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.