Iowa Directories

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

City and county directories are similar to present-day telephone books and are useful records for locating people. They were often published annually, listing heads of households and employed household members, their occupations, and their addresses. They can be used with census records or as substitutes for them.

Directories are particularly helpful for research in large cities, where a high percentage of the people were renters, new arrivals, or temporary residents. In fact, a directory may be the only source to list an ancestor if he or she was not registered to vote and did not own property. Most households were included because the directories were created for salesmen, merchants, and others interested in contacting residents of an area.

Directories have other clues that may require careful study to discover. For example, people in similar or related occupations were often relatives, in-laws, or friends. A year-by-year study of directories may reveal the movements of ancestors and relatives within the city and sometimes to or from other cities.

Directories have been published for various Iowa cities and counties since the early 1800s, though they may not exist for every year. Some directories focus on the businesses or occupations of an area, while others include heads of households, landowners, and voters.

Resources for Iowa Directories[edit | edit source]

Libraries and Archives[edit | edit source]

Directories Online[edit | edit source]

  • City Directories list for the years 1861 to 1960 on microfilm.

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has city directories for various years from throughout the state of Iowa including:

Des Moines

1866-1901 films 1,376,808-817
1942, 1960, 1965, etc book 977.758 E4pd

Some statewide directories also list names:

The seven metropolitan areas of Iowa published name directories in 1856. An index for them is:

  • Elsie L. Sopp, Personal Name Index to the 1856 City Directories of Iowa (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1980; Family History Library FHL book 977.7 D42s.
  • Iowa (state) Directories Woodridge, Connecticut; Research Publications, c1980-1984. Family History Library Film

Current telephone directories can also be found on the Internet and may help you find living relatives. The Family History Library has compact discs that incorporate telephone directories for most of the United States. See the "Directories" page for more detailed information on these directories.

To find directories, consult the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Websites[edit | edit source]