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Guide to Shelby County, Iowa ancestry, family history, and genealogy birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.


Shelby County, Iowa
Map of Iowa highlighting Shelby County
Location in the state of Iowa
Map of the U.S. highlighting Iowa
Location of Iowa in the U.S.
Founded January 15, 1851
County Seat Harlan


County Information

Shelby County, Iowa Record Dates

Beginning Dates for Major County Records[1]
Birth Marriage Death Census Land Probate
1880 1853 1880 1840 1854 1869

County Courthouse


Isaac Shelby.JPG

The county is named after Kentucky's First Governor Isaac Shelby (1750-1826).[2]

Parent County

1851--Shelby County was created 15 January 1851 from Pottawattamie County. It was organized 7 March 1853.
County seat:  Harlan [3]

Boundary Changes

For animated maps illustrating Iowa County boundary changes, "Rotating Formation Iowa County Boundary Maps" (1816-1872) may be viewed for free at the website.


Record Loss

For a list of record loss in Iowa Counties see: Iowa Counties with Burned Courthouses


Town/city records in the FamilySearch Catalog

Populated Places

Neighboring Counties

Audubon • Carroll • Cass • Crawford • Harrison • Pottawattamie

Shelby CountyAudubon CountyCass CountyPottawattamie CountyHarrison CountyMonona CountyCrawford CountyCarroll CountyGreene CountyGuthrie CountyAdair CountyAdams CountyMontgomery CountyMills CountyWoodbury CountyIda CountySac CountyCalhoun CountyBurt CountyThurston CountyWashington CountyDouglas CountySarpy CountyDodge CountySaunders CountyIAShelby.JPG





Most church records are held by individual churches. For contact information, check a phone directory, such as SearchBug or Dex Knows. Some denominations are gathering their records into a central repository. For more information about these major repositories, see Iowa Church Records.

  • 1883-1925 - Minutes and Membership Records of the American Lutheran Church, Shelby County, in Evangelical Lutheran Church in America database at ($).

Elk Horn

  • Records of the American Lutheran Church, Elk Horn, in Evangelical Lutheran Church in America database at ($).


  • Records of the St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Irwin, in Evangelical Lutheran Church in America database at ($).



Land and property records can place an ancestor in a particular location, provide economic information, and reveal family relationships. Land records include: deeds, abstracts and indexes, mortgages, leases, grants and land patents.

See Iowa Land and Property for additional information about early Iowa land grants. After land was transferred to private ownership, subsequent transactions were usually recorded at the county courthouse, where records are currently housed.

Local Histories

Local histories are available for Shelby County, Iowa Genealogy. County histories may include biographies, church, school and government history, and military information. For more information about local histories, see the wiki page section Iowa Local Histories.




Wikipedia has more about this subject: List of online newspaper archives ($) has a large collection of digitized Iowa newspapers online. This database is sometimes free at libraries.


Online Probate Records

In most counties in Iowa, probate records have been kept by the county judge. They include wills, fee books, claim registers, legacy records, inheritance records, probate ticklers, and dockets. The records are available at the county courthouse.

The FamilySearch Catalog lists films of probate records. To find the records for this county, use the Place Search for Iowa - Shelby - Probate records.


Iowa tax records complement land records and can be used to supplement the years between censuses. Tax lists were usually made every year, however, there may be gaps of several years. For more information, see the wiki page Iowa Taxation.

Vital Records

Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. A copy or an extract of most original records can be purchased from the Iowa Department of Public Health or the County Clerk's office of the county where the event occurred. See also How to order Iowa Vital Records or order electronically online.


Societies and Libraries

Shelby County Historical Museum
1805 Morse Avenue
Harlan, Iowa 51537

Museum of Danish America Genealogy Center
4210 Main Street
PO Box 249
Elk Horn, Iowa 51531-0249

Family History Centers

Family History Centers provide one-on-one assistance and free access to premium genealogical websites. In addition, many centers have free how-to genealogy classes. See Family History Center for more information. Search the online FHC directory for a nearby family history center.

Web Sites


  1. Alice Eichholz, Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources, Revised ed. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992), 225-231. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27rb 1992
  2. "List of Counties in Tennessee," Wikipedia.
  3. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).


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  • This page was last modified on 24 October 2015, at 04:21.
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