Brewing up records
Vital records: Wisconsin required vital record-keeping in 1852, but few areas complied before 1907. Luckily, Milwaukee County was among the state’s first to begin keeping vital records, in the early to mid-1800s. The Register of Deeds holds birth records back to the 1850s, marriage records to the 1830s and death records to 1872. The Family History Library (FHL) has microfilm of births starting in 1854; marriages in 1836 and deaths in 1852.
Censuses: Territorial censuses from 1836, 1838, 1840, 1842, 1846 and 1847 can reveal early Milwaukee arrivals. These are available, with indexes, at the WHS, Milwaukee County Historical Society (MCHS) and FHL. Most are also on Ancestry.com.
- Settled: 1795
- Incorporated: 1846
- Nicknames: Cream City, Brew City, Beer Town, City of Festivals, Custard Capital of the World
- State: Wisconsin
- County: Milwaukee
- County seat: Milwaukee
- Area: 97 square miles
- Primary historical ethnic groups: African-American, Croatian, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Polish, Serb, Swedish
- Primary historical industries: Brewing, milling, motorcycles, farm machinery
- Famous residents: Caroline Ingalls, Herb Kohl, Liberace, Jim Lovell, Golda Meir, Les Paul, William Rehnquist, Latrell Sprewell, Bud Selig, Spencer Tracy, Bob Uecker, Gene Wilder, Oprah Winfrey
The Making of Milwaukee
Milwaukee County USGenWeb
Milwaukee Neighborhoods Photos and Maps, 1885 to 1992
- Cream City Chronicles: Stories of Milwaukee’s Past by John Gurda (Wisconsin Historical Society Press)
- The Making of Milwaukee by John Gurda (Milwaukee County Historical Society)
- Milwaukee, WI: Its People, History and Culture Book Collection on CD (THA New Media)
- Wisconsin: A History by Robert C. Nesbit (University of Wisconsin Press)
- Wisconsin’s Past and Present: A Historical Atlas by Wisconsin Cartographers’ Guild (University of Wisconsin Press)
Archives & Organizations
1360 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53202,
910 N. Old World Third St., Milwaukee, WI 53203,
901 N. Ninth St., Courthouse Room 103, Milwaukee, WI 53233,
Box 270326, Milwaukee, WI 53227
Milwaukee Public Library
814 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53233,
2311 E. Hartford Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53201,
2620 W. Center St., Milwaukee, WI 53206,
Records at a Glance
Research tips: Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) has pre-1907 records; WDHS has records since 1907.
Privacy restrictions: Researching records from 2003 to present requires staff assistance at WDHS.
Research tips: WHS has pre-1907 records; WDHS has records since 1907.
Research tips: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries have 19th century deeds plus indexes of grantees and grantors and of mortgages. The Family History Library has Milwaukee County mortgage records (1836-1916) and deeds (1835-1920).
Research tips: Check the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Family History LIbrary and Fold3.com.
Research tips: Search burials in Catholic cemeteries.
Privacy restrictions: Researching records from 1968 on requires staff assistance at WDHS.
Research tips: Registers are arranged by date of volume, then alphabetical by year covered, then by date of marriage. WHS has pre-1907 records; WDHS has records since 1907.
Top 5 Historic Sites
- Capt. Frederick Pabst Mansion
2000 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53233, (414) 931-0808
The 1892 mansion, listed on the National Register of Historic Homes, has 37 rooms, 12 baths and 14 fireplaces.
- Harley-Davidson Museum
400 W. Canal St., Milwaukee, WI 53201, (414) 287-2789
Transportation history roars to life in displays of more than 450 motorcycles, artifacts and documents, dating back to Serial Number One, the oldest known Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
- Miller Brewery Visitor Center
4251 W. State St., Milwaukee, WI 53208, (414) 931-2337
A guided walking tour takes guests through 155 years of the famous brewery’s heritage, from the history of Fredrick Miller’s 1855 arrival in Milwaukee to the high-speed production lines used today.
- Milwaukee Public Museum
800 W. Wells St., Milwaukee, WI 53233, (414) 278-2728
One of the largest museums in the United States, it features the Streets of Old Milwaukee, a walk back in time to about 1900 including several shops and two historic residences, in addition to natural history exhibits.
- Trimborn Farm
8881 W. Grange Ave., Greendale, WI 53129, (414) 273-8288
This former lime quarry and farm includes a Cream City brick farmhouse, one of the last and largest stone barns in Wisconsin, a worker’s bunkhouse, threshing barn and 75-foot kiln.
- Wisconsin State Research Guide
- Family Tree Sourcebook
- Wisconsin Genealogy Crash Course on-demand webinar
- Wisconsin landowner maps and books
From the September 2012 issue of Family Tree Magazine.