Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wonderful Wisconsin and a Warning

I haven't spent enough research time in Wisconsin in the past three years, and a long day trip earlier this week was a partial make-up. Because I was mainly doing lookups for an article I was able to cover a lot of ground -- three counties' registers of deeds plus the state archives and library in Madison. (I was reminded why Dave McDonald has made a case that the Wisconsin Historical Society is the #2 genealogy repository in the country, not that I am either equipped or inclined to adjudge the matter.)

Everyone I met in the various offices was kind and helpful, and they have a good institutional framework within which to work. I especially appreciate Wisconsin's openness with vital records. They are in the custody of the county registers, rather than the health departments. Copies are costly but the information is available within reason.

In my absence from Madison, the bound volumes of the agricultural schedules of 19th-century US censuses have moved upstairs from the library to the archives. That means more exercise (good news) and an earlier closing time (not such good news). And that gets to my warning. In examining Waushara County for 1860, I learned two facts that had escaped me years ago. One is that the census taker often changed jurisdictions or left off for the day in mid-page, labeling those points. The other is that the pages for some reason were not bound in the numerical order the census taker gave them. As a result, farms in Richford Township appear on four different pages (I believe) in three different locations in this small county.

Perhaps this was the only county so treated. (I don't know; I was doing well to leave five minutes before closing time as it was.) But if you're working with these books -- or with any microfilmed or future on-line version -- be very careful. It would be easy to miss some of the deceased farmers that you were seeking.

Photo from the photostream of wackybadger (Joshua Mayer) per Creative Commons
( : accessed 2 November 2012)

Harold Henderson, "Wonderful Wisconsin and a Warning," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 3 November 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Nettie said...

For those of us west of Wisconsin, this library is a gem. Been using it since 1985 for research. Thanks for sharing. I love to be able to get into the stacks. Many Many resources from the eastern states, and Kentucky in particular.