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Local History

Local history materials in the Frank P. Zeidler Room at the Central Library deal with the history of Milwaukee and Wisconsin, the old Northwest Territory, and the colonies and states in the main migration pattern to this area.

Explore Now@MPL Blog entries tagged Milwaukee history.

Books     City Directories & Telephone Books     Local History Indexes

Historic Newspapers     Maps & Atlases     House History     Business History


The primary means of identifying specific books in the local history collection is by searching MPL’s online catalog, CountyCat, for the terms or place names in which you are interested.

Archives Unbound - County and Regional Histories & Atlases: Wisconsin
Online books! 158 Wisconsin local histories and atlases for genealogical research from Gale, spanning from 1857-1909. Library subscription database. Available for use within MPL libraries and for remote use by City of Milwaukee library cardholders.

City Directories & Telephone Books

City Directories

Milwaukee City Directories (1847-present), 910.1 M662, may be browsed by name (all years) or by address (1921 to present). They are available in the following formats and locations:

1848/1849 to 1922, located at Frank P. Zeidler Room reference desk
(Note: some volumes in this span of years are not available in print format; see Zeidler Room reference librarians for details)

1923 to present, located in Frank P. Zeidler  Room
(Note: some years were not published during this period; see Zeidler Room reference librarians for details)

1847 to 1860, located in the Frank P. Zeidler Room and at the Periodicals Service Desk

1861 to 1960, located at Periodicals Service Desk

1861-1960, digitized from microfilm, available in Ancestry Library Edition subscription database.

1930 Milwaukee street name and address changes
In 1930, the City of Milwaukee changed street address numbers and some street names to create a more uniform street address system. The 1930 Milwaukee City Directory includes a supplement with an address converter. The Zeidler Room has several copies of the supplement available for use in the room.

The Milwaukee County Historical Society has made a digitized version available on their website: Street Name Conversions (6 pdf files)

The Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission guide to Researching Your Property provides a single-pdf-file copy of the  1930 Milwaukee Address Change Directory that also includes the 1931 Wauwatosa street name changes at the end of the file (pdf pages208-213)

Other Wisconsin City Directories
The Zeidler Room has a small collection of historic city directories for some Wisconsin cities besides Milwaukee. Please consult a Zeidler Room reference librarian or try a keyword search in CountyCat for the city name and include the words "city directory" (Example search: Green Bay city directory)

Telephone Books

Central Library's Frank P. Zeidler Room has historic telephone book collections for Milwaukee and some other Wisconsin communities. Please consult a Zeidler Room reference librarian for assistance identifying telephone book coverage for communities not listed below.1

Milwaukee Telephone Directories
Milwaukee telephone directories, 910.1 M6624
Print format in Zeidler Room: 1905-present
Microfilm format in Periodicals Department: 1881-1967, with some missing years

Milwaukee-area Reverse Telephone Directories
Bresser's cross-index directory metropolitan Milwaukee and suburban communities (1969-2000), 910.1 B843

Bresser's cross-index directory: Suburban Milwaukee (2001-present), 910.1 B847

Other Wisconsin Telephone Books
The Zeidler Room has a small collection of historic telephone books for some Wisconsin cities outside Milwaukee County. Please consult a Zeidler Room reference librarian or try a title or keyword search in CountyCat for the city name followed by the words "telephone directory" (Example search: La Crosse telephone directory).

Local History Indexes

Echo newsletter, from Historic Milwaukee, Inc.

Echo Newsletter Index, 2004-present
​A subject index of articles about Milwaukee-area architecture, historic preservation and local history appearing in Echo, the newsletter of Historic Milwaukee, Inc., a non-profit historic preservation organization.

Local History Pamphlets

Wisconsin Pamphlet Collection, 1855-2019
The collection consists of booklets, brochures, programs, and other materials from different individuals, businesses, institutions, organizations, and events. The majority of the materials are related to the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.

Milwaukee History Magazines

Milwaukee History Magazines Indexes
Indexes to local Milwaukee history magazines published by the Milwaukee County Historicial Society from 1941 to the present.

WISDEX Source List

WISDEX Source List
A list of sources indexed in WISDEX, a Wisconsin biographical index that is useful to local history and genealogy reserachers. This online source list provides links to MPL's holdings of indexed sources as well as links to online full-text versions of sources, if available.


Archives and Special Collections

The following archives and special collections offer rich primary sources for local history research in Milwaukee:

City of Milwaukee Archives

Great Lakes Marine Collection

Historic Photo Archives

Local History Manuscript Collections

Milwaukee Road Archives

Digital Collections

MPL Digital Library
Milwaukee Public Library is a treasure trove of unique local history collections.  The library is digitizing much of this content to bring these collections right to your living room.  Stroll down memory lane with a look at the old Milwaukee Journal's Remember When photo collection or browse the Historic Recipe File for old Milwaukee favorite recipes to whet your appetite. MPL Digital Collections are also included in the Recollection Wisconsin site, below.

Recollection Wisconsin
Discover photos, maps, books, artifacts, oral histories and more from dozens of Wisconsin communities.