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The term "vital records" refers to documents relating to an individual's birth, marriage and death. These types of records can be found in both official, or governmentally sanctioned, and unofficial forms. Official vital records are the birth, marriage and death registries maintained by the state of Wisconsin. The UW-Parkside Archives has these records for 1906 and earlier years.
Unofficial vital records include the sacramental records of churches, hospital records, funeral home and cemetery records and materials like scrapbooks that have been collected by individuals. The UW-Parkside Archives has a variety of these unofficial vital records for Racine and Kenosha Counties, but by no means is it a comprehensive or exhaustive collection.
A Brief History of…
Wisconsin's Birth Registry: From 1852 to 1897, physicians, midwives or others attending a birth, or the parents if no one else was present, were required to file a certificate of birth with the county register of deeds within thirty days of the birth. Unfortunately, this requirement was widely disregarded; so many 19th century births were never recorded on Wisconsin's birth registry. After July, 1897, the certificate of birth was to be filed with the local health officer or local clerk if there was no health officer, who then forwarded the certificate to the register of deeds. The register of deeds entered information from the certificates into a separate registry book and submitted a copy of the registry semiannually to the Secretary of State, before October 1907, and to the Bureau of Health Statistics after October, 1907.
Wisconsin's Marriage Registry: In Wisconsin from 1836 to 1907, clergy, justices of the peace and others solemnizing marriages were required to submit a certificate for each marriage performed. Before 1852, these certificates were to be submitted to county clerks. After 1852, the certificates were submitted to the county register of deeds. Prior to 1905, the register of deeds was required to enter the information from the certificates into a registry book, maintain an index to that book and send a copy of the registrations to the Secretary of State. After 1905, the copies were submitted to the state Bureau of Vital Statistics, now the Bureau of Health Statistics.
Wisconsin's Death Registry: From 1852 to 1897, a physician attendant at a death was required to submit a death certificate to the county register of deeds. In 1897, the requirement to file a certificate was extended to all deaths, whether or not a physician was present. Legislation passed that year made it illegal for a sexton, undertaker, or other person to bury anyone without obtaining a burial permit from the local health officer or clerk. The burial permit was to be issued only if a death certificate had been submitted. The register of deeds recorded the information from the death certificate in two identical volumes. The county retained one volume; the other was forwarded to the Secretary of State before 1908 and to the Bureau of Health Statistics for 1908 and later.