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United States  Gotoarrow.png  Iowa  Gotoarrow.png  Vital Records

Iowa Birth, Marriage and Death Records

Introduction to Vital Records

Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. United States Vital Records has additional research guidance on researching and using vital records. A copy or an extract of most original records can be purchased from the Iowa Vital Records State Department of Health or the County Clerk's office of the county where the event occurred. See also Iowa Statewide Indexes and Collections at the Family History Library.

Contents

 
Vital Records Collage.JPG
  

Vital Records Reference Dates

Iowa's vital records start the following years:


Births Marriages Deaths
Earliest County Formation
Statewide Registration 1880 1880 1880
General Compliance 1924 1880 1924 




Iowa Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online

The following is a list of online resources useful for locating Iowa Vital Records which consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths.  Most online resources for Iowa Vital Records are indexes. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.

Vital Records

Civil governments have created records of births, marriages, and deaths. Records containing this information are commonly called “vital records,” because they refer to critical events in a person's life. These are the most important documents for genealogical research, but the births, marriages, and deaths of many people have never been recorded by civil authorities.

The practice of recording civil vital statistics developed slowly in the United States. Early vital information was sometimes recorded in brief entries in register books until the twentieth century, when it became more common to create certificates. The federal government has not registered vital records. This responsibility was left to the town/city, county or state agencies.

Each state eventually developed its own laws and created a statewide registration system. Unfortunately, these records do not exist until the early 1900's in most states. Local offices did not always comply immediately with the registration laws. Within 20 years after registration laws were enacted, most states were recording at least 90 percent of the births and deaths.

For more information about United States Vital Records see the United States Vital Records page.

Birth Records

Early - 1880

1880 - Present

Birth records contain much information for family historians. Because births are recorded near the time of the event, they are considered a primary source. In birth records, you generally find the date and place of birth; name and sex of the child; name, residence, race, age, birthplace, and occupation of the father and mother; the mother’s maiden name; number of children born to the mother; number of living children; and physician’s certificate. For more information on birth records see the birth records page.

County Records of Births and Deaths

A few counties in Iowa began to register vital statistics during the 1870s, but most county records began in 1880, when a state law took effect requiring counties to register births and deaths. This law was generally complied with by 1924. In the 1940s, many people applied for delayed birth certificates in order to be eligible for Social Security benefits.

The Iowa GenWeb page offers a chart of each Iowa county, and the dates that they began keeping birth, marriage and death records. Many of the counties have transcribed records available at the site if you click on the county name from the chart. For more information see the Vital Records page for the United States.

State Records of Births and Deaths

The state has copies of birth records beginning in July 1880 and copies of death records beginning in January 1891. Copies are available to immediate family members only. You will need to state your relationship to the individual whose record you want and the reason you want the information. To request copies or information about fees and restrictions, contact:

Iowa Department of Public Health
Vital Records Bureau
Lucas State Office Building
321 East 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319-0075
Telephone: 515-281-4944
Fax: 515-281-4529

Click here for current fees and lists of services.

 

Information in Iowa Birth Records
Types of Information early -  1880  1880 - present
Name of Child  
Sex    
Race    
Parents' Names    
Midwife/Doctor    
Date & Place of Birth    
Residence


Adoption Records

Marriage Records

Iowa county marriage records have been kept since about 1835. These marriage records may provide names, ages, races, residences, occupations, birthplaces, maiden name of wife, marriage date and place, parents’ names, and the name of person who performed the marriage. Some certificates give the number of times the groom has been married. For more information about marriage records see the United States Marriage Records page.

You may obtain copies of the original records by contacting the clerk of the district court in the county where the license was issued. Many marriage records have been transcribed and published by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and other organizations. See the Bible Records page for information on the DAR collection.

Some early Iowa marriages pre-1850 have been transcribed.

Many eloping couples went to Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa to be married, there was no waiting period between the time of issuing a license and the performance of the marriage. Keokuk is located on the Mississippi; making it accessible to those traveling the river.

Information in Iowa Marriage Records
Types of Information early - 1958  1958 - present
Name of Bride/Groom  
Date of Marriage    
Location of Marriage    
Presiding Official    
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
 
Residence at Time of Marriage
 

Divorce Records

For divorce records see the "Iowa Divorce Records" page. More information about divorce records in the United States can be found on the Divorce records page.

Deaths Records

Early 1880

1880 - Present

Death records are also a valuable source. Often, they give: date, place, and cause of death, name, residence, sex, race, marital status, age, occupation and birth place of the deceased, date and place of burial, name and birth place of father, and maiden name and birth place of mother.

These death records are maintained by the clerk of the district court of the respective county. There are some death indexes that are very helpful.

Coroner's Records

Coroners investigated deaths that were not attended by a physician and determined the cause of the death. The coroner of each county kept records of his findings. Some of these records began as early as 1855. The County Coroner’s Office was established by the Iowa State Constitution. The coroner’s records may provide the name of the deceased person, his or her age, the cause of death, the parents’ names, and circumstances of the death. Some of these records are available at the Family History Library such as Coroner's Reports, 1855–1959. [1]

Information in Iowa Death Records
Types of Information
before - 1900
1900 - present
Name of Deceased

 
Date of Death
 

 
Place of Death
 

 
Date of Birth/Age
 

 
Place of Birth

 
Place of Burial

 
Parents' Names/Maiden

 
Occupation of Deceased

 

Marital Status



Substitute Records

These links will take you to wiki pages describing alternate sources for birth, marriage and death records.

  • Church Records: Depending on the denomination, church records may contain information about birth, marriage and death.
  • Cemetery Records: Cemetery records are a rich source of birth and death information.  These records may also reveal family relationships.
  • Census Records: Census records are a valuable source for birth and marriage information. You may also determine approximate time of death when the individual disappear from the census. This is a good place to begin a search.
  • Newspapers: Besides obituaries, local newspapers may contain birth and marriage announcements and death notices.  Also check newspaper social columns for additional information. 
  • Periodicals: Local genealogical and historical societies often publish periodicals which may contain abstracted early birth, marriage and death information.
  • Military Records:  Military pension records can give birth, marriage and death information,  In addtion, soldiers' homes records can included this same information.
  • Probate Records: If no death record exists, probate records may be helpful in estimating when an individual has died. Probate records in the 20th Century often contain the exact death date.
  • History:  Local histories, family histories and biographies can all be sources of birth, marriage and death information. Often this information is found in county-level records or in surname searches of the Family History Library catalog.

Family History Library

The Family History Library has some county birth and death records on microfilm to the early 1940s.

Birth, marriage, death, and coroner’s records and indexes for most Iowa counties are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:

IOWA - VITAL RECORDS
IOWA, [COUNTY] - VITAL RECORDS
IOWA, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - VITAL RECORDS

Tips

  • Information listed on vital records is given by an informant.  Learn the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) of the record.  The closer the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) and whether or not the informant was present at the time of the event can help determine the accuracy of the information found on the record.
  • If you are unable to locate vital records rrecorded by governmeents, search for church records of christening, marriage, death or burial.  A family Bible may have been used to record births, marriages and deaths.
  • Privacy laws may restrict your access to some vital records.  Copies of some vital records recorded in the last 100 years may be unavailable to anyone except a direct relative.
  • Search for Vital Records in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records.  Search for Iowa to locate records filed by the State and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by the county.

Bibliography

For more information about the history and availability of vital records in Iowa up to 1941, see: Guide to Public Vital Statistics in Iowa [2]

Microfilmed copies of marriage records from many counties can be found at the The Family History Library, such as:

  • Iowa Marriages, Early to 1850: A Research Tool [3]

Two partial indexes list early records of marriages in 39 Iowa counties. These indexes are:

  • Iowa Marriages, Early to 1850: A Research Tool [4]
  • Marriage Records Early-1850[5] This disc also contains marriages in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, and Texas.

The following book indexes marriages in 24 counties:

  • Iowa Marriages Before Statehood, 1835–1846 [6]

Records of 11 counties are given in the following collection:

  • Iowa Marriages, ca. 1844–1900. [7]Contains marriage abstracts and newspaper marriage notices for Buena Vista, Chickasaw, Des Moines, Floyd, Freemont, Greene, Mills, Osceola, Plymouth, Pottawattamie, and Story Counties.

References

  1. Clayton County (Iowa). Coroner. Coroner's Reports, 1855–1959. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1990. (On five Family History Library films beginning with 1671795)
  2. Guide to Public Vital Statistics in Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa: Iowa Historical Records Survey, 1941. (Family History Library book 977.7 V2h; film 908988.)
  3. Scott County (Iowa). Clerk of the District Court. Iowa Marriages, Early to 1850: A Research Tool. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1976, 1986, 1992. (On 57 Family History Library films beginning with 104414.)
  4. Iowa Marriages, Early to 1850: A Research Tool. Orem, Utah: Liahona Research, Inc., 1990. (Family History Library book 977.7 V22i.)
  5. Marriage Records Early-1850. Orem, Utah. Automated Archives, 1992. (Family History Library  compact disc no. 9, pt. 227.)
  6. Fretwell, Shela S. Iowa Marriages Before Statehood, 1835–1846. Waterloo, Iowa: n.p., 1985. (Family History Library book 977.7 V2f.)
  7. Iowa. State Department of History and Archives. Iowa Marriages, ca. 1844–1900. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1978. (Family History Library film 1023609 items 11–21.)

 

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