Trace the History of Your House

A listing of APL resources and internet resources that will help you research and document the history of your home or building.

Special Materials in the Wisconsin Collection

Appleton City Directories can be used to trace the residents of a house by address. The earliest Appleton directory dates from 1874. Not all years are available, but the directory has continued in various forms to the present. Appleton addresses changed in 1925; the 1925 directory has both the new and old addresses (the old address is in parentheses). They are located at 917.7539 App, shelved in chronological order. Some of the older items are available online through Fox Valley Memory.


City and County Directories for other communities and counties of the Fox Cities are available, although the holdings vary widely. Over the years, the information was published in different formats and by different publishers. For specific information, consult the Online Catalog or a librarian.


Sanborn Insurance Maps provide information about the size and shape of buildings. A 1924 Sanborn Insurance Map, which has revisions through 1970 and an index compiled in 1958, can be found in the Wisconsin Atlas Case. Older information is available from an earlier map on Microfilm (WR 912.77539 Ins, in storage). Black and white bound copies for 1883, 1886, 1891, 1895, 1901, 1911, as well as 1924, with revisions for 1934, 1952, and 1970 are available on the Wisconsin Atlas Case, and some are online at the Wisconsin Historical Society site.


Plat Books of Outagamie County provide information on land ownership. The oldest  Outagamie County plat, from 1850, can be found in the Wisconsin Pamphlet Files under “Outagamie County, Wisconsin - Maps.” A plat map for 1917 is in the Map Case. Later plat books are located at 912.77539 Out. An index to the 1889 county plat is available at 912.77539 Ind. The Library has more recent plat books for other counties in the 912 area. Some plat books are available digitally through InfoSoup’s Appleton Memory Project and the Wisconsin Historical Society’s RecollectionWisconsin.


Outagamie County Maps and Appleton City Maps dating back to 1853 can be found in the Map Cases. More recent maps of other counties and communities are also available.


Books in the Nonfiction Collection

643.7 Col     Collings, Janet. The fixtures and fittings of Period Houses 1714-1939. Crowood Press, 2011

724.5 Vic     Victorian Domestic Architectural Plans and Details… Dover, 1987

728.0973 Gro     Gross, Steve. Old Houses. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1991

728.0973 MacA     McAlester, Virginia . A Field Guide to American Houses. Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

745.409 Fer     Ferebee, Ann. A History of Design from Victorian Era to the Present. W. W. Norton, 2011   -There are many more books on house plans of different eras in the 728s.


Books in the Wisconsin Collection

Books with an "“R" or “WR” at the beginning of the call number are Reference books and cannot be checked out.

W 709.775 Lev      Levy, Hannah Heidi. Famous Wisconsin Artists and Architects. Badger Books, 2004

WR 720.9775 Ada     Adams, Peter. Neenah Historical and Architectural Survey Project. Neenah Department of Community Development, 1982

W 720.9775 Per     Perrin, Richard W. E. The Architecture of Wisconsin. State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1967

WR 720.9775 Per     Perrin, Richard W. E. Historic Wisconsin Architecture. Wisconsin Society of Architects of the American Institute of Architects, 1976

WR 720.9775 Per     Perrin, Richard W. E. Historic Wisconsin Buildings: A Survey in Pioneer Architecture, 1835-1870. Milwaukee Public Museum, 1981

WR 720.9775 Sti     Stith, D. J. Design in Wisconsin Housing: A Guide to Styles. University of Wisconsin-Extension, 1977

W 917.7504 Han     Hanson, Krista Finstad. Wisconsin’s Historic Houses and Living History Museums. Prairie Oak Press, 2000.

W 977.5 Con     Connolly, M. Caren. Wisconsin’s Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes. Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2010.

W 977.539 Cit     City of Appleton 1989 Historic Sites Inventory. City of Appleton, 1989

WR 977.539 His     Historic Building Survey, Appleton, WI. Appleton Department of Planning and Development, 1978

WR 917.539 various     City and County Directories


Helpful Websites

Documenting Your Historic Structure

City of Appleton Historic Preservation Commission ( preservation)

National Park Service / Heritage Documentation Program (

National Park Service / National Register of Historic Places (

National Park Service / Technical Preservation Service (

Wisconsin Historical Society (

Local Sources

Appleton Public Libary Created resources: Obituary Index, Post-Crescent Index, Veterans Grave Registrations, Historic Photos Index and other online sources and history

Appleton Public Library Local History Collection at UW-Digital Collections

Appleton city directories; plat books; local history books including Record of the Pioneers of Outagamie County, Wisconsin…; Historic Building Survey; and City of Appleton 1989 Historic Sites Inventory.

Fox Valley Memory

  • Text:Ryan’s History of Outagamie County (searchable); Our First 100 Years, 1857-1957; City of Appleton 1989 historic sites inventory; various plat books and atlases; some city Directories; Historic Building Survey; and more.
  • Photos: photos and postcards from around the Fox Cities.

Local Historical Organizations

Appleton Historical Society

Historic Old Third Ward (Appleton)

History Museum at the Castle

Little Chute Historical Society

Menasha Historical Society

Neenah Historical Society

General Sources

Badgerlink Access to Newspaper archives and HeritageQuest Online for free census records, directories, family histories for Wisconsin residents -

Cyndi’s List Links to house & building history sites.

Internet Archive

Multiple formats—books, movies, software, music, audio—available for free. Many items of historic interest. The Wayback Machine archives web pages so you can go as far back as 1996 to see what a site looked like.

Land Records & Maps

Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (Wisconsin)

Bureau of Land Management

Old Maps Online

Outagamie County GIS – current buildings in Outagamie County as well as historical aerial photos

Township, Range and Section Surveying system (19th century)


Tax Rolls

Outagamie County Tax Rolls are in three locations. Appointments to see the records must be made in advance.

Outagamie County Treasurer’s Office

410 S. Walnut St. Appleton, WI 54911 920-832-5065

Holdings: All Outagamie County localities, 1982-present on microfiche

Outagamie County Historical Society

330 E. College Ave. Appleton, WI 54911 920-733-84

(Hourly charge for research)

Holdings: All Outagamie County localities, 1861-1862 Partial localities: 1863-1867; 1870-1872

All localities: 1903-1973 for years ending in “3” and “8”

UW-Green Bay Research Center

Cofrin Library, 7th Floor

2420 Nicolet Dr. Green Bay, WI 54311 920-465-2539 Holdings: All Outagamie County localities, 1850s, incomplete All localities: 1860, 1863, 1864-1890

All localities: 1900-1980 for years ending in “0” and “5”


APL Databases

Local History