Iowa Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
The Iowa vital records system originated on 1 July 1880, with legislation establishing a State Board of Health. Marriages were recorded in the counties prior to 1880, typically beginning when the county started keeping other records as well. Early birth records contain only minimal data—name, date, place, and names of parents. Death certificates prior to 1904 do not include the names of the parents of the deceased.
It is estimated that between 1880 and 1921 only about fifty percent of the births and deaths were registered. However, because of a provision for delayed birth registration, almost 470,000 delayed birth records have been filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
All county vital records in Iowa are accessible to the public by personal inspection or by a written request to the clerk of the district court in the county where the event occurred. State vital records are not open to the public. Copies of certificates, however, are issued to grandparents, parents, children, a spouse, brothers or sisters, legal guardians, or respective legal representatives. An applicant must have a direct and tangible interest in any specified record and must have the ability to present a direct lineal relationship to the registrant. The purpose for which a certificate is needed should also be indicated. For the proper forms and fee schedule, contact the Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Records/Statistics, Lucas State Office Bldg., First Floor, Des Moines, IA 50319. According to the Iowa Bureau of Vital Statistics, counties do not have the authority to have birth, death, and marriage records between the years 1921 to 1941.
The State Historical Society of Iowa, in cooperation with the Genealogical Society of Utah, is involved in a statewide county records microfilming project. Records included in this project are vital statistics, probate, and land. Copies of these microfilms, with an index to records filmed in each county, are available for use at the State Historical Society of Iowa’s libraries, and many are now in the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. The state historical society’s website contains a listing of county records contained in its microfilm collection. State vital records, seventy-five years old or older, are now available, with some limitations, at the Iowa State Archives, a division of the State Historical Society of Iowa.
Many of the local chapters of the Iowa Genealogical Society have publications of vital records in their respective counties. A statewide publication listing, with ordering information, is available through the state society on its website.
Ancestry.com has the following Iowa vital records collections:
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- Iowa, Births and Christenings, 1830-1950
- Iowa, County Births, 1880-1935
- Iowa, Marriages, 1809-1992
- Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934
- Iowa, Deaths and Burials, 1850-1990
- Iowa Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Iowa birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.