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 has the indexes for these and they can be downloaded.


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.

Columbus obituary index, 1960-2000
Download File
Columbus obituary index, 1918-1970
Download File
Portage obituary index, 1850-1907
Download File
Portage obituary index, 1908-2018
Download File
Rio obituary index, 1916-1972
Download File


Indexes were last updated in 2010. For current information, please contact the sexton for the cemetery.

Arlington Prairie LutheranDownload File
Arlington United PresbyterianDownload File
Arlington Evangelical United BrethrenDownload File
Crawford-McDonaldDownload File
Durwards GlenDownload File
Caledonia German MethodistDownload File
Indian Farm LargeDownload File
Shanks CemeteryDownload File
St. Paul’s Evangelical LutheranDownload File
Welsh Calvinistic Mothodist (Pioneer)Download File
Zastrow CemeteryDownload File
Jerrison CemeteryDownload File
McLeish Family BurialDownload File
Rubin-Guenther CemeteryDownload File
Hillside CemeteryDownload File
St. Jerome’s Catholic CemeteryDownload File
Cambria CemeteryDownload File
Courtland Methodist CemeteryDownload File
Dekorra CemeteryDownload File
Dekorra Lutheran CemeteryDownload File
Hastie CemeteryDownload File
Inch CemeteryDownload File
Schofield CemeteryDownload File
Klaila Family – St. Thomas CatholicDownload File
Hillside CemeteryDownload File
Bach HendersonDownload File
Old Fort BurialsDownload File
Spicer CemeteryDownload File
St. Mary’s Catholic CemeteryDownload File
Fall River CemeteryDownload File
Fountain Prairie CemeteryDownload File
St. Stephens Evangelical LutheranDownload File
Greenwood CemeteryDownload File
Leeds Center CemeteryDownload File
Spring Prairie Hauge CemeteryDownload File
Spring Prairie Lutheran CemeteryDownload File
Zion Evangelical Lutheran CemeteryDownload File
Bendixion CemeteryDownload File
Cummings CemeteryDownload File
Greenwood CemeteryDownload File
Hillcrest CemeteryDownload File
Martin Family CemeteryDownload File
Oak Grove CemeteryDownload File
Silver Lake CemeteryDownload File
St. Michael’s Lutheran CemeteryDownload File
St. Paul’s Lutheran CemeteryDownload File
Railroad Ritual at Dead Man’s CrossingDownload File
Bartholomew Pioneer CemeteryDownload File
County Line CemeteryDownload File
Mount Pleasant CemeteryDownload File
Okee CemeteryDownload File
Okee Plat 1916Download File
St. Patrick’s CemeteryDownload File
Ohio CemeteryDownload File
Rocky Run CemeteryDownload File
South Lowville CemeteryDownload File
Fuller-Cole Cemetery CemeteryDownload File
Comstock CemeteryDownload File
Henion CemeteryDownload File
Marcellon CemeteryDownload File
North Marcellon CemeteryDownload File
Calvary CemeteryDownload File
Newport Norwegian Lutheran CemeteryDownload File
Spring Grove CemeteryDownload File
Bonnet Prairie Norwegian LutheranDownload File
Doylestown Village CemeteryDownload File
Ostego CemeteryDownload File
St. Patrick’s Catholic DoylestownDownload File
St. John’s Lutheran CemeteryDownload File
St. Joseph’s Catholic CemeteryDownload File
Vangen Family CemeteryDownload File
Pacific CemeteryDownload File
St. John’s Columbarium CemeteryDownload File
Blaen Y Cae CemeteryDownload File
Friesland CemeteryDownload File
Lake Sarah Lutheran CemeteryDownload File
Randolph Public CemeteryDownload File
St. Gabriel’s Annunciation CemeteryDownload File
St. Mary’s Visitation Catholic CemeteryDownload File
Pleasant Hill Inglehart CemeteryDownload File
Portage Prairie CemeteryDownload File
Rosedale Presbyterian CemeteryDownload File
Springvale CemeteriesDownload File
Garden Bluff CemeteryDownload File
Knight CemeteryDownload File
Columbia County Home & HospitalDownload File
Pardeeville CemeteryDownload File
St. Augustine’s Rocky Run CemeteryDownload File
Wyocena CemeteryDownload File

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.


  1.  Full name of child
  2. Sex (M/F)
  3. Color
  4. Names of other issue living (Siblings)
  5. Full name of father
  6. Occupation of father
  7. Name of mother previous to marriage
  8. Hour, day, month, year of birth
  9. Place of birth
  10. Name of physician or other person signing certificate
  11. Residence of such person
  12. Date of certificate
  13.  Date of Registration
  14.  Any additional circumstances (Nativity of father & mother)[Found in early records only]


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.


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).


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 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