Iowa Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
Iowa Court Records
The Miners’ Compact of 1830 is believed to be the first form of government in the area. In 1838, three district courts were established and stayed established until the 1846 addition of Iowa to the union as a state. At that point, they were merged into one. Then, in 1849, there were again divided into three, known as the southern, northern and middle divisions.
The entire area was reorganized and redivided many times up until 1907. There are files on record at the National Archives/Central Plains Region for the years 1845-1882 for the District of Iowa, 1850-1959 for the Northern District and 1842-1959 for the Southern District.
County clerks hold civil and criminal county court records. Some of the state’s court records are being moved to the Des Moines State Archives office. The Order Books for the Supreme Court of Iowa, which are four volumes covering 1838 to 1858, are of particular interest to genealogical researchers. For example, twenty-one naturalizations are listed in Order Book A and span the years of 1840 through 1851. See Also Research In Court Records.
- U.S. Circuit Court Criminal Case Files, 1790-1871 (search.ancestry.com)
- Iowa Court Record Books (amazon.com)
Iowa Land Records
The principal meridian in Iowa was originally established in 1815 in Arkansas. Iowa began as a state of public-domain. The land was originally distributed and controlled by agents of the federal government. The first two districts formed in 1838 and were called Dubuque and Burlington. Later, seven more districts were established.
Many Iowa settlers, more than 20,000 of them, had no legal entitlement to the lands that they settled on. They settled the area before they were legally allowed to. So, in order to prevent their lands from being sold at auctions, they banded together to rid the auctions according to who settled the lands first. They did that by forming “claims clubs.”
The Eastern States Office of the Bureau of Land Management can supply records of plats, patents and tract books. Military warrant abstracts are included within the National Archives/Central Plains Region land records. In fact, there were more of such warrants used in the state of Iowa than in any other state in the union. In fact, an estimated 50% of the state was purchased using those authorizations (warrants). The warrants for 1843 to 1855 are for the following district offices: Chariton, Kanesville, Council Bluffs, Decorah, Osage, Des Moines, Fort Des Moines, Dubuque, Marion, Burlington, Fairfield, Fort Dodge, Iowa City, Sioux City.
Several other receiver and register records for those counties are also available. Homesteads certificates and other entries and receipts are available for Sioux City, Fort Dodge and Des Moines as well.
After land was federally disbursed in the state, the county recorder for each county handled all land sales and purchases for that county.
The Iowa State Archives includes many items of genealogical interest, including original land survey plats from 1835 to 1860. They are in twelve volumes and show an in-depth look at the entire state, including pioneer homes, Indian villages and old roads and trails. The State Historical Society of Iowa and the Genealogical Society of Utah have combined their efforts in order to preserve almost every county’s land conveyances. The research library at the Historical Society of Iowa’s Des Moines holds those records. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
Iowa Probate Records
Scott County probate file packets include record books of the court. The research library in Des Moines has a complete list of which records are available for which counties. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
- Iowa Probate Record Books (amazon.com)
Iowa Tax Records
Both real estate and personal property tax rolls were kept by each county’s treasurer or auditor. The State Historical Society of Iowa has some of the records are available on microfilm. However, each county’s original tax rolls are not typically transferred to microfilm.
Genealogical researchers whoa re doing research into Iowa’s history may be able to take advantage of records for old age pension taxes in the state. In 1934, an old age assistance tax was collected from anyone over twenty-one years old. The practice was stopped in 1936, but the tax lists included valuable information, including name, date and place of birth, address, gender, parent names and other information. The FHL can supply copies of many of those lists on microfilm. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
- Iowa Tax Record Books (amazon.com)
Iowa County & City Government Links
Iowa contains 15 counties. Each county is the local level of government within its borders. The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Iowa county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database. Iowa State Government is located in Des Moines.