Iowa Biography

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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.

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. (Family History Library book 977.7 D32m)

A similar index with about 8,000 names is:

Foresman, Sherry. Iowa Biography Index. Menlo, Iowa: State of Iowa Lending and Research Library, 1986. (Family History Library book 977.7 D22i; fiche 6125666)

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. (Family History Library 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. (Family History Library 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. (Family History Library films 1023616 item 2 and 1023617–19) These files are alphabetized folders of newspaper clippings and correspondence.'

Two representative biographical encyclopedias are:

A Memorial and Biographical Record of Iowa. Two volumes. Reprint of 1896 edition, Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Co., 1978. (Family History Library book 977.7 D3m; film 1033791 items 2–3; fiche 6051365 also film 934926 item 6.)

Gue, Benjamin F., and Benjamin Franklin Shambaugh. Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa: Leaders in Business, Politics and the Professions, Together with an Original and Authentic History of the State. Two volumes. Des Moines, Iowa: Conaway and Shaw, 1899. (Family History Library book 977.7 D3b; film 934927 items 2–3; fiche 6051353)'

The following gazetteer contains biographical information:

Hair, James T., Iowa State Gazetteer. (Cited fully in the "Gazetteers" section.)

See also the "Genealogy" and "History" sections of the United States Research Outline for helpful nationwide indexes such as:

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

The Family History Library has many biographical publications and histories with biographical information. They are generally listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:




Online Resources

Iowa Biographies (1339 as of June 2007)