correct town records. It can also give you other leads, such as the location of city directories or old post offices in Wisconsin.
Choosing the Best Wisconsin Map – If you have a large source of maps to choose from, try starting with the area where your ancestors resided and looking for the maps with the most detail. You can determine a lot by seeing if the area was still rural or more developed, and how far it was to the nearest city. This can shed light on your family’s lifestyle and occupation. Were they farmers who lived in the country, or merchants who traveled often to a nearby city? A map can give you an idea of what occupations were possible.
Wisconsin Map Resources – Copies of county plat books from about 1870 to 1900 can be found on microfilm at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Some county plat maps can be photocopied, although microfilms of them are not available. In 1876, 1878, and 1881, Wisconsin state atlases were published. They contain several county maps, which list road systems, as well as schools, offices, churches, and other valuable historical and genealogical information.
The University of Wisconsin’s Arthur Robinson Map Library, Science Hall has aerial photographs of Wisconsin in its collection. The Stoughton quadrangle was the subject of an 1889 topographical map, which was the first Wisconsin topographical map printed. There are more than 200 maps of Wisconsin created from 1867 to the close of World War I. The Wisconsin Historical Society can point researchers to where they are held. They show excellent details about villages and towns in Wisconsin at the times when they were created.
The American Geographical and Statistical Society’s map collection can be found in Milwaukee. It is part of the University of Wisconsin’s Golda Meir Library’s collection. The collection includes thousands of gazetteers, maps, photographs and bound books covering locations all over the world, including Wisconsin. There is also a catalog there that lists books containing maps. Researchers can inquire about certain records by phone or by mail. In most cases, photocopies are available. Inter-library loan programs can also be used to access some records. The Wisconsin Historical Society’s earliest Wisconsin Sanborn map on file is from the year of 1883. However, an earlier one was created in 1879 for LaCrosse and still exists today.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation provides detailed county maps. These maps contain more detailed information about roads and boundaries, rural communities, churches, and cemeteries.
Wisconsin Map of County Formations For The Years 1790-1961
The David Rumsey Historical Wisconsin Map Collection is scanned from original copies so you can see Wisconsin as our ancestors saw them over a hundred years ago. Some Wisconsin map years (not all) have cities, railroads, P.O. locations, township outlines and other features useful to the Wisconsin researcher.