Wisconsin Public Records

Wisconsin’s version of the federal Freedom of Information Act can be found in Wis. Stats. §§ 19.31 to 19.39. Taken together, these laws are considered Wisconsin’s Open Records Law. The law is designed to guarantee broad public access to information in Wisconsin, both by broadly defining what is a public record and by broadly defining who should have access to public records in Wisconsin.

Under the law, a record is any written, drawn, printed, spoken, visual, electromagnetic, or electronic data that is recorded or preserved or is being kept by an authority in the state. It does not include drafts, notes, preliminary computations, or other material that might be better viewed as intermediate work product. It also does not refer to copyrighted material that was not created by the state agency, but is in the state agency’s possession. Despite this caveat, it is important to keep in mind that Wisconsin’s Open Records Law is generally construed very broadly. In fact, it even applies to personal correspondence with legislators, unless there is another reason that the Open Records Law would deem it to be private information because legislators are public officials.

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Public & Vital Records for Counties in Wisconsin

More About Wisconsin

Wisconsin is located in the Midwest portion of the United States, in a subsection often referred to as the Great Lakes region. Wisconsin is a northern state, bordered by Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and two of the Great Lakes- Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Wisconsin’s relative size and relative population are roughly proportional; it is the 20th most-populous state and the 23rd largest state. The capital of Wisconsin is Madison, but its largest city is Milwaukee, which is located on the shore of Lake Michigan. Michigan’s economy is heavily depend on agriculture, and it is known for producing dairy products and cranberries. However, Michigan also has some manufacturing and a surprising amount of information technology. While Wisconsin does not have a particularly transient population, relatively fluid borders with nearby states and with Canada suggest that you may need to check other areas if you are trying to get a complete background on someone located in Wisconsin.


Public Records in WI

Although the Wisconsin Office of the Attorney General is responsible for ensuring that state agencies follow the guidelines of the Wisconsin Open Records Law, the state does not maintain a single repository of state public records. Instead, those with a records request need to direct that request towards the relevant agency that created or maintains the records.

Property Records

In Wisconsin, there is something similar to a centralized database for some property records. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has a searchable Real Estate Transfer Return database that helps you locate real estate information for sales in the state of Wisconsin. However, sales information is only one type of property record. Generally, people search for three types of property records: land records, property tax records, and deed records.

Land Records

The term land record is usually used to describe the transfer of land from a governmental entity to an individual. In Wisconsin, land records are kept at the local level including county level property listers, treasurers, and municipal assessors.

Property Tax Records

Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue has a number of different searchable databases where you can access tax information for different parcels of land. You can find links to them at the Department of Revenue website.

Deed Records

In addition to Wisconsin’s Real Estate Transfer Return, each county in Wisconsin has a Recorder of Deeds, who is in charge of recording deeds, mortgages, liens, and other documents related to property conveyances for real property located within the applicable county.


WI Vital Records

In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Vital Records Office handles those records that the state considers vital records: birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, and records of declaration and termination of domestic partnerships.

Birth Records

In Wisconsin, you can seek birth records online, by mail, or in person at the Wisconsin Vital Records Office. You must fill out a birth record application. Not everyone is entitled to certified copies of birth records; you must prove that you are the person named in the record, a parent, spouse, sibling, grandparent, legal custodian or guardian, personal representative, or that you are protecting a personal or property right. Otherwise, you may seek an uncertified copy.

Death Records

You can find Wisconsin death records at the Wisconsin Vital Records Office. You may request them online, in person, or by mail. To get a certified death certificate, you must demonstrate a familial relationship to the deceased or a legitimate business purpose for the death certificate; otherwise, you must request an uncertified copy.

Marriage Records

Marriage records and declaration of domestic partnership records may be available at the county level, but are also available at the Wisconsin Vital Records Office. As with other official vital statistics, to obtain a certified copy of marriage records, you must establish a familial or legitimate business relationship to the people named in the record.

Divorce Records

Divorce records and termination of domestic partnership records can be found at the Wisconsin Vital Records Office. You may request these in person, by mail, or over the internet.

Learn About Criminal Records in Other States


Learn about Wisconsin criminal records or read about public records in another state from the list below: