410 South Third Street    River Falls, WI 54022 715/425-3567 archives@uwrf.edu

Archives A to Z

ArCat Finding Aid Naturalizations St. Croix Valley Gen. Society
Archives Genealogical Society of Utah Newspapers Student Voice
Area Research Center Genealogy Normal School Tax & Assessment Rolls
Biographical Index Homesteading Online Records University History
Blue Book House Histories Oral Histories University of WI System
Business Histories Interlibrary Loan Passenger Lists UWRF, Athletics
Cemetery Records Manuscripts Photographs UWRF, Building Histories
Census Records Maps Place Names UWRF, People
Church Records Master's Theses Prologue Vertical File
Civil War Records Meletean Register Vital Records
Conservation Minnesota Historical Society Research Requests Voyager Catalog
Copyright & Use National Archives Restricted Records Wisconsin Historical Society
County Histories National Archives Canada School Records  
Court Records National Register of Historic Places Social Security Death Index
Farm Statistics Native American Records Soundex
Falcon Features      




ArCat is the online catalog of the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) archives division. Holding records for WHS collections housed at Area Research Centers (ARC's) throughout the entire statewide network including the River Falls ARC can be identified using ArCat.
  • Note: UW-River Falls University Archives collections are not the property of the WHS and are not included in ArCat. UW-River Falls University Archives collections can be identified using Voyager, the online catalog of the UW-River Falls Chalmer Davee library, or on the UW-River Falls University Archives Collections pages.

Archives —
Archives 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 Administration, collects materials that document important events in American history. The Archives of African American Music and Culture collects and preserves oral histories, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other materials related to African American music culture.

The River Falls Area Research Center and University Archives houses 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 River Falls ARC visit the About Us page or read about the Area Research Center network below.

Area Research Center (ARC) —
In the 1950’s, 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 1960’s this depository system was revitalized with the birth of the ARC Network in which the state of Wisconsin was divided up into 14 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 ARC’s 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 ARC’s though a courier system. University records do not circulate and can only be viewed at the UW-River Falls University Archives. Contact the Archivist for more information.

Biographical Index —

The River Falls center 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 1850’s through roughly 1900-1910, depending on the source, although Falcon Features, the UWRF Alumni magazine, is indexed through the present. (To see a list of items and dates of coverage included in the biographical index, click here.) 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 River Falls center also holds a microfilmed biographical index compiled by Willis Miller, former editor and co-owner of the Hudson Star-Observer. This index (RF Micro 34) records births, deaths, marriages, graduations, and biographical information taken primarily from the Hudson Star Observer from 1850-1980. Since the index was microfilmed in 1980, Miller has added thousands of entries. The entire index is maintained at the Star-Observer office in Hudson.

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. However, 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 center has almost a complete run of the series, going back to the mid-1800’s. Two biographical indexes have been published that help to track former legislators and state officials. The River Falls center also has a few of the equivalent books for Minnesota, called the Legislative Manual for the State of Minnesota.

Business Histories —
The first step when researching a business is to consult the manuscript collections to determine if the River Falls center has a collection from a particular enterprise. Local history books, Sanborn maps, tax rolls, the center’s 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 River Falls ARC can be found online in the UW-River Falls Voyager library catalog. Sanborn maps, tax rolls, newspapers, the vertical file and biographical index must be viewed at the center.

Cemetery Records —

The Saint Croix Valley Genealogical Society (SCVGS) completed an extensive project in the 1980’s to inventory tombstones in local cemeteries. The River Falls center 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 center 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 Utah (GSU) in the early 1980’s; 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 River Falls ARC. 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 USGenweb.


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 UWRF ARC holds Wisconsin census records 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.) The center also holds census records for Minnesota from 1860-90, a complete 1880 United States Census and index on CD Rom from Heritage Quest, and some aggregate data books that give information for the entire U.S. In addition to population schedules, special censuses were taken to record things like mortality, agriculture, and industry. The River Falls center 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. Many census records for Wisconsin and other states can be found on Census Online and USGenweb.

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 River Falls center holds microfilmed copies of local church records owned by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) with a comprehensive index of GSU church record holdings for the entire Area Research Center (ARC) Network searchable by church name, location, or denomination. (This index is not available online but it can be viewed at other ARC’s throughout the state and can usually be obtained through Interlibrary Loan.) Several church records and related items can also be found in the manuscript collection and the River Falls center’s vertical file. Additionally, the book collection should be checked to see if a church history was catalogued as a book. Search by church name, or denomination in the UW-River Falls Voyager library catalog (read more about Voyager below).

Civil War —
Two excellent sources for locating civil war soldiers are the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System website maintained by the U.S. Park Service, and a digital book from the Wisconsin Historical Society entitled the Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers. The 1890 Census, held by the River Falls center, 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 River Falls center, 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 Archives. Additional resources for researching the Civil War at the River Falls center include the manuscript collection, vertical file, 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.

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. Two of the best sources for information on preservation can be found at the conservation departments of the U. S. National Archives and the Minnesota History Center (MHS).

  • Watch an MHS instructional video on preserving family treasures such as important documents, photographs, and textiles. (11:03)

Copyright & 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 patrons in determining the appropriate use of an item, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the patron. The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in his/her use of photographs, manuscripts and all other records. 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 Archivist to inquire.

County Histories —
The River Falls center 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. In addition, the River Falls Area Research Center (ARC) houses indexes to several county histories housed at other ARC's throughout the state; these histories can be transferred for use at the River Falls center. Information about township and county names as well as boundary changes can be accessed in the archives reading room. Search the River Falls Voyager library catalog for local history books at the UW-River Falls ARC.

Court Records —
The River Falls center holds a variety of court records for the four-county region (Burnett, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix). 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 St. Croix County and a small amount of Pierce County, the River Falls center also has the case files which contain court papers, testimony, and other important materials relating to the case.

Farm Statistics, Annual Enumeration by Assessors —
The River Falls center holds annual enumeration of farm statistics on microfilm (River Falls Micro 61-64) for the four-county area (Burnett, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix) 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. These records can be ordered for other counties from the Wisconsin Historical Society 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.

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. Falcon Features is indexed through the present issue in the River Falls center’s biographical index. Hardcopies of the publication can be found in the University Foundation records (UWRF Series 25).

Finding Aid —
A finding aid, also called a collection inventory or a 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 patron is interested in having a large collection transferred from another ARC for research, often times the holding ARC will send the patron a finding aid in advance so he or she can determine which boxes/volumes are most valuable to them.

Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) —
The Genealogical Society of Utah is connected to the Mormon Church, known formally as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Mormon religion has been instrumental to family history and promoting genealogy worldwide. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, is considered to be one of the best places to do genealogical research in the world. They also have several branch Family History Centers, connected with Mormon churches, throughout the world. There are several centers in the area including Oakdale, Crystal and Red Wing, MN. Navigate to http://www.familysearch.org/ and enter your location to find a center near your home. Non-Mormons, as well as Mormons, are welcome to do research at these facilities.

Genealogy —
Genealogy is the study of one’s family history. The River Falls center houses Genealogical Helper and Heritage Quest, courtesy of the St. Croix Valley Genealogical Society. Both publications provide excellent information for the novice to the professional genealogist. The center 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 Voyager 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 —
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 UWRF ARC’s Regional Contacts page for local courthouse contact information). The River Falls center holds a resource called the U.S. General Land Office Wisconsin Local Tract Books (RF Micro 130) for the four-county region (Burnett, Pierce, Polk, St. Croix). 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 was online for a time at www.glorecords.blm.gov. However, due to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, much of this data was pulled offline but their site still includes a good deal of useful information. (As of 2005, the homesteading information was still not available online.)

House Histories —
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 UWRF ARC’s 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 River Falls center 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 River Falls center’s vertical file (look under the name of the community-historic buildings or historic houses). For River Falls, Hudson, and New Richmond, the center has copies of intensive historic surveys that were done in the 1980’s-1990’s, which include information on historic houses. For the city of River Falls, the center has property appraisal cards from the 1930’s-1940’s 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.

Interlibrary Loan —
The River Falls Area Research Center (ARC) loans out certain items such as newspapers and census records on microfilm to other libraries and ARC’s requesting those materials. The center can also borrow items from other libraries and ARC's for patrons to use here. Some materials do not circulate and must be veiwed in the center's reading room. Contact the Archivist for more information.

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 River Falls center 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 UW-River Falls ARC Collections pages or by searching the UW-River Falls Voyager library catalog, 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 —
The River Falls center 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 the four-county area (Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix) start in the 1870’s. 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 1830’s. 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 Co. 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 River Falls center has Sanborn Maps on microfilm for the entire state of Wisconsin, as well as paper copies of the maps for cities in the four-county area (Burnett, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix). The dates range from approximately the 1880’s to the 1920’s. The center also has several University maps and aerial photographs that show how the campus has grown over the years. (See Historical File-UWRF Series 43) .

Master’s Theses and Papers —
The River Falls center holds master’s theses and papers written by UW-River Falls master’s degree students from the mid-1960’s 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 catalog, Voyager, to find individual holdings.

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 at the River Falls center (UWRF Series 93).

Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) —
The Minnesota Historical Society, located in St. 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 River Falls center has several, including a series of books highlighting many of their collections entitled Minnesota Historical Society Collections. The MHS 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 —
The National Archives was founded in 1934 and is located in Washington, D.C. In 1985, the official title became the National Archives and Records Administration (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 River Falls center has a guide to the holdings in some of these libraries, entitled, A Guide to Manuscripts in the Presidential Libraries.

National Archives Canada —
The Library and Archives Canada (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 patrons to use at the River Falls center.

National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) —
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 NRHP 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 website of the National Register of Historic Places, the website of the Wisconsin Historic Preservation Office, or request the “State Historical Society of Wisconsin #5” folder from the vertical file while at the River Falls center, which includes a listing of preserved properties in Wisconsin, more detailed information on the program, and contacts. In addition, the center has two volumes listing National Register properties in the U.S.

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 River Falls center 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; and the center's vertical file which contains materials about treaties and treaty disputes in the region, particularly regarding the Chippewa and Souix which were once the main tribes in Northwestern Wisconsin. 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 Society 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.

Naturalizations —
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 samples 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 River Falls center 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 the 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 Region 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 River Falls center would have the records.

  • Visit the Collection pages to view naturalization holdings at the River Falls ARC.
    Alien Declaration
    Robert Baird, Scottish Immigrant
    July 1854

    Alien Declaration
    Chris Jensen, Danish Immigrant
    November, 1941

Newspapers —
Local newspapers can be wonderful resources for biographical information, tracing local businesses, reading about historical events, and much more. The River Falls Area Research Center (ARC) has newspapers covering the four-county area (Burnett, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix) from the mid-1800’s up to the present, as well as newspapers from Washburn County (until the late 1990’s the River Falls ARC also covered Washburn County). The center 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 River Falls ARC. Newspaper holdings are also listed in the UW-River Falls Voyager library catalog. The River Falls center 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 for more details or click here to see a list of items and dates of coverage included in the biographical index.)

  • 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 River Falls center is Newspapers in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin: A Bibliography with Holdings, which lists all of the newspapers held by the Wisconsin Historical Society (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 WI Local History and Biography Articles.

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 1800’s to early 1900’s. UW-River Falls was known as the River Falls Normal School until 1927.

Online Records —
While numerous digitization projects are currently in progress at the UW-River Falls Area Research Center (ARC) as well as the entire ARC Network, the composition and arrangement of archival records make automation a slow and sometimes impossible process. The Wisconsin Historical Society already has a number of searchable databases and digitized collections such as the Roster of WI Volunteers-War of the Rebellion, 1861-65. Through volunteers at the US GenWeb Project, many historical and genealogical records for Wisconsin and other states can be found online at sites such as USGenWeb. As River Falls ARC and University Archives materials are converted into digital format they will be made available to our patrons online. In the absence of online records, collection finding aids are a valuable resource to identify archival materials.

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 Association, 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 River Falls Area Research Center (ARC) began a large oral history project in 1967 (River Falls Oral History Project: Interviews, RF Mss AW). A number of people in the St. 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 River Falls ARC has another collection known as the Krueger Tape Library which contains interviews with local citizens in the 1960’s-1970’s, covering topics such as prohibition and logging. Oral/video histories of university personnel can be found in UWRF Series 169.

Passenger Lists —
Passenger lists record names of those arriving on ships to America. The River Falls center 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. Patrons may want to consult larger archival/genealogical repositories such as the Immigration History Research Center 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 website has a searchable database of passenger arrival lists and ship manifests (free registration required). Also, consulting the National Archives can be helpful if the ship name and time period of immigration are unknown.

Photographs —
The River Falls center 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 Association (PCHA) housed their photographs at the River Falls center; these photos are now at the PCHA office in Ellsworth.

View a sampling of photographs housed at the River Falls Area Research Center and University Archives:

To see other historical photographs from Wisconsin, visit the Wisconsin Historical Images website, a searchable database of thousands of images created by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Place Names —
Plat maps, railroad maps and local history books, such as A Most Beautiful and Handy Name: Wisconsin Place Names in the St. Croix Valley, are excellent sources for tracking township, village and city names. Another good source is in the River Falls center’s vertical file. The “Post Offices-Wisconsin” folder contains booklets listing name changes at post offices throughout the state; the “Place Names,” and “County Name-Place Names,” folders may also be helpful. An additional source is the Earl Chapin collection (RF Mss AU). Chapin was a feature writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in the 1950’s-70’s, often writing stories on local communities in Northwestern Wisconsin.

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.

Register —

See Finding Aid.

Research requests —
The River Falls Area Research Center (ARC) and University Archives will do limited research for patrons who are unable to visit the center. Keep in mind that if the request is too broad we may suggest that you visit the center to view the records yourself. Please visit the UW-River Falls ARC and University 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 —
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) —
The SCVGS 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 River Falls center. The SCVGS has done several service projects for the River Falls center 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 —
The River Falls center houses records for several schools in the four-county area (Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix) 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 River Falls center 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 UWRF ARC’s 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. The River Falls center’s vertical file also holds some compiled enrollment data for community schools. For a school history, consult the center’s manuscript collection, vertical file, and book collection.

Social Security Death Index (SSDI) —
The Social Security Death Index 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.

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 River Falls center has the Soundex for the 1880 and 1900 federal census records.

Source, The
The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy is often referred to as the bible of genealogical research. The Source contains a wealth of genealogical information such as how to find and use a variety of record types, strategies for tracking certain ethnic groups, learning efficient research technique and much more. The Source is available in the River Falls ARC reading room and many public libraries.

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 online.

Tax & 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 (eg: 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 River Falls center houses tax rolls for cities and townships within the four-county region (Burnett, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix). Holdings vary greatly from location to location because not every year has been saved.

  • Visit the Collection pages to view tax roll holdings at the River Falls ARC.

University History —
As the official repository for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, the River Falls center 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 UW-River Falls ARC and University 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.

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. Information on the UW System can be found in the Board of Regents: WSU System Files (UWRF Series 121) and the Board of Regents: Minutes and Proceedings (UWRF Series 117). The Registrar’s Subject Files (UWRF Series 38) contains some good general information in the form of promotional brochures for the UW System. Additionally, the “University of Wisconsin System” folder in the River Falls center’s vertical file contains some articles about the UW System.

UWRF, Athletics —
The River Falls center 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 River Falls center’s vertical file and community newspapers.

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 River Falls center 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, People —

Students and Alumni — Alumni directories (UWRF Series 42); student and faculty directories (UWRF Series 92); commencement programs (UWRF Series 27); the Meletean yearbooks (UWRF Series 93); and the Student Voice 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 center’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 Staff To 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 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 center has a very small amount of personnel files covering the 1920’s-1930’s 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 patrons should consult with that office for more details on an individual.

Vertical File —
Also known as a pamphlet file or ephemera file, the River Falls Area Research Center's vertical file contains miscellaneous materials dealing with the history of Northwestern Wisconsin. The folders in the file are arranged alphabetically by subject heading or place name-subject heading. It is a good starting point to obtain quick answers to inquiries for general histories of cities and towns, promotional (Chamber of Commerce) materials for cities or waterways in the area, local legends, and a host of other topics. An index to the vertical file is available in the archives reading room.

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 River Falls Area Research Center (ARC), along with all WI ARC’s, has a pre-1907 (1852-1907) vital statistics index for the entire state. Each ARC holds the registrations for their designated geographic region; the River Falls center has registrations on microfilm for the four-county area of Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix. 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 Office in Madison (visit the UWRF ARC’s Regional Contacts page for local courthouse information). Volunteers have added most of the pre-1907 vital statistics information, as well as some post-1907 data, onto USGenWeb. Minnesota birth and death records can be identified using the Minnesota History Society website. The WI statewide pre-1907 vital statistics index is now available online.

  • 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 sheet” 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).


Voyager Catalog —
Voyager is the online library catalog of the Chalmer Davee Library at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. The majority of River Falls Area Research Center and University Archives Collections can be identified using Voyager. For help using Voyager to search for archival materials, click here.

  • See ArCat for related information.

Wisconsin Historical Society —
The Wisconsin Historical Society (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 River Falls Area Research Center (ARC) is one of thirteen ARC’s affiliated with the WHS in a statewide network. Each ARC houses collections for a designated region of the state. Materials housed at ARC's throughout the entire statewide network including River Falls can be identified using ArCat, the online catalog of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Through the ARC network, most materials owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society or other ARC's can be transferred to and from the River Falls ARC. Visit the Tools and Information page to read about programs and services offered by WHS.