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

  Q Which Area Research Center is nearest my home?

The Area Research Center (ARC) network of the Wisconsin Historical Society consists of 14 ARC’s throughout the state. Each contains records for their geographic region. Learn more about the ARC Network and find the center nearest you.


  QWhat do I need to do before planning a visit to the ARC?

In order to get the most out of your visit it is important that you be prepared and organized. Have a clear idea of what you already know to be fact and what questions you hope to have answered. Visit our Collections page or call us to determine exactly what resources we have and whether they might be helpful to you. Researching historical records takes time so plan on spending long enough at the center to be effective. Be sure to call ahead to ensure public hours before planning a visit: (715) 425-3567. Once you get here don't be afraid to ask questions. We're here to help you get the most out of your time.

For hours, location, and other general information click here.


  QWhich counties does the River Falls ARC cover? Do you have records for any other counties?

Our holdings focus primarily on the four counties designated to the River Falls ARC by the Wisconsin Historical Society: Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix. We do have miscellaneous items, such as plat maps or written histories, that cover counties outside of our region and in some cases, such as census records and the pre-1907 vital statistics index, our records cover the entire state.


  QWhy aren't your records online?

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.


  Q What is a finding aid?

A finding aid, also called a collection inventory or a register, is an instrument that gives information about 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. 

Go to University Archives collection inventories
Go to ARC Manuscript collection inventories


  QHow do I cite archival resources ?

Archival materials such as manuscripts, photographs, naturalization papers, oral histories, and diaries are unique items that often require complex citations. View examples of MLA, APA and Chicago Manual of Style citations and find citation tips here.


  QCan I borrow ARC materials?

All items housed in the archives are non-circulating and do not loan directly to patrons. However, most collections from the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) and collections from other Area Research Centers (ARC) can be made available to patrons across the state at any of the 14 ARC's in the network through a library courier service. For information about accessing materials, call (715) 425-3567 or email the archivist.


  QWhere else can I find historical records?

Historical records can be found in many places: Area Research Centers; libraries and museums; historical societies; courthouses; churches and cemeteries; and increasingly, online at sites such as USGenWeb and Ancestry.com. To search a list of over 300 county, local and specialized historical societies in Wisconsin, click here. Visit our Research Tools & Information page for additional resources.


 QDoes the UW-River Falls Area Research Center (ARC) provide remote research assistance if I am unable to visit the center?

The River Falls ARC does provide remote research assistance for patrons who are unable to visit the center. Before filling out a request form, please check the UW-River Falls ARC and University Archives Collections pages to ensure that we have sources that correspond to your request. Keep in mind that the archives staff can do only a limited amount of research. If your request is too broad we may suggest that you visit the center to view the records yourself.

Research requests are answered via U.S. mail only. Please allow 4-6 weeks. The UW-River Falls ARC & University Archives does not have a research fee at this time but photocopying and image replication fees do apply. Donations to the center are appreciated and can be sent directly to the River Falls ARC or made through the University Foundation.


 QWhy are some of your records restricted?

Some records are restricted as a matter of state statute or at the request of the donor and cannot be viewed by the public. All materials are subject to copyright.


  QCan I donate materials to the Area Research Center & University Archives?

We accept materials of historical value that are relevent to our collections and not already owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) or the UW-River Falls University Archives. If you are interested in donating records, contact the archivist to arrange an evaluation. If a donation is accepted, you will be asked to complete a deed of gift. In most cases, the deed transfers ownership of the items to the WHS or to the university, although the donor has the right to impose use restrictions on the materials and can retain copyright to applicable items.


  QWhy is the 1930 the most recent census you hold?

The 1930 Census, released April 1, 2002, is the most recent federal census released to the public. Certain aggregate data is released from the Census Bureau without delay. However, a 72-year waiting period is imposed on the public release of federal census records in an effort to protect individual privacy. Hence, the 1940 federal census will be released in 2012; the 1950 census in 2022, and so on. The UW-River Falls ARC holds the 1930 census for Burnett, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix Counties. For more information about the 1930 census click here. Visit our Research Tools & Information page for additional information regarding census records.


  QHow do I research my family tree?

The Wisconsin Historical Society has compiled a list of genealogy tools as well as a step-by-step outline for beginners to family research. Ancestry.com and Rootsweb also have good quality tutorials but a subscription fee is required to access many of the materials. USGenWeb is a volunteer-run website dedicated to compiling free state-by-state records that genealogists will find useful. Family group sheets are one of several tools used by genealogists to compile and organize data. To download your own pedigree charts, ancestral charts, family group sheets and more, click here. See our Research Tools & Information page for more information and additional resources.


  QHow do I preserve my family treasures?

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 U. S. National Archives and the Minnesota History Center.


  QWould the Archivist talk to my group about historical research?

Tours or instructional sessions with high school and college classes as well as historical societies and other civic groups can be arranged. Email the archivist or call (715) 425-3567.