Shelby County, Iowa Genealogy

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

Shelby County, Iowa
Map of Iowa highlighting Shelby County
Location in the state of Iowa
Map of the U.S. highlighting Iowa
Location of Iowa in the U.S.
Founded January 15, 1851
County Seat Harlan
Iowa, Shelby County Courthouse.png

County Information[edit | edit source]

Description[edit | edit source]

The County was named for Isaac Shelby. The County has Harlan as its seat and the County was created 1851. The County is located in the west central area of the state.[1]

Shelby County, Iowa Record Dates[edit | edit source]

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[2]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
1880 1853 1880 1869 1854 1869 1847
Statewide registration started for births in July 1880 and for deaths Jan 1891. General compliance by 1924.

County Courthouse[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

Isaac Shelby

The county is named after Kentucky's First Governor Isaac Shelby (1750-1826).[3]

Parent County[edit | edit source]

1851--Shelby County was created 15 January 1851 from Pottawattamie County. It was organized 7 March 1853.
County seat:  Harlan [4]

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

For animated maps illustrating Iowa County boundary changes, "Rotating Formation Iowa County Boundary Maps" (1816-1872) may be viewed for free at the website.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Record Loss[edit | edit source]

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

Places/Localities[edit | edit source]

Town/city records in the FamilySearch Catalog

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:[5]

Unincorporated communities
Census-designated places
  • Cass Township
  • Center Township
  • Clay Township
  • Douglas Township
  • Fairview Township
  • Greeley Township
  • Grove Township
  • Jackson Township
  • Jefferson Township
  • Lincoln Township
  • Monroe Township
  • Polk Township
  • Shelby Township
  • Union Township
  • Washington Township
  • Westphalia Township

Neighboring Counties[edit | edit source]

Audubon • Carroll • Cass • Crawford • Harrison • Pottawattamie

Resources[edit | edit source]

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Tombstone Transcriptions Online Tombstone Transcriptions in Print List of Cemeteries in the county Family History Library
IAGenWeb WorldCat Billion Graves
IAGenWeb Archives FamilySearch Places
Tombstone Project
Iowa Gravestones
Billion Graves
See Iowa Cemeteries for more information.

Census[edit | edit source]

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 818
1870 2,540 210.5%
1880 12,696 399.8%
1890 17,611 38.7%
1900 17,932 1.8%
1910 16,552 −7.7%
1920 16,065 −2.9%
1930 17,131 6.6%
1940 16,720 −2.4%
1950 15,942 −4.7%
1960 15,825 −0.7%
1970 15,528 −1.9%
1980 15,043 −3.1%
1990 13,230 −12.1%
2000 13,173 −0.4%
2010 12,167 −7.6%
Source: "".

State Census

Church[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. List of Churches and Church Parishes

Lutheran[edit | edit source]
  • 1883-1925 - Minutes and Membership Records of the American Lutheran Church, Shelby County, in Evangelical Lutheran Church in America database at ($).

Elk Horn

  • Records of the American Lutheran Church, Elk Horn, in Evangelical Lutheran Church in America database at ($).


  • Records of the St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Irwin, in Evangelical Lutheran Church in America database at ($).

Court[edit | edit source]

Land[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.

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Local histories are available for Shelby County, Iowa Genealogy. County histories may include biographies, church, school and government history, and military information. For more information about local histories, see the wiki page section Iowa Local Histories.

Maps[edit | edit source]

Crawford CountyCarroll CountyAudubon CountyCass CountyPottawattamie CountyHarrison CountyIA SHELBY.PNG
Click a neighboring county
for more resources

Military[edit | edit source]

Naturalization and Citizenship[edit | edit source]

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Wikipedia has more about this subject: List of online newspaper archives ($) has a large collection of digitized Iowa newspapers online. This database is sometimes free at libraries.

Probate[edit | edit source]

Online Probate Indexes and Records

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.

Taxation[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.

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.

Births[edit | edit source]
Marriages[edit | edit source]
Death[edit | edit source]

Societies and Libraries[edit | edit source]

Shelby County Historical Museum
1805 Morse Avenue
Harlan, Iowa 51537

Museum of Danish America Genealogy Center
4210 Main Street
PO Box 249
Elk Horn, Iowa 51531-0249

Family History Centers[edit | edit source]

Family History Center and Affiliate Library Locator map - link to 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

Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Shelby, Iowa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, ",_Iowa."
  2. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Shelby County, Iowa. Page 230-238 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002; Alice Eichholz, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, Third ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 222-225.
  3. "List of Counties in Tennessee," Wikipedia.
  4. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).
  5. Wikipedia contributors, "Shelby County, Iowa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,,_Iowa, accessed 24 October 2019.