Iowa Vital Records

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Introduction to Vital Records[edit | edit source]

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 Collage.JPG

Vital Records Reference Dates[edit | edit source]

Iowa's vital records start the following years:

Births Marriages Deaths
Earliest County Formation
Statewide Registration 1880 1880 1880
General Compliance 1924 1880 1924 

Online Resources[edit | edit source]





Order a copy of the certificate:

  • Order Iowa Certificates online - $ Iowa Department of Public Health. Department of Vital Statistics. Effective Monday, March 13, 2006, written requests for certified copies of birth, death, fetal death, and marriage records will not be accepted if they do not include: 1. The applicant's current government-issued photo identification; except if by mail, a clear photocopy of the I.D.; and 2. The applicant's signature signed in front of a notary public or in the presence of an Iowa Registrar of Vital Records.

More Online Iowa Vital Records Links

Birth Records[edit | edit source]

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 forSocial 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

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
Telephone: 515-281-4944
Fax: 515-281-4529

Click here for current fees and lists of services.

Marriage Records[edit | edit source]

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 [1]

Records of 11 counties are given in the following collection:

  • Iowa Marriages, ca. 1844–1900. [2]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.

Deaths Records[edit | edit source]

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.

Coroner's Records 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 theFamily History Library such as Coroner's Reports, 1855–1959. [3]

Fetal Deaths
Only parents named may request a copy of a "Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth." A copy of a "Fetal Death Certificate" is available only to parents.[4]

Cause of Death[edit | edit source]

  • Causes of Death - use this resource when trying to interpret a disease or medical condition listed on a death record or certificate

Additional Helps[edit | edit source]

Tips[edit | edit source]

  • 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.

Burned, Lost, or Missing Records[edit | edit source]


For a list of record loss in Iowa counties see the following:

Substitute Records[edit | edit source]

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 addition, soldiers' homes records can included this same information.
  • Obituaries: Obituaries found in newspapers can list the age of the deceased, birth date and place, death date and place, and names of living relatives and their residences.
  • 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 FamilySearch Catalog.

More Online Iowa Vital Records Links[edit | edit source]

  • Iowa Site - Free
  • Iowa Databases listed on - Free
  • German Roots Links for Iowa Birth & Marriage and Death Records - Free/$ This site includes all vital records, not just those of German descent.
  • For more information about the history and availability of vital records in Iowa up to 1941, see: Guide to Public Vital Statistics in Iowa [5]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Fretwell, Shela S. Iowa Marriages Before Statehood, 1835–1846. Waterloo, Iowa: n.p., 1985. (Family History Library book 977.7 V2f.)
  2. 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.)
  3. 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)
  4. “United States Fetal Death Records,” Lake Superior Roots, v 29, no 2. (Marquette, Michigan: Marquette County Genealogical Society, 2016), 11.
  5. Guide to Public Vital Statistics in Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa: Iowa Historical Records Survey, 1941. (Family History Library book 977.7 V2h; film 908988.)