Palo Alto County, Iowa Genealogy

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Guide to Palo Alto County, Iowa ancestry, genealogy and family history, birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.

County Facts
County seat: Emmetsburg
Organized: December 29, 1858[1]
Parent County(s): Non-County Area 9[2]
Neighboring Counties
Buena Vista  • Clay  • Dickinson  • Emmet  • Humboldt  • Kossuth  • Pocahontas
See County Maps
Iowa, Palo Alto County Courthouse.png
Location Map
Iowa Palo Alto Map.png

County Information[edit | edit source]

Description[edit | edit source]

Palo Alto County was created in 1851 and was named for the Battle of Palo Alto. It is located in northwestern Iowa.[3]

County Courthouse[edit | edit source]

Palo Alto County Courthouse
1010 Broadway
Emmetsburg, IA 50536
Phone: 712-852-3603
Palo Alto County Website

Palo Alto County, Iowa Record Dates[edit | edit source]

Information for this chart was taken from various sources, often containing conflicting dates. This information should be taken as a guide and should be verified by contacting the county and/or the state government agency.

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[4]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
1880 1880 1880 1870 1858 1864 1847
* Statewide registration started for births in July 1880 and for deaths January 1891. General compliance by 1924.

Record Loss[edit | edit source]

There is no known history of courthouse disasters in this county.

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

Populated Places[edit | edit source]

For a complete list of populated places, including small neighborhoods and suburbs, visit HomeTown Locator. The following are the most historically and genealogically relevant populated places in this county:[8]

Unincorporated communities

History Timeline[edit | edit source]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Bible Records[edit | edit source]

Listed below are resources for Bible records specific to Palo Alto County. To find more resources, go to the Iowa Bible Records page.

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Business, Commerce, and Occupations[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries of Palo Alto County, Iowa online and in print
Tombstone Transcriptions Online
Tombstone Transcriptions in Print (Often more complete)
List of Cemeteries in the County
See Iowa Cemeteries for more information.


Census Records[edit | edit source]

Iowa recorded not only federal, but state censuses for several in-between years as well. For more information, see the very informative Iowa Census article.

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 132
1870 1,336 912.1%
1880 4,131 209.2%
1890 9,618 132.8%
1900 14,354 49.2%
1910 13,845 −3.5%
1920 15,486 11.9%
1930 15,398 −0.6%
1940 16,170 5.0%
1950 15,891 −1.7%
1960 14,736 −7.3%
1970 13,289 −9.8%
1980 12,721 −4.3%
1990 10,669 −16.1%
2000 10,147 −4.9%
2010 9,421 −7.2%
Source: "".

State Census

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Most church records are held by individual churches. Some denominations are gathering their records into a central repository. For more information about these major repositories, see Iowa Church Records.


Court Records[edit | edit source]

Directories[edit | edit source]

Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

Ethnic, Political, and Religious Groups[edit | edit source]

Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]

Genealogies[edit | edit source]

Guardianship[edit | edit source]

Land and Property Records[edit | edit source]

Land and property records can place an ancestor in a particular location, provide economic information, and reveal family relationships. They include: deeds, abstracts and indexes, mortgages, leases, grants and land patents.

See Iowa Land and Property for information about early Iowa land grants. After land was transferred to private ownership, transactions were usually recorded and housed at the county courthouse.

Online Land and Property Records

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Local histories are available for Palo Alto County, which may include biographies, church, school and government history, and military information. For more information about local histories, see Iowa Local Histories.

  • Official Souvenir Program of the Semi-centennial of Palo Alto County, Iowa: at Emmetsburg, Iowa July 4th, 5th, and 6th, 1906. 1906. By Palo Alto County, Iowa Old Settlers Committee. Emmetsburg, IA: Tribune Publishing Company. Online at: FamilySearch Digital Library

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

County and state maps, historical and more current, are valuable research tools. For online maps and collections in libraries and societies, see Iowa Maps. Historical maps may be especially useful.

Dickinson CountyEmmet CountyKossuth CountyHumboldt CountyPocahontas CountyBuena Vista CountyClay CountyIA PALO ALTO.PNG
Click a neighboring county
for more resources

Migration[edit | edit source]

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Multiple Wars

Civil War

Naturalization and Citizenship[edit | edit source]

Please see the Iowa Naturalization and Citizenship page for state-wide information.

Online Naturalization Indexes and Records

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Other Records[edit | edit source]

Periodicals[edit | edit source]

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

In most counties in Iowa, probate records have been kept by the county judge. They include wills, fee books, claim registers, legacy records, inheritance records, probate ticklers, and dockets. The records are available at the county courthouse.

Online Probate Indexes and Records

School Records[edit | edit source]

Social Security Records[edit | edit source]

Tax Records[edit | edit source]

Iowa tax records complement land records and can supplement the years between censuses. Iowa's unique Old Age Assistance tax gives names, addresses and birth years. There may be gaps of several years. For more information, see the wiki page Iowa Taxation.

Online Tax Indexes and Records

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Vital Records consist of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded by civil officials on registers, certificates, and other documents. Copies or extracts may be purchased from the Iowa Department of Public Health or the County Clerk's office. See also Iowa Vital Records.

Birth[edit | edit source]

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Death[edit | edit source]

Divorce[edit | edit source]

Research Facilities[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]

Listed below are archives in Palo Alto County. For state-wide library facilities, see Iowa Archives and Libraries.

Family History Centers[edit | edit source]

Family History Center and Affiliate Library Locator map - search for local Family History Centers or Affiliate Libraries

  • Family History Centers provide one-on-one assistance, free access to center-only databases, and to premium genealogical websites.
  • FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries have access to most center-only databases, but may not always have full services normally provided by a family history center.

Local Centers and Affiliate Libraries

Libraries[edit | edit source]

Listed below are libraries in Palo Alto County. For state-wide library facilities, see Iowa Archives and Libraries.

Ruthven Public LIbrary
1301 Gowrie Street
P.O. Box 280
Ruthven, IA 51358

West Bend Public Library
316 S Broadway Avenue
P.O. Box 46
West Bend, IA 50597

Museums[edit | edit source]

Societies[edit | edit source]

Listed below are societies in Palo Alto County. For state-wide genealogical societies, see Iowa Societies.

Palo Alto County Genealogical Society
Emmetsburg Public Library
707 N Superior Street
Emmetsburg, IA 50536

Websites[edit | edit source]

  • Palo Alto County at Cyndi's List - a comprehensive, categorized & cross-referenced list of links that point you to genealogical research sites online
  • Palo Alto County at Genealogy Trails - volunteer transcriptions of genealogical and historical data
  • Palo Alto County at Iowa USGenWeb - free online resources for genealogical research
  • Palo Alto County at Iowa USGenWeb Archives - free online data for genealogical research
  • State Historical Society of Iowa — select from research collection topics
  • State Library of Iowa — electronic depository of documents intended for the general public produced by Iowa agencies
  • The Iowa Heritage Digital Collection — digital images from a variety of Iowa cultural institutions
  • FamilySearch Catalog – The FamilySearch catalog contains descriptions and access information for all genealogical materials (including books, online materials, microfilm, microfiche, and publications) in their collection.  Use Historical Records to search for specific individuals in genealogical records.

Research Guides[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Iowa Historical Boundary Changes - list of all boundary changes by county provided by Newberry Library; accessed on 11 April 2021.
  2. Iowa Historical Boundary Changes - list of all boundary changes by county provided by Newberry Library; accessed on 11 April 2021.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Page, Iowa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, ",_Iowa."
  4. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Iowa.At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  5. Iowa Historical Boundary Changes - list of all boundary changes by county provided by Newberry Library; accessed on 11 April 2021.
  6. Iowa Historical Boundary Changes - list of all boundary changes by county provided by Newberry Library; accessed on 11 April 2021.
  7. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Iowa.At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  8. Wikipedia contributors, "Palo Alto County, Iowa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,,_Iowa, accessed 21 October 2019.