Iowa Genealogy and Ancestry Research

On this page you will find a basic timeline for Iowa State, when the state began recording vital records, what census records are available for the state, an Iowa State Counties map and links to resources to assist you in your Iowa Genealogy and Ancestry research.

Iowa History Timeline

1673 – Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette are the first Europeans to visit what is now Iowa.

1682 – Robert de La Salle claims the area for France as part of the Louisiana Territory.

1788 – The first permanent settlement is established in Dubuque.

1803 – The territory becomes part of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase and was a part of the Missouri Territory.

1804 – Explorers Lewis and Clark travel through Iowa on their way to the Pacific Ocean.

1808 – Fort Madison is built by the U.S. Army.

1821 – When Missouri became a state, this area (along with the dakotas) effectively became unorganized territory.

1832 – The Black Hawk War occurs.

1833 – The area was closed to white settlers until the 1830’s, after the Black Hawk war ended. 

1834 – It was attached to the Michigan Territory on June 28, 1834. 

1834 – September – the Iowa District was divided into two counties by running a line due west from the lower end of Rock Island in the Mississippi River. The territory north of this line (which started just south of the present-day Davenport) was named Dubuque County, and all south of it was Demoine County.

1836 – When Michigan became a state in 1836 the area became the Iowa District of western Wisconsin Territory – the region west of the Mississippi River. 

1838 – The Iowa Territory is established. The original boundaries of the territory, included Minnesota and parts of the Dakotas, covering about 194,000l square miles of land. Burlington. was the stop-gap capital until 1841.

1841 – Iowa City was designated as the official territorial capital in 1841.

1846 – Iowa is admitted to the Union becoming the 29th state.

1857 – Des Moines becomes the capital city.

1928 – Iowan Herbert Hoover is elected the 31st U.S. president.

Iowa Vital Records

The Iowa vital records system originated on 1 July 1880.  Marriages were recorded in the counties prior to 1880, typically beginning when the county started keeping other records as well. Early birth records contain only minimal data: name, date, place, and names of parents. Death certificates prior to 1904 do not include the names of the parents of the deceased.

It is estimated that between 1880 and 1921 only about fifty percent of the births and deaths were registered. However, because of a provision for delayed birth registration, almost 470,000 delayed birth records have been filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Many of the local chapters of the Iowa Genealogical Society have publications of vital records in their respective counties. A statewide publication listing  with ordering information, is available through the state society on its website. and has a variety of collections available online. I’ve provided the links below.

Iowa Census Records

The first Federal Population Census was taken in 1790, and a census has been taken every ten years since. However, data from recent censuses are not available after 1940 because of a 72-year restriction on access to the census.

The censuses prior to 1850 only list the head of household. Other household members are merely counted in selected age groups.

The 1890 Census was mostly destroyed by fire.

From 1850 forward are provided for all individuals in each household.

Mortality schedules recorded deaths in the year preceding the taking of the census. For example, the 1860 mortality schedules include persons who died between June 1, 1859, and May 31, 1860.

Tip: Begin with the most current census year available and work backwards.

Population Schedules

  • Indexed’1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880. 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Soundex’1880, 1900, 1920 1930

Industry and Agriculture Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Mortality Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Iowa Counties Map

Iowa Counties Map
Iowa Counties Map

Iowa County Resources from the Red Book. This link provides you with all Iowa counties, when they were formed, their parent county (ies), and when they began requiring Birth, marriage, death, Land, probate and court records. Your ancestor may have been born in one county, but records are kept in another, due to a change in county borders.

Iowa Genealogy and Ancestry Links has the following Iowa vital records collections (subscription may be required): has a variety of collections available for free online. You need an account but it is free.

Iowa Counties Map and dates they were formed, county they were formed from, and when specific records began being recorded. (from the Red Book).

Iowa Marriages Search Engine

Iowa Vital Records – links to Iowa vital record sources organized by county

Iowa Genealogical Society

Iowa Trails – A project of Genealogy Trails

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness – Iowa

IAGenWeb Project – so much good stuff just have to dig a bit. I found awesome biographies by selecting the county and going from there.

AccessGenealogy – Iowa Genealogy