Iowa Vital 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.
Vital Records Reference Dates
Iowa's vital records start the following years:
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, 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.
- Iowa Births and Christening, 1830-1950 - Free; Incomplete
- Iowa Marriages, 1809-1992 - Free; Incomplete
- Iowa Marriages to 1850 - $; Incomplete
- Iowa Marriages, 1851-1900 - $; Incomplete
- Iowa Deaths and Burials, 1850-1990 - Free; Incomplete
Order a copy of the certificate:
- Order Iowa Certificates online - $
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
Click here for current fees and lists of services.
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.
The following book indexes marriages in 24 counties:
- Iowa Marriages Before Statehood, 1835–1846 
Records of 11 counties are given in the following collection:
- Iowa Marriages, ca. 1844–1900. Contains marriage abstracts and newspaper marriage notices for Buena Vista, Chickasaw, Des Moines, Floyd, Freemont, Greene, Mills, Osceola, Plymouth, Pottawattamie, and Story Counties.
- The Iowa Department of Public Health has copies of marriage records from July 1880. They have an index to records after 1916.
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.
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. 
Iowa divorce records have been kept since about 1834, when the first Iowa county was formed. They may provide: a person’s age, the divorce date, maiden name of wife, marriage date and place, occupation, childrens’ names, names of other family members, and places the family lived. Early divorce proceedings are in the district court of each county, and beginning in 1906, transcribed copies of divorce records were sent to the state.
The Family History Library has copies of the following divorce records:
- Prior to 1906 (a few counties)
- 1906–mid 1900s (many counties)
In the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog, divorce records are listed under:
IOWA, [COUNTY] - DIVORCE RECORDS
- 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 recorded by governments, search for church records of christening, marriage, death or burial. A family Bible may have been used to record births, marriages and deaths. Other substitute records.
- 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.
For a list of record loss in Illinois counties see the following:
- Burned Counties Research in FamilySearch Wiki
- Michael John Neill, Burned Counties in Family History Circle
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.
More Online Iowa Vital Records Links
- USGenWeb.org Iowa Site - Free
- Iowa Databases listed on Rootsweb.com - Free
- German Roots Links for Iowa Birth & Marriage and Death Records - Free/$ This site includes all vital records, not just those of German descent.
- Progenealogists Links for the United States. Press Ctrl + F on the keyboard to search for Iowa or IA - Free/$
- Iowa Links from fhlfavorites.info - Free
- Fretwell, Shela S. Iowa Marriages Before Statehood, 1835–1846. Waterloo, Iowa: n.p., 1985. (Family History Library book 977.7 V2f.)
- 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.)
- 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)
- Guide to Public Vital Statistics in Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa: Iowa Historical Records Survey, 1941. (Family History Library book 977.7 V2h; film 908988.)