Iowa Church Records

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Iowa Wiki Topics
Iowa flag.png
Beginning Research
Record Types
Iowa Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Before 1900, the largest religious groups were the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran churches along with The Society of Friends (Quakers) and other small groups were also early settlers. [1][2][3]

Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]

To effectively use church records, become familiar with their content. Click on these links to learn about a specific record type:

Finding the Records[edit | edit source]

Look for online records.[edit | edit source],, and can be searched free of charge at your local family history center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Caution sign.png

Online databases are incomplete. This can lead to two common errors:

  1. Near matches: Researchers might mistakenly accept an entry very similar to their ancestor, thinking it is the only one available. Only use information that matches your ancestor in date, place, relationships, and other details.
  2. Stopping research: Researchers might assume the database proves church records do not exist. Actually the record is still out there, just not in this incomplete collection of records. Keep searching!

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit | edit source]
Dutch Reformed[edit | edit source]
Episcopal[edit | edit source]
Lutheran[edit | edit source]
Methodist[edit | edit source]
Presbyterian[edit | edit source]
Quakers[edit | edit source]

Other Collections[edit | edit source]

Look for digital copies of church records in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Family History Library (FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States.
  • Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under the state, county, or town.
  • If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
  • Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
  • To find records:
a. Click on the records of United States, Iowa.
b. Click on Places within United States, Iowa and a list of counties will appear.
c. Click on your county if it appears.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Click on Places within United States, Iowa [COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
f. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
g. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
h. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]

These aids generally provide lists of records that are known to exist and information on their location.

  • Iowa History Reference Guide. Iowa City, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1952.[4]This bibliography includes sections about American Indians, immigration, land, government, courts, military, schools, churches, businesses, history, and biographies. It is arranged by subject and has an index. WorldCat
  • Churches and Their History North American Baptist Conference.

Iowa Published Church Records[edit | edit source]

Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.

  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
  • To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
  • Each denomination page offers an online address directory of local churches for that denomination.

Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.

Here you will find archive information unique to the state. Many more archives are kept by denomination. For denominational archives, go to Searching for Church Records by Denomination.

Baptist[edit | edit source]

Church and Family History Research Assistance for Primitive Baptist Churches in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri Click on county.

North American Baptist Conference Heritage Commission
2100 South Summit Avenue
Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
Phone:(605) 274-2702 or (605) 274-2731

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

Iowa churches.png

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Wartburg Theological Seminary
333 Wartburg Place
Dubuque, IA 52001
Phone: (563) 589-0200 Fax: (563) 589-0333

The Wartburg Theological Seminary has Lutheran records from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and upper Michigan. The WTS Archives also contain the documents of the German Lutheran Synod of Iowa, 1854-1930 and the records of antecedent bodies of the ELCA Region 5. Many of the records in this repository can be borrowed for a small fee.

  • ALC Congregations on Microfilm. ALC Archives. Dubuque, Iowa: The Archives, [197-?]. FHL Collection 6330690–93. Fiche 6330690 has records from Iowa. The list is alphabetical by state and then by city.
  • American Lutheran Church Shelf List Index to Their Church Records N. p., 1988. FHL Collection 973 K2aL.
  • Archives hold records for closed churches. For open churches write directly to the local church.

Methodist[edit | edit source]

Iowa Wesleyan College Library
Mt. Pleasant, IA 52641
Phone: (319) 385-6317
Fax: (319) 385-6324

You can find two of the library’s collections in:

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

Diocese of Davenport Archives
2706 N. Gaines Street
Davenport, IA 52804
Phone: (563) 324-1911
Fax: (563) 324-5842

Sacramental Record Request Form (downloadable)

The diocese includes the counties of: Appanoose, Cedar, Clinton, Davis, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Mahaska, Marion, Monroe, Muscatine, Poweshiek, Scott, Van Buren, Wapello and Washington

Diocese of Sioux City Office of Archives and Records
1821 Jackson Street
Sioux City, IA 51105
Phone: (712) 255-7933
Fax: (712) 233-7598

The diocese includes the counties of: Boone, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Dickinson, Emmet, Greene, Humboldt, Ida, Kossuth, Lyon, Monona, O'Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Pocahontas, Sac, Sioux, Webster, and Woodbury

Diocese of Des Moines Archives
610 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309
Phone: (515) 243-7653
Fax: (515) 237-5070

The diocese includes the counties of: Adair, Adams, Audubon, Cass, Clarke, Dallas, Decatur, Fremont, Guthrie, Harrison, Lucas, Madison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Polk, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, Shelby, Taylor, Union, Warren and Wayne

Archdiocese of Dubuque Archives
Archdiocesan Center
1229 Mt Loretta Ave.
Dubuque, IA 52004-0479
Phone: (563) 556-2580

  • Sacramental records (of interest to genealogists & family historians):
The Archives office maintains a limited collection of sacramental records.

The diocese includes the counties of: Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Grundy, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Howard, Jackson, Jones, Linn, Marshall, Mitchell, Story, Tama, Winnebago, Winneshiek, Worth, and Wright

Correspond with genealogical or historical societies.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been given to historical societies. Also, historical societies may be able to tell you where the records are being held. To find a society near you, consult these lists:

Next, go to the Wiki article for your ancestors' denomination.[edit | edit source]

There are frequently additional, nationwide or regional archives and online collections for each denomination. Find the article for your ancestors' denomination and follow the instructions there to access these sources.

Wiki Articles for Records of Major Religious Denominations

Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by organizing in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Iowa Religions
  2. Iowa History Standards and Benchmarks
  3. Brief History of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends
  4. William John. Iowa History Reference Guide. Iowa City, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1952. FHL Collection 977.7 A3p.