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State Archives Holdings

Birth, Death and Marriage Records

Records of vital statistics are excellent sources of genealogical information.  Prior to July 1880, only marriages were recorded in public records, and then only at the county level.  In 1880, legislation was enacted creating the Department of Public Health and requiring births, deaths and marriages to be recorded at both the county and state levels. Current state law requires that all records of vital statistics must be 75 years old to be made available to the public by the State Historical Society of Iowa.  State law also requires that all records of illegitimate births and stillborns be closed to public inspection. 

Birth Records, 1880-1938

Refer to County Records Microfilm for State Historical Society of Iowa holdings of county level birth records.

Delayed Births, 1848, 1852-1916

State Records Microfilm, Public Health.
The Section 2415 of the 1924 Code of Iowa entitled “Private Genealogical Records” authorized the State Registrar to file and open for public inspection “any record of births or deaths which may be of value in establishing the genealogy of any resident of this state”; most of the births recorded under this provision were filed years after the birth occurred. These birth records are now referred as Delayed Births. 

A statewide index for pre-1917 Delayed Births is available to researchers in the Reading Room. There are approximately 225,000 delayed birth certificates for pre-1880 births covering years that births were not recorded in Iowa, as well as more than 400,000 recordings of births from 1880 through 1916.  It is arranged alphabetically by name and includes date and county of birth, certificate number and microfilm roll number.

Death Records, 1880-1938

Refer to County Records Microfilm for State Historical Soceity of Iowa holdings of county level death records. There are substantial gaps in the county film for deaths between 1917 and 1938. 

In order for the State Historical Society of Iowa to provide access to pre-1939 state level death records that are not on County Record Microfilm, state level death certificates are being indexed. The indexes only provide basic information from the original record, including, the name of the deceased, date of birth, place of birth, date of death, place of death (county) and mother's maiden name. The indexes are not transcriptions of the original record. All names are entered as they appear in the record. In addition, the information in the records is generally handwritten with some entries more legible than others. Maiden names of mothers are frequently the most difficult to decipher and are subject to the most errors.

Indexes of state level death certificates are now available for the following counties:

These linked .pdf files require Adobe Acrobat Reader to be read.


Uncertified copies of death certificates included in the above county indexes may be ordered from the State Historical Library and Archives, 600 East Locust St., Des Moines, Iowa 50319. The cost is $7.50 for each certificate; to be paid in advance.

Please include the following information for all death certificates requested:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Date of death
  • County
  • Certificate number
  • Box number

Marriage Records, circa 1835-1938

Refer to County Records Microfilm for SHSI holdings of county level marriage records. Marriages were recorded in Iowa at the county level before Iowa became a territory.  Legislation enacted in 1880 required that marriages be recorded at both the county and state levels. This act also increased the information recorded for each marriage.

FamilySearch.org is in the process of providing online indexes to marriage records on County Records Microfilm.

Marriage Records, 1880-1920

State Records Microfilm, Public Health. The state level recording of marriages did not begin until 1880.  Although a dual system of recording system has existed since 1880, some of the County Records Microfilm of marriages has a shortened version of the record.  Check the State Records Microfilm for 1880-1920, if the county film does not include names of parents and places of birth of the bride and groom.

Certified Copies

Certified copies of Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, and Marriage Licenses are available from the Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Lucas Office Building, Des Moines, Iowa or from the County Recorder.

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