Local history materials in the Frank P. Zeidler Humanities 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.
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.
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 Humanities Room reference desk
(Note: some volumes in this span of years are not available in print format; see Humanities reference librarians for details)
1923 to present, located in Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Room
(Note: some years were not published during this period; see Humanities reference librarians for details)
1847 to 1860, located in the Frank P. Zeidler Humanities 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 Humanities Room has several copies of the supplement available for use in the room.
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 Humanities Room has a small collection of historic city directories for some Wisconsin cities besides Milwaukee. Please consult a Humanities 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)
Central Library's Frank P. Zeidler Humanities Room has historic telephone book collections for Milwaukee and some other Wisconsin communities. Please consult a Humanities 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 Humanities 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
Wisconsin Telephone Book Shelf List (excluding Milwaukee County)
This list details MPL's holdings of print telephone directories for over 200 Wisconsin communities located outside Milwaukee County.
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
Local History Pamphlet File Index
MPL has a wide-ranging collection of pamphlets, brochures and other ephemera from throughout Milwaukee’s history. This index presents the subject headings covered in the Local History Pamphlet Files. Note, 5/1/2020: This collection is temporarily unavailable but will return.
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.
Archives and Special Collections
The following archives and special collections offer rich primary sources for local history research in Milwaukee:
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.
Discover photos, maps, books, artifacts, oral histories and more from dozens of Wisconsin communities.