Archives A to Z

Archives A to Z

Archives A to Z is a glossary explaining archives and special collections terms and tools. Take a crash course in different types of records (and find out what a "record" is). What is a finding aid? What are vital statistics? How did the naturalization process work? Where can I find Native American materials? Read about tools like ArCat, Ancestry.com, BLM/GLO homestead patents, and SSDI. Learn about genealogical research, how to conduct house history, local history tools, and much more. 

How Do I See the Links?  The red plus (+) sign means there is more information; click on the red plus (+) sign to open that section.

ArCat

ArCat 

This is the online catalog of the Wisconsin Historical Societylink (WHS) archives divisionlink. Holding records for WHS collections housed at Area Research Centers (ARCs) throughout the entire statewide networklink including the River Falls ARC, can be identified using ArCatlink.

Note: The UWRF University Archives collections are not the property of the Wisconsin Historical Society and therefore are not included in ArCat. UWRF University Archives collections can be identified using the UWRF Chalmer Davee Library's online cataloglink, or on the UW-River Falls University Collections pages.

Archives

Archives 

These refer to the non-current records of an organization or an institution. Examples would include annual reports produced by a corporation, meeting minutes of an organization, publications produced by a state agency, personal diaries or narratives, etc. The term archives can also be used in the generic sense of a place where historical items, old documents and artifacts are stored. Archives generally have a geographic or thematic focus. For example, the National Archives and Records Administrationlink collects materials that document important events in American history. The Archives of African American Music and Culturelink collects and preserves oral histories, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other materials related to African American music culture.

The UW-River Falls University Archives and Area Research Center house materials for the Northwestern region of Wisconsin including Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties, as well as serving as the official repository for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. To learn more about the Archives visit our main page or read about the Area Research Center network in the next entry.

Area Research Center (ARC)

Area Research Center (ARC)

In the 1950s, with the goal of making history more accessible to the people, the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) developed the Regional Depository System. Under this system, local/county governmental records and other historical materials were stored at various college campuses and other public institutions throughout the state. In the early 1960s this depository system was revitalized with the birth of the ARC Network in which the state of Wisconsin was divided up into fourteen geographic regions, each with its own ARC, in a cooperative network based out of the WHS in Madison. Every ARC permanently houses WHS records relevant to their geographic region of the state. In addition to each ARC's participation in this WHS network, the majority of the ARCs are located on UW campuses and also serve as the official repositories for the university records of their campus. The River Falls ARC houses materials that document Northwestern Wisconsin, which includes the counties of Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix, as well as being the official repository for the records of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. For the convenience of researchers, WHS collections can be transferred between ARCs though a courier system. University records do not circulate and can only be viewed at the UW-River Falls University Archives.

Biographical Indexes

Biographical Indexes

The Archives has a biographical index containing thousands of names of people who have lived in the four-county area (Burnett, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix). This index contains births, deaths, marriages, graduations, and other important life events found primarily in newspapers but also local history books, manuscript collections, university publications, Pierce County naturalizations, miscellaneous genealogical documents, and other sources located within the archives. The index covers the 1850s through roughly 1900-1910, depending on the source, although Falcon Features, the UWRF Alumni magazine, is indexed through the present. (A list of items and dates of coverage included in the biographical index is available online.) The cards in the index will contain the name of the person, the particular event or category, the name of the source in which to find it, the date the information appeared in the source and/or a page number in the source. 

The Archives also holds a biographical index on CD, compiled by Willis Miller, former editor and co-owner of the Hudson Star-Observerlink. This index records births, deaths, marriages, graduations, and biographical information taken primarily from the Hudson Star Observer from 1850-1980.

Blue Book

Blue Book

This series of books has gone under several different titles, such as the Legislative Manual for the State of Wisconsin, the Blue Book for the State of Wisconsin, etc.  They are commonly referred to as the “Blue Books.” Issued for 2-year periods, the Blue Book lists the members of the Wisconsin legislature and the Wisconsin members of the U.S. Congress. It also gives a tremendous amount of information about the state, such as school enrollments, population statistics, county officials, county seats, descriptions of various state agencies, names of newspapers published in the state, voting statistics, etc. The River Falls ARC has almost a complete run of the series, going back to the mid-1800s. Two biographical indexes have been published that help to track former legislators and state officials.

Business Histories

Business Histories

The first step when researching a business is to consult the manuscript collections to determine if the Archives has a collection from a particular enterprise. Local history books, Sanborn maps, tax rolls, the Archives’s local history vertical file, and centennial/special editions of a local newspaper where the business was located are also useful sources. If the founders or people with major involvement in the business can be named, using the biographical index to trace them as individuals often produces additional useful information about the business. Holdings records for manuscript collections and local histories at the Archives can be found online in the UW-River Falls online cataloglink. Sanborn maps, tax rolls, newspapers, the local history vertical file and biographical index must be viewed in the Archives.

Cemetery Records

Cemetery Records

The Saint Croix Valley Genealogical Societylink (SCVGS) completed an extensive project in the 1980s to inventory tombstones in local cemeteries. The Archives holds the resulting tombstone transcriptions for most of the cemeteries in the counties of Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix as well as corresponding surname indexes for each county. In addition, the Archives also has church and cemetery records for the four-county area of Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties that were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utahlink (GSU) in the early 1980s; tombstone transcriptions for a few cemeteries in Barron, Burnett, Dunn, and Washburn counties; as well as a few manuscript collections from area cemeteries which can include lists of burials.

Note: People interred after the SCVGS project was completed will not be listed; a few of the cemeteries were completed after the surname project was done so names will not be included in the surname index; names may have been missed—double check in the appropriate cemetery’s records if a surname does not appear on the index; tombstones deteriorate due to weather, vandals, etc. over the years, which may account for someone not being listed. Hardcopies of the tombstone inscriptions are available to view in the Archives. Visit the Collections pages to see a list of cemetery records held for each county. Many of these records can also be viewed online at USGenWeblink.

Census

Census

The U.S. government has been taking a decennial census of its inhabitants since 1790. Individual states conducted censuses before 1790 and several states continued to do so until the early 20th century. A 72-year waiting period is imposed on the public release of federal census records in an effort to protect individual privacy. Thus, 1930 is the most recent census available to researchers. 

The Archives holds census records for Wisconsin on microfilm from 1836 (when Wisconsin became a territory) up through a partial 1930 Census, with indexes covering 1836, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 (Soundex), 1900 (Soundex), 1905 (partial index), and 1910. (See also Soundex below.)  In addition to population schedules, special censuses were taken to record things like mortality, agriculture, and industry. The Archives holds an 1840 special census listing Revolutionary War pensioners as well as an 1890 special census listing soldiers, sailors, and widows of soldiers of the U.S. Civil War. Incidentally, this census listing Civil War soldiers was one of the few items in the 1890 census that was not destroyed by a fire in the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C., in 1921. 

Free digital copies of census records for Wisconsin and other states can be found on Census Onlinelink and USGenWeblink. In addition, the Chalmer Davee Library has subscriptions to Ancestry LibraryEdition and to HeritageQuest, both of which have digital images of and indexes to the federal census for the entire United States. Ancestry also has the Wisconsin state census for 1895 and 1905.

Church Records

Church Records

Church records vary greatly from one collection to the next. They can include such things as membership lists, sacramental records, financial records, burial permits, minute books, and building plans. The Archives holds microfilmed copies of local church records microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utahlink (GSU) with a comprehensive index of GSU church record holdings for the entire Area Research Center (ARC) Networklink searchable by church name, location, or denomination. (This index is not available online but it can be viewed at other ARCs throughout the state and can usually be obtained through Interlibrary Loan.)  Additionally, the book collection should be checked for church histories. Search by church name, or denomination in the UWRF online library cataloglink.

Civil War Records

Civil War Records

Two excellent sources for locating civil war soldiers are the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Systemlink website maintained by the U.S. Park Service, and a digital book from the Wisconsin Historical Societylink entitled the Roster of Wisconsin Volunteerslink. The 1890 Census, held by the Archives, lists U.S. Civil War veterans and their widows, also providing the person’s state, regiment, and company. The 1885, 1895 and 1905 WI census, also held at the Archives, includes an enumeration of “Soldiers and Sailors of the Late War.” A soldier’s pension and/or military records can be obtained by contacting the National Archiveslink. Additional resources for researching the Civil War at the Archives include the manuscript collection, local newspapers and books including Wisconsin Volunteers, a print version of Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, Military History of Wisconsin, War of the Rebellion, and Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor.

  • To commemorate the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the Civil War, the Archives has a blog that will feature items from the collectionsnewspaper articles, diaries, letters, and other materialson the dates they either happened, were written, or appeared in print. To follow the war as it unfolds, visit The Civil War and Northwestern Wisconsinlink blog.
Conservation/Preservation

Conservation/Preservation

A few simple and inexpensive steps can help preserve your family treasures whether they be documents, photographs, or textiles. The most important precaution you can take is to keep your treasured items away from heat, moisture and light, all of which can quickly lead to deterioration. 

Three good sources for information on preservation can be found at the conservation departments of the U.S. National Archiveslink (NARA) and the Minnesota Historical Societylink (MHS), and on the American Library Association's (ALA) website.

Copyright and Use

Copyright and Use

The nature of historical, archival collections means that copyright or other information about ownership may be difficult to determine. Whenever possible, information about copyright or other restrictions is included. This information is provided as a service to aid researchers in determining the appropriate use of an item, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with laws of libel, privacy, and copyright that may be involved in his/her use of photographs, manuscripts, and all other types of records and publications. The user is liable for any violation of copyright or donor agreement.

Individuals may request permission to use items for singular, non-profit, educational/research purposes. Express written permission from the Archivist is required; other conditions of use may apply. Please contact the Archivistmail to inquire.

County and Local History Books

County and Local History Books

The Archives has several county history books for Wisconsin, particularly the Northwestern region of the state. The books will often give short histories of the cities and townships in the county as well as biographies of people in the county. Information about township and county names as well as boundary changes can be accessed in the Archives. Search the online library cataloglink for local history books in the Archives.

  • See Place Names (below) for related materials.
Court Records

Court Records

The Archives holds a variety of court records for Burnett, Pierce, Polk and Saint Croix counties. The majority of court records include court calendars (which list what cases came to court at what time), judgment dockets (which list what the decision of the case was, including the monetary judgment imposed upon a person), minute books (which detail the proceedings of each case), and record books (which list the facts about the case). Until the early 1960's, naturalization records were produced by the courts. For Saint Croix County and a small amount of Pierce County, the Archives also has the case files which contain court papers, testimony, and other important materials relating to the case.

  • Visit the Collections pages to view court record holdings at the Archives or search the UW-River Falls online library cataloglink.
  • Local courthouse contact information can be found on the Archives's WI Regional Contacts page.
  • See Naturalizations (below) for related materials.
Facebook

Facebook

Yes, the Archives has a Facebook pagelink. "Like" us!

Falcon Features

Falcon Features

This is the alumni magazine at UW-River Falls. It began in 1952 and contains feature stories, current campus events, and a section about alumni including news, deaths, births, and marriages. Past issues of Falcon Features are indexed through the present issue in the Archives’s Biographical Index. Hard copies of the publication are available in the Archives, and a digital archives is maintained online from Spring 2004 onward.

Farm Statistics, Annual Enumeration by Assessors

Farm Statistics, Annual Enumeration by Assessors

The Archives holds annual enumeration of farm statistics on microfilm (River Falls Micro 61-64) for Burnett, Pierce, Polk and Saint Croix counties for the years 1923-1960. The records will list every farmer in the township and give exact details on the operation, such as number of cows, number of sheep, number of acres of wheat cultivated, etc. The annual enumeration of farm statistics for other Wisconsin counties can be ordered by the Archives staff from the Wisconsin Historical Societylink in Madison.

Related information can be found in census records (agricultural data was often recorded in addition to population data), local history books, and manuscript collections.

Finding Aids

Finding Aids

A finding aid, also called a collection inventory or register, is an instrument that gives information about the materials in a collection. A typical finding aid for a manuscript collection will give the title of the collection; the call number; information as to the background on the person, agency, or organization the collection is about/from; an abstract of what is contained in the collection; a scope note (brief synopsis) of what materials are in the collection; a detailed description by box and folder number of the contents of the collection; a noting of who donated the materials; and a noting of when the collection was donated.

Finding aids are the first and best tool a researcher can use to guide them to appropriate materials without the luxury of online records. Finding aids are particularly useful when using large collections stored in multiple boxes or locations. If a researcher is interested in having a large collection transferred from another ARC for research, the researcher will need to check the online finding aidlink for the collection to determine which boxes/volumes are most valuable to them.

Genealogy

Genealogy

Genealogy is the study of one’s family history. The Archives has many genealogies on file; some are extensive and published family lineages while others might be a single document, such as a diploma or an ancestral chart. Holding records for published genealogies and manuscripts containing genealogies can be found in the UW-River Falls online library catalog. Single documents are located in the Miscellaneous Genealogical Documents collection in the archives reading room (check the biographical index under either the surname or the name of interest).

Homesteading Records

Homesteading Records

Homesteading was the process by which someone obtained land from the U.S. Government. To determine who homesteaded a particular piece of property, consult the Abstract of Title to the property, which can be obtained from a local abstracter’s office or check with the Register of Deeds office at the county courthouse where the land is located (visit the Archives' WI Regional Contacts page for local courthouse contact information). The Archives holds a resource called the U.S. General Land Office Wisconsin Local Tract Books (RF Micro 130) for Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and Saint Croix counties. The land description (township, range, and section) is necessary in order to successfully do the research. Land description can be determined by consulting a plat map. Homesteading  information and land patents are available online at on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), General Land Office (GLO) Records Automation website.

House History

House History

When researching a house history, an Abstract of Title for the property should be obtained from an abstract office or the Register of Deeds at the county courthouse where the property is located (visit the Archives’ WI Regional Contacts page for local courthouse contact information). The abstract will list every owner of the land the house sits on since it was homesteaded from the U.S. government. Tax rolls held at the Archives are a good source of information, ownership, and valuation, regardless of whether the house is in the country or in a city/village. If the house is in a city or village, one could search local history books and information in the Archives’s Local History Vertical File (look under the name of the community-historic buildings or historic houses). 

For River Falls, Hudson, and New Richmond, the Archives has copies of intensive historic surveys that were done in the 1980s-1990s, which include information on historic houses. For the city of River Falls, the Archives has property appraisal cards from the 1930s-1940s that contain specific information on many houses in the city (Pierce Series 56). If the house is in the country, plat maps can be used to track land ownership. Many of the plat maps will use a small black square to indicate the location of a house on a parcel of land. Another possibility in tracing the history of a house is to track the history of the first/early owners. Clues about the house can be found in obituaries, biographies, local history books, etc.

  • See Maps and Tax & Assessment Rolls (below) for related information.
Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and Inter-Archives Loan

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and Inter-Archives Loan

The Archives loans out certain items such as newspapers and census records on microfilm to other libraries and ARCs requesting those materials. The Archives can also borrow items from other libraries and ARCs for researchers to use here. Some materials do not circulate and must be viewed in the Archives's reading room.

Local History Vertical File

Local History Vertical File

The Local History Vertical File contains miscellaneous materials dealing with the history of Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties. The folders in the file are arranged alphabetically by place name-subject heading. It is a good starting point to obtain quick answers to inquiries for general histories of cities and towns and a variety of other topics. An index to the Local History Vertical File is available in the archives reading room.

Manuscripts

Manuscripts

A manuscript is a one-of-a-kind unique document with literary or historical value. Examples would include correspondence between two individuals, the diary of a farm wife on the plains, the records of a country store, a ledger from a church, and a membership book from an organization. The Archives houses manuscript collections that document the history of Northwestern Wisconsin, in particular Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties. Each is given an RF Mss (River Falls Manuscript) or RF SC (River Falls Small Collection) designation as part of its call number. Manuscripts can be identified on the Archives Resources pages or by searching the UW-River Falls online library cataloglink, by title, by donor, and by subject headings. Many of the manuscript collections are accompanied by finding aids, which give more detail on each collection. This is particularly useful for large collections.

Maps/Atlases/Plat Books

Maps/Atlases/Plat Books

The Archives has a wide array of maps documenting the layout and history of northwestern Wisconsin such as plat maps, Sanborn Maps, and a host of others including railroad maps, historic location maps, atlases, geological maps, and more.

Plat maps record rural land ownership in townships within a county. In most cases, individual township plat maps are contained in what is commonly known as a plat book. Plat books were produced very sporadically until more modern times, so do not expect to find one for each year. The earliest plat books for Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and Saint Croix counties start in the 1870s. In the front of modern plat books and those from the 19th century is an explanation of how to determine land description (NE1/4 of the NE1/4 of Section 10, Township 24 North, Range 19 West). Townships are composed of 36 sections; each section contains 640 acres. Township and range numbers stem from when the state was originally surveyed in the 1830s.  

Sanborn maps are fire insurance maps and serve as a wonderful resource to trace the growth of cities and to track where businesses were located. The Sanborn Company was founded in 1867 by D.A. Sanborn for the purpose of drawing maps of the downtown districts of cities across the U.S. If a building burned down, these maps would be consulted by insurance companies to research its physical structure. The maps were not issued on a regular basis and the company stopped making the fire insurance maps in 1961. The Archives has Sanborn Maps on microfilm for the entire state of Wisconsin, as well as paper copies of the maps for cities in Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties. The dates range from approximately the 1880s to the 1920s. The Archives also has several University maps and aerial photographs that show how the campus has grown over the years.

Masters Theses and Papers

Masters Theses and Papers

The Archives holds master’s theses and papers written by UW-River Falls master’s degree students from the mid-1960s to present (UWRF Series 80). A thesis is done under Plan A of the master’s program while a paper is done under Plan B of the master’s program. Circulating copies of these items can be found in the main stacks of the Chalmer Davee Library. Search the online library cataloglink to find individual holdings.

Meletean

Meletean

Latin for badger, the Meletean is the name of the yearbook at UW-River Falls. It was published from 1912-1969 and had a short run in 1991-1992. Two complete sets of the Meletean are available in the Archives (UWRF Series 93).

Minnesota Historical Society (MnHS)

Minnesota Historical Society (MnHS)

The Minnesota Historical Societylink, located in Saint Paul, was established in 1849 (Minnesota became a territory in 1849 and a state in 1858). The Society collects manuscripts and archival materials that document the history of the state as well as genealogical materials, books, maps, photographs, and a host of other materials. Additionally, the Society has quite an extensive collection of railroad records. Various guides have been published regarding their holdings, of which the Archives has several, including a series of books highlighting many of their collections entitled Minnesota Historical Society Collections. The MnHS website contains a wealth of valuable information including a video on preservation and an extensive online index to Minnesota birth and death records.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

The U.S. National Archives was founded in 1934 and is located in Washington, D.C. In 1985, the official title became the National Archives and Records Administrationlink (NARA) to reflect the growing importance of records management. NARA seeks to collect materials that document U.S. history. Before its official founding, most of the records were stored in the many federal office buildings in Washington, D.C., making both research and conservation difficult. The National Archives has 11 branches in the form of Regional Federal Archives and Records Centers across the U.S. The National Archives also administers the Presidential Libraries. The Archives has a guide to the holdings in some of these libraries, entitled, A Guide to Manuscripts in the Presidential Libraries.

National Archives of Canada

National Archives of Canada

The Library and Archives Canadalink (LAC), previously known as the Public Archives of Canada and the National Archives of Canada, collects and documents materials pertinent to the history of Canada. The LAC mission statement emphasizes collecting and caring for materials of national importance; assisting federal and ministerial governments in records management; and making the records available to interested persons. Census microfilms can be ordered from LAC through Interlibrary loan for researchers to use at the Archives.

National Register of Historic Places

National Register of Historic Places

Early legislation in 1906, 1916, and 1935 established policies for identifying and preserving historic properties in the U.S. but the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 set forth the policies that guide the field of historic preservation today. The National Register recognizes thousands of significant sites and buildings. The criteria for inclusion of a site/building in the National Register include pre-history significance, historic person significance, historic architectural style, or importance of the site/building to the history of the community. For more information, people should consult the National Register of Historic Placeslink, or the Wisconsin Historic Preservation Office. In addition, the Archives has two volumes listing National Register properties in the U.S.

Native Americans

Native Americans

When doing research on Native Americans, it is important to keep in mind that the culture was based on oral tradition as opposed to written records. Therefore many of the primary sources that deal with Native Americans originate with those who worked with them, not from the Native Americans themselves.

A few places to look for materials at the Archives are the manuscript collection which includes the American Indian Reference Collection (River Falls Mss BL); books on the reading room shelves including How to Research American Indian Blood Lines as well as The Source which contains some great information on researching Native Americans and their genealogy. Census records can also be a source of information as they often had a separate enumeration for Native Americans.

Be sure to check under a variety of subject headings when doing research including both “Native Americans” and “Indians” as well as “Archeology.” Many tribal burial mound areas are now being preserved under the law. The Mero Mounds in the Diamond Bluff area of southern Pierce County are such a site.

  • The Wisconsin Historical Societylink has a wealth of online information on Native American History in Wisconsin including photographs, historical newspaper articles, treaty and effigy mound information, genealogy, lesson plans, and much more.
Naturalization Process and Records

Naturalization Process and Records

When people first came to the United States they had to go through a formal process to become a citizen. This was known as the naturalization process. Local, state, and federal courts were authorized to administer the process. Essentially there were three steps. The first step was to file a declaration of intention (first papers) to become a citizen (view sample below). Then there would be a waiting (residency) period, ranging usually from two to seven years. Third, the person would petition the court for citizenship (second papers). If the petition was accepted, then the person was admitted as a citizen. In most cases the Archives has the paperwork documenting only the declaration and petition phases, though there are sometimes naturalization certificates and ancillary documents. The records are arranged by county, each of which is accompanied by an index. These indexes usually point to the petitions (second papers). Working backward is the most efficient method because if an individual is found in the index, their petition should indicate where and when they filed for declaration (first papers). Sometimes the declaration is even attached to their petition. If the individual is not listed in an index, then consult an index to the declarations or the individual declaration books themselves. This is an important step because people would often file the first papers then not complete the process (the declaration was all that was required to be a voting citizen in Wisconsin until 1908).

A pivotal year to the naturalization process was in 1906 when the Basic Naturalization Act was passed. This provided for federal supervision of the naturalization process through the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). Forms became much more detailed and standardized. Until then each county did things a little differently. 

  • Note: As a general rule, women and children were considered the property of the man that they came to the country with and did not file papers on their own until the 1920’s. They were automatically naturalized with the men. Sometimes young males would file their own papers when they reached adulthood.
  • Tips: If the naturalization date is unknown, consult the 1900, 1910, and 1920 census records. There are categories on these censuses regarding year of immigration to the U.S. and status of naturalization process (the abbreviation “Al” stood for alien, meaning no papers had been filed yet; the abbreviation “Pa” stood for papers, meaning a declaration of intention had been filed; and Declaration of Intent, 1941the abbreviation “Na” stood for naturalization, meaning the person had supposedly finished the process). Remember, the data from the censuses may not be always totally accurate, but it may provide some good clues. Another point to remember is that an individual may have filed his naturalization with a federal district court. If this is the case for someone from this area, then the person would have to contact the National Archives Great Lakes Regionlink office in Chicago. The great majority of people who lived in this part of the state filed their naturalization papers through a county court, which means the Archives would have the records.
  • Naturalization holdings at the Archives:
Newspapers

Newspapers

Local newspapers can be wonderful resources for biographical information, tracing local businesses, reading about historical events, and much more. The Archives has newspapers covering the four-county area (Burnett, Pierce, Polk and Saint Croix) from the mid-1800s up to the present, as well as newspapers from Washburn County (until the late 1990s the Archives also covered Washburn County). The Archives has some scattered newspaper runs from a few different parts of the state and from different U.S. cities, as well as the Student Voice and other University publications. Most of the newspapers are on microfilm. Visit the Collections pages to view the newspaper holdings at the Archives. Newspaper holdings are also listed in the UW-River Falls online library cataloglink. The Archives has a biographical index which contains births, deaths, marriages, graduations, and other important life events found primarily in newspapers but other sources as well. This index covers roughly 1853-1910, depending on the source. (See Biographical Index (above) for more details. A list of items and dates of coverage included in the biographical index is available online.)

  • Tips: December and January issues often include summaries of the major news and events of the past year. Anniversary or centennial issues provide detailed histories of local businesses, organizations, and people. The editorials and feature columns in newspapers are an excellent source for determining the prevailing attitudes in a city at a particular time. A very helpful source that is available in the archives reading room at the Archives is Newspapers in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin: A Bibliography with Holdings, which lists all of the newspapers held by the Wisconsin Historical Societylink (WHS) at Madison.
  • The WHS has complied thousands of newspaper articles about citizens and communities from across the state and made them available in a searchable database at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articleslink.
Normal School

Normal School

This term was applied to a school that was a teacher training institution. It was a term used across the nation in the 1800s to early 1900s. UW-River Falls was known as the River Falls Normal School until 1927. 

  • See University History (below) for related information.

Online Records

Online Records

While numerous digitization projects are currently in progress at the Archives as well as the entire ARC Networklink, the composition and arrangement of archival records make automation a slow and sometimes impossible process. The Wisconsin Historical Societylink already has a number of searchable databases and digitized collections such as the Roster of WI Volunteers-War of the Rebellion, 1861-65link. Through volunteers at the USGenWeb Project, many historical and genealogical records for Wisconsin and other states can be found online at sites such as USGenWeblink. In the absence of online records, collection finding aids are a valuable resource to identify archival materials.

  • See Finding Aids (above) for more information.
  • Search The USGenWeblink Project website for online records.
  • Go to the Archives's Research Tools & Information page for more information on finding online records.
Oral Histories

Oral Histories

Oral history came into being after World War II when the advent of tape recording technology merged with an increase of interest in social history (the history of the common person). Most oral histories fall into three categories: autobiographical, biographical, or topical. The finished product will often include not only the audio recording itself, but also a transcription which provides greater access and ensures the preservation of the interview. The Oral History Associationlink, a national organization, was established in 1967 to provide for the exchange of ideas and information for those in the field. Oral history interviews of local citizens can be an excellent source of data for students, scholars, local historians, etc.

The Archives began a large oral history project in 1967 (River Falls Oral History Project: Interviews, RF Mss AW). A number of people in the Saint Croix Valley area were interviewed on what they remember about their communities, their lives, their involvement in major world events such as World War II and the Great Depression, their reminiscences about attending school at River Falls, and a host of other topics. A guide, Voices from the St. Croix Valley, was published to the oral history collection in 1972 and updated in 1978. The Archives has another collection known as the Krueger Tape Library which contains interviews with local citizens in the 1960s-1970s, covering topics such as prohibition and logging. Oral/video histories of university personnel can be found in UWRF Series 169.

Passenger Lists

Passenger Lists

Passenger lists record names of those arriving on ships to America. The Archives has a set of books called Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, which list names and where to obtain further information, as well as some books listing passengers of certain ethnic backgrounds, such as Danish and Irish. However, these books represent only a small portion of the immigrant record. researchers may want to consult larger archival/genealogical repositories such as the Immigration History Research Centerlink at the University of Minnesota, and repositories focusing on specific ethnic groups to have a better chance of finding their relatives. Online, the Ellis Island websitelink and the Castle Garden websitelink have searchable databases of passenger arrival lists and ship manifests (free registration required). Also, consulting the National Archiveslink (NARA) can be helpful if the ship name and time period of immigration are unknown.

Photographs

Photographs

The Archives has a large collection of photographs that document the history of Northwestern Wisconsin, including the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Photographs are arranged by subject and include portraits, aerials, tintypes, daguerreotypes, and slides. Until 1993, the Pierce County Historical Associationlink (PCHA) housed their photographs at the Archives; these photos are now at the PCHA office in Ellsworth.

View a sampling of photographs housed at the Archives:

To see other historical photographs from Wisconsin, visit the Wisconsin Historical Imageslink website, a searchable database of thousands of images in the collection of the Wisconsin Historical Societylink.

Prologue

Prologue

The Prologue began in 1956 and is the student literary magazine at UW-River Falls. UWRF Series 95 contains a run of the publication.

It should not be confused with the the National Archives and Records Administration's publication of the same name.

Register
"Register" and "Inventory" are other names for a Finding Aid; see Finding Aids above for a detailed description
Research Requests

Research Requests

Basic Research
We will search census, divorce records, Annual Enumeration of Farm Statistics, Naturalization records, obituaries, plat maps, and vital records for researchers unable to visit the Archives in person.  Look-ups cost $5.00 per name, per record, per year searched, and must be paid in advance. You will receive a summary of the research completed whether or not the search was successful. Please complete a Basic Research Request Form and submit it along with your check or money order. 

In-Depth Research
$5 per ½ hour of research ($5 minimum), includes 20 photocopies; $5 per each additional ½ hour. Use this option for copies of non-obituary newspaper articles, copies from manuscript collections, copies from published materials, etc., and for other research not covered in the Basic Research list. Please complete and print In-Depth Research Request Form and submit it along with your check or money order. Please visit the Archives collections pages before completing a request to determine if we hold sources that correspond to your request. Be very specific with the information you provide on the form for better and faster results. 

Restricted Records

Restricted Records

Some records are restricted as a matter of state statute or at the request of the donor and cannot be viewed by the public. Such records will contain a restricted usage note in the online record or on the item itself. The vast majority of collections are not restricted.

Saint Croix Valley Genealogical Society (SCVGS)

Saint Croix Valley Genealogical Society ( SCVGS)

The SCVGSlink is a local interest group for genealogists, formed in 1979. They focus on genealogy in the counties of Pierce and St. Croix and publish a newsletter called The Pipost (which stands for the three counties they originally covered – Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix) that is available at the Archives. The SCVGS has done several service projects for the Archives over the years, including helping to compile entries for the biographical index; inventorying the cemeteries in the counties of Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix; compiling an index to the History of the St. Croix Valley; and indexing the 1876 St. Croix County plat book.

School Records

School Records

The Archives houses records for several schools in Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties but the majority of the records are from Pierce County and St. Croix County. Most fall into two broad categories. The first category is student information: names, grades, attendance records, and daily program of study. The other category is administrative: minutes of school board meetings, budgets, and teacher contracts. Many counties also published annual school directories listing teachers and major school district officials. For Pierce County, the Archives has what are known as School Census Records for the years 1918-1957 (Pierce Series 129), listing the names of pupils between the ages of 4 and 20 in each school district and whether or not they attended school. Since the records also give the birth date of each pupil and the name of a parent/guardian, they can be used by people as one form of proof for filing a delayed birth registration. For other counties, school census records are usually kept by the Register of Deeds Office at the county courthouse (visit the Archives' Regional Contacts page for local courthouse contact information). Enrollment information can also be found in local newspapers, which will usually publish enrollment data in a September issue after the district figures have been tabulated.

Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

The Social Security Death Indexlink lists the names of deceased individuals with Social Security numbers. The SSDI generally contains names of those who died after 1962. Prior to 1962, the reporting of deaths to the Social Security Administration was not an automated process. The SSDI was initially created to provide local governing agencies, banks, insurance companies, and crediting agencies with information on deceased persons so that they could make adjustments to their records.

  • See Vital Records (below) and Cemetery Records (above) for related information.
  • Search the pre-1907 Wisconsin statewide vital statistics indexlink.
  • View the Minnesota Historical Society online death indexlink.
Soundex

Soundex

The Soundex is an indexing system used with federal census records. The Soundex system was originally developed in 1935 by sociologist Charles Lawrence for use with Social Security matters. The Soundex system is a coded surname index based upon the way a name sounds, rather than the way it is spelled, enhancing the likelihood of successfully finding a surname that may have been recorded under different spellings. Soundexes exist for the 1880, 1900, and 1920 census records. For 1910, either a Soundex or a Miracode exists for some states but not all. A 1930 Soundex exists but only for 12 southern U.S. states. The Archives has the Soundex for the 1880 and 1900 federal census records.

  • To automatically convert a surname into Soundex code, visit the Soundex Machinelink.
  • See Census Records above for related information.
Student Voice

Student Voice

The Student Voice is the name of the student newspaper at UW-River Falls. It began publication in 1916 and continues today. Copies of the publication are contained in UWRF Series 100. Also, some supplemental issues are kept in UWRF Series 99.

  • See current and archived issues of the Student Voice onlinelink (2006- ).
Tax and Assessment Rolls

Tax and Assessment Rolls

Tax rolls, much like assessment rolls, record parcels of property, who owns them, the assessed tax on the property, and who paid the tax. Each governmental unit within a county (township, city and village) produces a tax roll for each year. Tax rolls can be helpful in tracking who owned land during particular time periods. Tax rolls from the 20th century include a category called “improvements” which can be helpful in determining when a house, shed, or other structure was built on a piece of property. Some tax rolls have a section for personal property, which lists the value of the property owner’s personal belongings. When using tax rolls, it is necessary to know the property’s legal land description (e.g.: NE1/4 of the NE1/4 of Section 10, Township 24 North, Range 19 West). This information can be found on a tax statement or abstract of title. Sometimes old plat books contain maps of the cities within the county, providing some clues as to a legal description.

  • The Archives houses tax rolls for cities and townships within Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties. Holdings vary greatly from location to location because not every year has been saved.
  • Use the finding aid for each county for specific holdings information; be sure to view the Contents List in the "Register":
University of Wisconsin System

University of Wisconsin System

The UW System came into being in October of 1971 and includes the doctoral granting campuses of Madison and Milwaukee; the eleven campuses (including River Falls) that grant baccalaureate and master’s degrees; the University of Wisconsin Centers (UWC), which consist of thirteen two-year centers that offer associate degree level programs and liberal arts transfer programs; and the University of Wisconsin-Extension, which provides outreach education to people in Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

UWRF Athletics

UWRF Athletics

The Archives has several sources dealing with campus athletics. A major source is the Sports Information Office (UWRF Series 140) which contains guides and programs for the major sports on campus, often providing the history of a particular sport or information such as an historical list of coaches, season records, etc. Some University Archives series deal with specific sports, such as Swimming (UWRF Series 159), basketball and baseball (UWRF Series 77), or women's soccer (UWRF Small Series 62). Listings of letter winners can be found in UWRF Small Series 66. Information on women's athletics can be found in UWRF Small Series 49. A few of the sports have compiled season results, which are filed in the archives reading room. For historical materials on campus athletics consult the Centennial History and Student Research Papers 396, 469, and 522. Other sources include the Student Voice, the Meletean yearbooks (UWRF Series 93) and a large photograph collection dedicated to campus athletics (UWRF Series 26).

For researching athletics in area high schools consult the Local History Vertical File and community newspapers.

UWRF Building Histories

UWRF Building Histories

Printed histories of the university and building dedication programs for many structures on campus can be found in the Historical File (UWRF Series 43) and in the Archives reading room. A publication entitled What’s In a Name contains histories on all of the named buildings and structures on campus and can be found at the Archives or online. Write-ups on many of the dormitories on campus can be found in the Residence Halls collection (UWRF Series 161). The Construction and Maintenance File (UWRF Series 24), campus maps, university photographs (UWRF Series 26), and series dealing with specific buildings such as North Hall (UWRF Small Series 67) can also be useful sources.

  • See all building-related University Archives collections.
UWRF History

University History

As the official repository for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, the Archives holds hundreds of university records, each identified with a “UWRF Series” number. Some series of note include the University Historical File (UWRF Series 43); the Office of Institutional Research (UWRF Series 32); University Catalogs (UWRF Series 39); and University Photographs (UWRF Series 26). Enrollment data can be found in the Registrar's Subject Files (UWRF Series 38), the Opening Fall Faculty Meeting records (UWRF Series 12), and September issues of the Student Voice or the River Falls Journal. Two excellent sources for university information are Centennial History, written by Walker Wyman and James King, and the River Falls State Teachers College, 1874-1932, both available in the Archives reading room as well as the main stacks of the Chalmer Davee Library. Additional sources of information include university publications such as the Student Voice and the UWRF yearbook, the Meletean (UWRF Series 93). The centennial editions (1974-75) of the Student Voice contain a number of feature articles on the history of many different programs and people.

UWRF Online Library (and Archives) Catalog

UWRF's Online Library Catalog

The majority of the Archives' collections can be identified using the Chalmer Davee Library's online cataloglink

Having trouble using the online catalog to find archival material? We have a special Help page.

  • See ArCat (above) for related information.
UWRF People

UWRF People

Students and AlumniAlumni directories (UWRF Series 42); student and faculty directories (UWRF Series 92); commencement programs (UWRF Series 27); the Meletean yearbooks (UWRF Series 93); the Student Voice; and the UW-River Falls Vertical File are excellent sources of information about UWRF students and alumni. In the early decades of the school some of the students received a certificate, and not a diploma, upon completion of their studies. These graduates were listed in the undergraduate course catalogs (UWRF Series 39), not in the official alumni directories. The UWRF alumni magazine, Falcon Features, is another source for information on graduates and is indexed in the Archives’s biographical index up to the current issue. Other series deal with students in the military (UWRF Series 44), student employment (UWRF Small Series 98), and campus activities for students such as University Theater (UWRF Series 59).

Faculty and StaffTo track someone who has taught at UW-River Falls first check the biographical index located in the archives reading room to look for citations to area newspapers or alumni publications, such as the Falcon Features. Additional resources include the UW-River Falls Vertical File; Student and Faculty Directories (UWRF Series 92); school catalogs (UWRF Series 39); the Meletean (UWRF Series 93); and Oral/Video Histories conducted with UWRF faculty (UWRF Series 169). For a faculty roster from the early years of the university, consult the 1932 publication entitled The River Falls State Teachers College, 1874-1932, also located in the archives reading room. The Archives has a very small amount of personnel files covering the 1920s-1930s in UWRF Series 13. The Chancellor’s office on campus maintains most past and present personnel files on the faculty. These files are confidential and researchers should consult with that office for more details on an individual.

Vertical File

UW-River Falls Vertical File

The UW-River Falls Vertical File is an alphabetically arranged intentionally assembled collection of predominately published material on a wide variety of subjects documenting the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.  The collection includes information about alumni and former students; buildings and grounds; faculty and staff; organizations and clubs; and general subjects regarding university life at the UW-River Falls.

Vital Records

Vital Records

The term “vital records” refers to birth, death, marriage, and divorce records (registrations). Finding registrations prior to 1907 can be hit or miss as it was not a law in Wisconsin until Oct. 1907 that all births, deaths, and marriages be recorded (people still did not record all events after 1907). The Archives, along with all Wisconsin ARCs, has a pre-1907 (1852-1907) vital statistics index for the entire state. Each ARC holds the registrations for their designated geographic region; the Archives has registrations on microfilm for Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties. If searching for vital records after Oct. 1907, contact either the courthouse in the county in which the event occurred or the Wisconsin Vital Records Officelink in Madison (visit the Archives' regional contacts web page for local courthouse information). The Wisconsin statewide pre-1907 vital statistics index is now available onlinelink. Volunteers have added most of the pre-1907 vital statistics information, as well as some post-1907 data, onto USGenWeblink, and the information is also available through Ancestry.com. Minnesota birthlink and deathlink records can be identified using the Minnesota Historical Societylink's indexes.

  • Notes: A “D” or a “DX” in front of the reel number in the index entry indicates a delayed birth registration which is contained on separate reels of microfilm from the regular collection. Several mistakes were made when the statewide vital statistics index was compiled; view "problems and pointers" page before searching.
  • Tips: Try a wide variety of spellings when using the vital statistics index. Women may be filed under their husband’s name (Mrs. Alfred Dunner) or even under the M’s for Mrs. With prefix surnames, such as Van Eck, McKinley, etc., the prefix may or may not be included in the name. The space between the prefix and the rest of the surname will result in the name being listed first in the index (the Van Eck individuals will fall alphabetically before the VanEck individuals).
Wisconsin Historical Society

Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Historical Societylink (WHS), previously known as the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, was established in 1846, two years before Wisconsin became a state. Located in the Wisconsin capital of Madison, the main goal of the society is to collect materials documenting the history of the state, including manuscripts; county and municipal materials; books; periodicals; sound and visual materials; and artifacts. The society has an extensive collection of genealogical materials, not only for Wisconsin, but for the entire United States. The society also has a national collection focus in the fields of mass communication, labor, and social action. The Archives is one of thirteen ARCs affiliated with the WHS in a statewide networklink. Each ARC houses collections for a designated region of the state. Materials housed at ARCs throughout the entire statewide network including River Falls can be identified using ArCatlink, the online catalog of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Through the ARC network, most materials owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society or other ARCs can be transferred to and from the Archives. Visit the Research Portal page to read about programs and services offered by WHS.


University of Wisconsin-River Falls
410 S. 3rd Street, River Falls WI 54022 USA
Campus Information 715-425-3911