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Genealogy & Local History

Local Digital Resources

There are a wide variety of historical and genealogical materials available digitally and at the Kenosha Public Library and other local institutions.

Local Institutions and Resources

Digital Collections 

The newest addition to the digital collection, Kenosha's Lost Industries: Photographs and Corporate Materials, 1850s-1990s, contains over 1,600 images and 35 corporate catalogs, product advertising pieces, periodicals, books, posters, a newspaper supplement, program booklet, stereo cards, and publicity shots relate to former major manufacturers in Kenosha County that had a significant impact on the growth of the city and the lives of its citizens as well as an influential state, national, and international presence.

The Kenosha County History: Images and Texts, 1830s-1940s digital collection contains materials owned by the KPL and the Kenosha History Center County Historical Society and Museum. It preserves fragile local resources and makes them readily available to the public via the Internet. This local collection is part of the State of Wisconsin Collection which brings together, in digital form, a rich variety of resources related to the State of Wisconsin, its history and ongoing development.

The collection includes materials from the C.E. Dewey Lantern Slide Collection. Named collectively for Cortland Ernest Dewey, the 1,232 images primarily depict people, buildings, landscapes, objects and significant events in the city and county of Kenosha from the 1830s to the early 1940s. The Louis M. Thiers Glass Negative Collection captures nearly 1,000 subjects and scenes from the late 1880s into the early 1910s. This local resident’s background, devotion to family, friends, civic life, the enjoyment of simple pleasures, and the beauty of nature are described in the book Focus on Louis Thiers: a Photographer’s View of Kenosha by local authors Diane Giles and others.  The digitized collection photos are available for purchase through the Kenosha History Center. Please contact them at (262) 654-5770, ext. 107 for more information.

The Wisconsin Historical Society's Name Index includes numerous Kenosha-area listings, including indices of pre-1907 Birth, Death, and Marriage records, as well as non-exhaustive listings of prominent citizens in Biographical Book Excerpts, National or State Registers Records, Newspaper Articles, Obituary listings, and more. 

Databases

A multitude of Kenosha area information can be accessed through our subscription databases.  Ancestry.com, Library Edition is a continually growing online database about family history, including census, vital, church, court, and immigration records from the U.S. the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as record collections from Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia and other areas of the world. Can only be used in the Library (limited to two simultaneous users). Its content complements our other genealogy resource, HeritageQuest Online (which allows remote and in library access).

Local History Resources Available at Southwest Library

Library Kenosha File

The Kenosha File or Clippings File is a collection of selectively chosen, historically significant articles that have been cut from local newspapers, special inserts, or publicity pieces. These items have been placed in folders and organized under broad subject headings. City, county, town and village news related to history, buildings, events, government, business, industries, labor, community development, parks, schools, notable people and organizations, etc., is covered in these folders. Kenosha File articles obtained from the Kenosha News may also be viewed on microfilm reader/printers. Reference Services staff members will assist individuals interested in these resources and in using the Kenosha File Index. Some of the articles can be located in the Kenosha News Online Archives and printed upon request.

Newspapers

Newspapers extending back to June 16, 1840, for the city and county of Kenosha, are on microfilm. Reader/printers are available. Kenosha News coverage is January 11, 1895 to date; the most recent months of this daily newspaper are available in paper copy.

Microfilm

Newspapers for the city and county of Kenosha are on microfilm. Coverage for some publications extends back to 1840. Federal and State Census information related to the Wisconsin Territory and the area which became Kenosha County is also on microfilm. Reader/printers are available.

Kenosha News Online Archives

Reference Services at the Southwest Library currently has access to the Kenosha News Archives, a subscription database. This product contains information from issues extending back to the late 1980s; thorough indexing begins in late 1989. Article retrieval is by keywords and can be limited by time period. Staff members perform searches, print articles, or provide the dates of papers, and the sections in which articles appear, for individual examination on microfilm or in paper copy.

Directories (City, County & Telephone), Plat Books, Maps

The most extensive collections of city directories, telephone books, plat books, and maps for Kenosha and Kenosha County are located in Reference Services area. There are some 19th century resources and a substantial number of volumes covering the 20th century.

High School Yearbooks

Yearbooks from the city of Kenosha high schools are kept in file cabinets in the Reference Services area of the Southwest Library and must be used within the library. The most extensive holdings are for Mary D. Bradford and Tremper High Schools. A library or identification card is required to use the yearbooks.

Census (Federal and State)

Census materials related to the Wisconsin Territory and the area which became Kenosha County are primarily located on microfilm. Reader/printers are available. U.S. Federal Census records and indexes are also available through the KPL subscription databases HeritageQuest Online and Ancestry Library Edition.