Archives & Local History
Family and local history galore! Whether you are just starting looking for your ancestors, or you have years of experience, are doing a paper or more in depth research on the history of the La Crosse area, the La Crosse Public Library Archives is the place for you. Archives staff can help you get started and help you use the information available at the Library and in some cases, beyond.
The La Crosse Public Library Archives has many resources including city directories for the city of La Crosse, La Crosse and area plat maps, city records, manuscripts, and much, much more. Try out the local genealogy database.
For information on visiting the La Crosse Public Library Archives to search for family history or local history information, or to ask a question, click on the Archives Department. Ask the Archives a question
A Scrapbook For Your Community!
Have you heard the exciting news??
The new Archives website is up and running. We'd love to hear from you. Check it out at http://archives.lacrosselibrary.org.
Also, sign ups are now being accepted for the the spring series of Footsteps tours! Call 608-789-7136 or email us at email@example.com to reserve your spot today. For a list of tours, visit our new website: http://archives.lacrosselibrary.org/blog/time-to-go-for-a-walk-or-ride/
Family History and Local History Resources at your Library
Books and published materials
Books and published material is available for searching through the library catalog. If you’re searching for a family history, we suggest you select a “subject” search and type in the surname of the family and family, for example "Flock family."
The Archives has indexes of La Crosse County cemeteries both in paper at the library and online in our searchable web database at http://archives.lacrosselibrary.org/genealogy/genealogy-database/. Volunteers from the La Crosse Area Genealogical Society have been instrumental in gathering this information.
The Archives also has printed lists for Jackson and Juneau counties, Wisconsin; and Olmsted and Winona counties, Minnesota. We also have a microfiche index for Monroe County, Wisconsin.
The Library also has a subscription to Ancestry Library Edition, the library version of Ancestry.com, which is available for use in La Crosse Public Library locations, and to HeritageQuest which is available in the library and anywhere to Wisconsin residents through BadgerLink. The Archives also has Wisconsin state census on microfilm for 1855, 1875-1905; Minnesota state censuses for Houston County 1865-1905, and Winona County 1885.
City and county directories
The Archives has La Crosse city directories from 1866 to the present. The directories were published every other year until 1961 when the publishing cycle changed to every year. Wives’ names were added in 1922. The following city directories include La Crosse County rural route lists: 1893, 1895, 1932-1969. Digitized La Crosse city directories are available for 1866-1924. You can select "city directories" as the collection to narrow down your search.
The holdings of La Crosse County directories are: 1901, 1906, 1940, 1945, 1955, 1961, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1974, 1976, 1979, and 1984. In 1940 coverage of the City of Onalaska was added to the La Crosse city directory. Today’s city directory includes outlying areas of La Crosse and no longer gives much occupational information.
County histories & biographical sketches
While the Archives has many Wisconsin county histories and biographical sketches, listed here are those counties which are geographically close to La Crosse County. To search out full holdings, consult the library catalog.
Wisconsin county and biographical histories we have include Buffalo (1888, 1892, 1919 & 1993); Crawford (1884 & 1932); Jackson (1891 & 1984); Juneau (1892 & 1988); La Crosse (1881, 1892, & 1907); Monroe (1892, 1912, 1976, & 1984); Pepin (1919 & 1985); Richland (1884, 1906 & 1986), Trempealeau (1892 & 1917); and Vernon (1884, 1907 & 1994).
Many of our Wisconsin county histories are on microfilm as part of a series “County Histories of the Old Northwest.” La Crosse County books are available full text on La Crosse History Unbound under "general histories" and "people."
Adjacent Minnesota county histories and biographical materials include: Houston (1882, 1919 & 1982); Olmsted (1883); and Winona (1913). Those for Iowa include: Allamakee (1882) and Winneshiek (1882 & 1913).
Local newspapers & newspaper indexes
The Archives has microfilmed newspapers published in the city of La Crosse from 1853 to the present and microfilmed newspapers from other communities in the area. More detailed information on holdings is available.
The Archives has been clipping local articles from the La Crosse Tribune since 1976, but sometimes contain older articles as well. These are arranged by subject and focus on La Crosse but do not include personal interest stories. Since September 1990, abstracts of these local articles can be found in the newspaper index online. Online access to older La Crosse newspapers covering roughly 1904-1951 are also available through Access NewspaperArchive for Wisconsin residents through BadgerLink as well as the La Crosse Tribune April 2005 to within 60 days of the present though Wisconsin Digital Newspaper Research Site database also accessible through BadgerLink.
Manuscripts and public records collections
The Archives has a number of manuscripts and public records available for use. Please consult the library catalog to search our full holdings. About half of the manuscript descriptive finding aids, using the encoded archival description (EAD), can be searched.
Among the manuscript collections we have are the Daughters of Norway, Deutscher Verin, Family & Children's Center, Gantert's Furniture Company, W. A. Roosevelt Co., Y.M. C.A., Y.W.C.A., Red Cross, and La Crosse Rubber Mills (La Crosse Footwear).
Most of the public records we have are city or municipal records: Commission on Historic Sites; Countil resolutions relating to Bridges, Streets & Alleys, Police Department, Fire Department, Public Schools and the like; Tax Records for the city of La Crosse, Park Department records, Public Works Office; and Water & Waste Water Utility to name the major series.
Obituaries & Other Genealogical Indexes
Through the online index, you have access to the local obituary file and other online genealogical indexes. Obituary coverage is most complete 1904-1959; 1968; 1983-present, but you may find citations to older obituaries as well. Births and marriages have been indexed from the local newspaper since 1987, and divorces were added in 1992. If you’d like copies of obituaries, directions for obtaining them are given on the search result screens from the online index.
Plat maps and atlases
Plat maps, plat books and atlases are available for La Crosse County and several area counties. A plat map can show where an ancestor's farm is located or for examining where ethnic pockets existed in the rural landscape. More details about local area holdings are available.
A city of La Crosse atlas from 1898 and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for the City of La Crosse 1884; and La Crosse & Onalaska 1887, 1891, 1906, 1944 and 1954 are also available.
Many Wisconsin plat books are on microfilm as part of a series “County Histories of the Old Northwest.” There are also many other types of maps of the city of La Crosse and some of the Mississippi River. Check out the digitized maps at Maps and Atlases of La Crosse County, Wisconsin, and the Upper Mississippi River which includes the 1898 city atlas and plat maps for 1874, 1890, 1900, 1906, 1913, and 1930.
Vital Records Indexes
It was not required by law until 1907 for counties in Wisconsin to record births, marriages and deaths. Pre-1907 indexes are searchable for free from the Wisconsin Historical Society website. These are also available on Ancestry.com along with marriages and divorces since 1959. Also check out the Archives' online genealogical index to vital records published in the local newspaper!
Other Information available:
Ancestry Library Edition, available inside the library only
…claims to be “the largest collection of family history data online.” Over 900 million names can be searched in their free databases and premium subscription databases. The La Crosse Public Library currently holds a subscription to the library version of Ancestry.com with access for two simultaneous users. Ancestry’s databases include census images for the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada as well as lists of passengers coming to the United States. Users must be in the library in order to use this subscription. The free databases (social security death index, etc.) can be searched using the general Ancestry.com link.
Find contact information and meeting times for La Crosse area social and philanthropic organizations.
Compare how La Crosse intersections looked in the 1970s and how they look in the present day.
Discover the history and architecture of La Crosse as your expert guides share stories of La Crosse. Look up and encounter the architecture of this historic Mississippi River town. Experience the development and beauty of La Crosse from the boomtown riverboat days to today through the evolution of building styles and details.
...available from home to residents of Wisconsin and provided by BadgerLink that is funded by Wisconsin residents. A valuable tool for genealogy and historical research, HeritageQuest allows you to search books, magazine articles (PERSI), United States censuses, Revolutionary War pension files by personal names or place names, and Freedman’s Bank records. Users in the state of Wisconsin can access Heritage Quest anywhere as well as in the library.
History Repeats Itself
A collection of popular topics in the La Crosse community that tend to repeat over time
- Annexation of the Town of Campbell into the City of La Crosse
- Evelyn Hartley
- Generosity of the People of La Crosse
- Grandad Bluff
- Hixon Forest
- "J. S." Steamboat Disaster
- "James Malbon" Steamboat Disaster
- Natural Beauty
- North-South Corridor
- Onalaska Church Murders
- Public School Boundaries
- Ten Commandments Marker Controversy
- Terry Dolowy Murder
- "War Eagle" Steamboat Disaster
- Weibel and Frydenlund Murders
is an online service available from the library or remotely to city of La Crosse residents with a La Crosse Public Library card. If you want to find a map showing your ancestor's farm in the late 1800's this is the place to search. Historic maps and directories from all over the United States and some locations worldwide are available. Searching for counties and states is available. Browsing can be done not only by state and then county but by points of interest like hospitals, buildings, cemeteries and schools. Browsing sometimes works better than searching. Only some states have directories available. Users with a valid La Crosse Public Library card can access Historic Map Works at home, as well as in the library.
Full text digitized materials of La Crosse County History from the La Crosse Public Library Archives and Murphy Library UW-La Crosse. There are a variety of topics including maps, agriculture, people & life, the Mississippi River, transportation, and general histories.
Historical to more modern maps, from approximately 1854-1987, including plat maps (who owned property), soil maps, and topographic maps of La Crosse County, maps of the city of La Crosse, and maps and charts of the Mississippi River before and after the navigation locks and dams.
Also available are a variety of guides to family history and local history research prepared by Archives staff.
- Beginning Genealogy
- Basic Guide to Ancestry Library Edition
- Basic Guide to Heritage Quest
- Census Help
- Census Information available in Archives
- How to Do House or Property Research
- Maps--the Final Frontier
- Newspapers in Archives
For information on visiting the La Crosse Public Library Archives to search for family history information, or to ask a question, click on the Learn about the Archives Department link to the right.
Family History and Local History Resources elsewhere
Besides what you will find in the Archives at La Crosse Public Library, there is a large amount of genealogy and local history information available in the La Crosse area. Information about each county includes genealogical societies, historical societies, and public and special libraries, with detailed information about what is available at various places. Below is a list of links to resources for counties near La Crosse, both in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
- Wisconsin Counties
- Minnesota Counties