Iowa Biography

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United States Gotoarrow.pngIowa Gotoarrow.pngIowa Biography


Biographies provide useful genealogical information, such as an individual's birth date and place (including foreign birthplace, where applicable); names of family members; wife's maiden name; parents' names; occupation and education; and social, political, and religious affiliation. They may also contain a physical description, previous residences, and immigration information. Biographies are the product of family knowledge or previous research often compiled about the early settlers and prominent citizens of the state, county, or town. Many lesser-known individuals may have biographical sketches written about them, especially in local histories.

  • Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. [1] Contains bibliographies and background information on history and ethnic groups. Also contains maps and tables showing when each county was created.
  • Iowa History Reference Guide. [2] 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.
  • Dawson, Patricia and David Hudson. Iowa History and Culture: A Bibliography of Materials Published Between 1952 and 1986. Ames, Iowa. State Historical Society of Iowa, 1986. FHL book 977.7 H23d. This book supplements the book mentioned above. For a supplement covering 1987–1991, see the Annals of Iowa (1993).

Pioneer Biographies

An index to over 44,000 early pioneers named in 120 Iowa county histories is:

  • Morford, Charles. Biographical Index to the County Histories of Iowa. Baltimore, Maryland: Gateway Press, 1979. book 977.7 D32m

A similar index with about 8,000 names is:

The State Historical Society in Des Moines and the Family History Library have three important biography collections about Iowa residents:

  • Citizens Historical Association (Indianapolis, Indiana). Biographical Sketches of Iowans. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1976. FHL films 985407–409. These sketches are alphabetical and were compiled between 1938 and the 1940s.
  • Iowa. State Department of History and Archives. Biographical Data Collection. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1978. films 1023885–89 and 1023620. This collection consists of alphabetical personal-history surveys.
  • Iowa. State Department of History and Archives. Biography Files. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1978. FHL films 1023616 item 2 and film 191023617. These files are alphabetized folders of newspaper clippings and correspondence.'

Two representative biographical encyclopedias are:

The following gazetteer contains biographical information: Hair, James T., Iowa State Gazetteer. (Cited fully in Iowa Gazetteers.) See also United States Genealogy and United States History for helpful nationwide indexes such as:

  • Family Finder Index.
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index (for prominent persons).

Family History Library

The Family History Library has many biographical publications and histories with biographical information. They are generally listed in the the Place Search feature on catalog drop down menu of the Family History Library Catalog to find more records under:


Online Resources

Sources and Footnotes

  1. Eichholz, Alice, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. Rev. ed. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992. FHL book 973 D27rb 1992;
  2. William John. Iowa History Reference Guide. Iowa City, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1952. FHL book 977.7 A3p.