Iowa Probate Records
Probate is the “court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid” and encompasses “all matters and proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates, guardianships, etc.” Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, decrees, and distributions. These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information such as the decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. They may also include information about adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents. For further information about the probate process, types of probate records, analyzing probate records, and to access a glossary of probate terms, see United States Probate Records.
Iowa probate records date from about 1834, when the first county in the state was created. A probate court was created in each county when Iowa became an organized territory. These courts were responsible for settling estates. Probate courts were eventually discontinued, and probate matters have since been the responsibility of the district courts. Before 1887 some probate cases were settled in circuit courts and from 1851 to 1868, some in county courts. You can write to the clerk of the district court for copies of wills, administrations, dockets, calendars, and other records.
Understanding the Iowa probate laws and how they changed over time can help us learn how the estate was administered, taxed, and distributed and might help to solve difficult genealogical problems. Online digital versions of state statutes can often be found by conducting a search engine search for the term, "Iowa statutes."
The Family History Library has microfilm and microfiche copies of many probate records, including some will records as late as the 1970s and indexes to the 1990s.
- A quick overview of probate records that can be found at the Family History Library can be seen in this list.
Probate records are listed in the Locality Search of the The Family History Library Catalog under:
Statewide Record Collections
- Anne Roach, Courthouse Records Overview (35 minute online video) FamilySearch Research Classes Online, 2010.
- Eichholz, Alice, Editor. Redbook: American State, County, and Town Sources. Third Edition. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004, p. 216. FHL Collection
- Rose, Christine. Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures. San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2004. FHL Collection
- Sampubco A gateway to Indexes of Will, Guardianships, Probate Records, and Letters Testamentary for some Iowa counties.
- The Iowa GenWeb Project A cooperative volunteer effort with links to resources for the state and counties.
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."