Wisconsin Counties 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 Counties – There are 72 counties that exist in Wisconsin. 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.. See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.

List of Wisconsin Extinct Counties

Map of Wisconsin Counties
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Map of Wisconsin 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

List of Wisconsin Counties with Burned Courthouses

Wisconsin burned county courthouse
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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

List of Wisconsin Counties

List of Wisconsin Counties

CountyDate FormedParent CountyCounty Seat
Adams1848Portage CountyFriendship
Ashland1860La Pointe CountyAshland
Barron1859Polk CountyBarron
Bayfield1845St. Croix CountyWashburn
Brown1818 unorganized territory Green Bay
Buffalo1853Jackson CountyAlma
Burnett1856Polk and Douglas CountiesSiren
Calumet1836Brown CountyChilton
Chippewa1845Crawford CountyChippewa Falls
Clark1853Jackson CountyNeillsville
Columbia1846Portage CountyPortage
Crawford1818 unorganized territory Prairie du Chien
Dane1836 Crawford, Iowa and Milwaukee CountiesMadison
Dodge1836Brown and Milwaukee CountiesJuneau
Door1851Brown CountySturgeon Bay
Douglas1854La Pointe CountySuperior
Dunn1854 Chippewa CountyMenomonie
Eau Claire1856Chippewa CountyEau Claire
Florence1882 Marinette and Oconto CountiesFlorence
Fond du Lac1836Brown CountyFond du Lac
Forest1885 Langlade CountyCrandon
Green Lake1858Marquette CountyGreen Lake
Grant1836Iowa CountyLancaster
Green1836Iowa CountyMonroe
Iowa1829Crawford CountyDodgeville
Iron1893Ashland CountyHurley
Jackson1853La Crosse CountyBlack River Falls
Jefferson1836Milwaukee CountyJefferson
Juneau1856Adams CountyMauston
Kenosha1850Racine CountyKenosha
Kewaunee1852Door CountyKewaunee
Lafayette1846Iowa CountyDarlington
Langlade1879Oconto CountyAntigo
La Crosse1851Crawford CountyLa Crosse
Lincoln1874Marathon CountyMerrill
Manitowoc1836Brown CountyManitowoc
Marathon1850 Portage CountyWausau
Marinette1879 Oconto CountyMarinette
Marquette1836 Brown CountyMontello
Menominee1961Oconto and Shawano CountiesKeshena
Milwaukee1834Brown amd Iowa CountiesMilwaukee
Monroe1854 La Crosse CountySparta
Oconto1851Brown CountyOconto
Oneida1885Lincoln CountyRhinelander
Outagamie1851Brown and Winnebago CountiesAppleton
Ozaukee1853Washington CountyPort Washington
Pepin1858Dunn CountyDurand
Pierce1858St. Croix CountyEllsworth
Polk1853St. Croix CountyBalsam Lake
Portage1836 Brown, Crawford, Iowa and Milwaukee CountiesStevens Point
Price1879Chippewa and Lincoln CountiesPhillips
Racine1836Milwaukee CountyRacine
Richland1842Crawford and Sauk CountiesRichland Center
Rock1836Milwaukee CountyJanesville
Rusk1901Chippewa CountyLadysmith
Sauk1840Crawford, Dane and Portage CountiesBaraboo
Sawyer1883Ashland and Chippewa CountiesHayward
St. Croix1840Crawford County and unorganized territory.Hudson
Shawano1853Oconto, Waupaca and Winnebago CountiesShawano
Sheboygan1836Brown CountySheboygan
Taylor1875Chippewa, Clark, Lincoln and Marathon CountiesMedford
Trempealeau1854Buffalo, Chippewa, Jackson and La Crosse CountiesWhitehall
Vernon1851Crawford CountyViroqua
Vilas1893Oneida CountyEagle River
Walworth1836Milwaukee CountyElkhorn
Washburn1883Burnett CountyShell Lake
Washington1836 Brown and Milwaukee CountiesWest Bend
Waukesha1846 Milwaukee CountyWaukesha
Waupaca1851Brown and Winnebago CountiesWaupaca
Waushara1851Marquette CountyWautoma
Winnebago1840Brown, Calumet, Fond du Lac and Marquette CountiesOshkosh
Wood1856 Portage CountyWisconsin Rapids