Exploring your family tree
Genealogy is fascinating, and the Museum at the Portage may be able to help you find information about your family. We have a collection of high school yearbooks, city directories, indexed scrapbooks, and more. We also have knowledgeable docents who know other local sources of genealogical information, including the public library that has many years of the local newspaper on microfilm.
Start with the Resources in the County where your Relative Lived
COURTHOUSE: Birth, Death, Land, Tax Records for that county.
LOCAL GENEALOGY AND HISTORICAL SOCIETIES: Some of the smallest towns have the best record collections.
CEMETERIES AND OBITUARIES: Portage Historical Society website www.portagemuseum.org has the indexes for these and they can be downloaded.
THE OBITUARIES ARE AT THE PORTAGE PUBLIC LIBRARY ON MICROFILM. NOT AT THE MUSEUM
CHURCH RECORDS: Portage St. Mary Catholic Church has records but you cannot view them. Secretary gives you the information.
St John’s Lutheran Church: Has their original records and you can look at them. I have found great information here.
United Methodist Church: Portage and Caledonia records are at the United Methodist Church Center Sun Prairie, WI.
Trinity Church Prospect St: Has their original records and you can use them.
LOCAL LIBRARY: Portage has a large collection of city directories. Also plat books, Columbia County cemetery records. Check out the Sanderson Room.
MILITARY RECORDS: Contact the Veteran’s Office where your ancestor resided to get service records.
MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTIONS: Mendota Mental Hospital records are at the WI Historical Society in archives, need to show family relationship and access limited to certain years. Wyocena Home and Federal census
PRISON RECORDS: Green Bay and Waupun. WI Historical Society has some Waupun records and they are indexed. WI Historical Society Area Research Centers may have court records.
TOWNSHIP RECORDS: If your relative lived in the country, the township he lived in may have their old records of meetings, taxes. Caledonia TWP Columbia Co has records.
Join local history/genealogy groups in the area where your ancestor lived.
|Caledonia German Methodist
|Indian Farm Large
|St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran
|Welsh Calvinistic Mothodist (Pioneer)
|McLeish Family Burial
|Martin Family Cemetery
|Oak Grove Cemetery
|Silver Lake Cemetery
|St. Michael’s Lutheran Cemetery
|St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery
|Railroad Ritual at Dead Man’s Crossing
Columbia County Birth Registers
Three, hand-written, bound ledgers, listing all registered births occurring within Columbia County from 19 May 1876 to 13 Dec 1886 were donated to the Portage Historical Society from the Millie Stanley Estate.
CONTENT OF BIRTH LEDGERS
- Full name of child
- Sex (M/F)
- Names of other issue living (Siblings)
- Full name of father
- Occupation of father
- Name of mother previous to marriage
- Hour, day, month, year of birth
- Place of birth
- Name of physician or other person signing certificate
- Residence of such person
- Date of certificate
- Date of Registration
- Any additional circumstances (Nativity of father & mother)[Found in early records only]
INDEX TO BIRTH REGISTERS
For genealogists, there are many potentially important clues hidden (or in plain sight?) in the data, assuming you can locate a relative of yours considering the difficulty in determining the correct spellings of the surnames. Early registrations often contained nativity of both parents, and some had included birthplaces of parents.
In order to make it easier to find an ancestor’s record, we compiled an Index to the ledgers in the form of a searchable Excel spreadsheet. Volunteers entered the child’s surname and given name, date of birth, and parent’s names from each of the three ledgers, and then merged the three files into a master spreadsheet, which allows us to ‘search’ on date-of-birth and/or combinations of surname and given name.
Although a large number of the records list the given name of the baby as “not given”, if you know one of the parent’s names or if you can provide the baby’s sibling’s names, we may be able to find a “match”. In the process of indexing, we often had to make an educated guess as to the correct spelling of the surname. If you have a known date (or suspected date) of birth, we can sort the data file by date and then scan the surnames (as we interpreted the spelling) for possible matches. For example, a Grotzke may have been entered into the database as a ‘Brotski” [True!]! We will try our best to find your ancestor in the database, but due to the transcription difficulties, we may not be able to locate the record you are searching for.
Occasionally the register includes a ‘footnote’ that details some feature of either the baby (stillborn, health of or deformity described, etc.) or relates some personal knowledge of the parents (occupation or, rarely, a personal description) . We do not know who offered these often tantalizing facts (i.e., the physician/midwife, or record-keeper), but it was most likely from someone with close personal knowledge of the family.
COMMENTS ON BIRTH REGISTERS
An examination of the dates of entry in the Birth Registers suggest that the data were processed by the Register of Deeds office in “batches”. Apparently, physicians or midwives and others responsible for attending to the birth of a child (sometimes the parents themselves) would periodically bring in their ‘records’ when it was convenient to them, and register the births that they were responsible for with the Register of Deeds Office. It appears that they completed and dated a birth ‘Certificate’ [on a pre-printed form, in duplicate perhaps?] that, in turn, was given to the Register of Deeds official who then registered the birth a day or more later. Consequently, there are gaps in dates between ‘date of certificate’ and ‘date of registration’ (usually only a day or two), and even larger gaps in dates between ‘date of birth’ and certificate/registration dates (often a month or more). In some cases, parents would register the births of all their children at once, often including children born many years before (and in some cases, out-of-state).
FURTHER COMMENTS RELATED TO THE BIRTH REGISTRATION LEDGERS.
Not all the facts surrounding the creation of these ledgers are known. Karen Manske, Columbia County Register of Deeds, after consulting with the State Vital records Office [in 2018], believes the ledgers in our possession “are probably some form of duplicate copy” (i.e., not the original Registers) . She states “that they are not the “official public record” and that “there may have been corrections/changes to the record that these copies do not address.” Mrs. Manske continues “You are allowed to give copies and charge a fee, if you so choose, but you would need to be clear to the person receiving the copy that they are not receiving the official record and that there may have been corrections/changes that are not reflected in the copy that they are receiving.”
THIS IS NOT AN OFFICAL PUBLIC RECORD
This is an undocumented duplicate copy of hand-written records of Births registered in Columbia County, Wisconsin, 1876-1880. Corrections/changes may have been made to records that do not reflect the “official records”.
Repository: Ledgers are owned and preserved by the Portage Historical Society, Portage, WI and may be viewed at the Museum at The Portage, Box 727, Portage, WI 53901