Iowa Counties and Historical Facts

Iowa County records vary widely from county to county in both quality and quantity. Some have been carefully preserved while others have been much abused and neglected. Some Iowa records have simply disappeared.

For genealogists doing research in Iowa there is no effective replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records.

Map of Iowa Counties
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Map of Iowa Counties

Iowa County Records

Iowa county governments recorded few vital statistics earlier than 1880.

Marriage record registration began in many areas with the organization of the county.

It is estimated that between 1880 and 1921, only about fifty percent of the births and deaths were registered. Birth, marriage, death, and probate records are usually found in the office of the clerk of courts at the county seat.

Land transactions are in the county recorder’s office.

The FHL online catalog was used to compile most record state dates. Researchers are encouraged to contact the courthouse or local genealogical society in the county of interest. See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.

List of Iowa Extinct Counties

Kentucky has counties that no longer exist because they were discontinued, renamed or merged with another county.

A lot of these counties were established and disbanded within the 19th century; county borders have changed very little since 1900.

These are important for genealogy research purposes. Pay attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was eliminated or joined with some other county.

See the History of Iowa Counties for more details.

List of Iowa Counties with Burned Courthouses

Iowa burned county courthouse
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The damage to courthouses greatly has a bearing on genealogists in every way.

Not only are these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others.

Once destroyed they’re lost forever. Although they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn too.

However, not all records were damaged or lost in some counties.

  • Adair County Courthouse – Courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1889. Most Court Records were destroyed.
  • Adams County Courthouse – The Courthouse was destroyed by fire on February 1, 1888. Some early records were destroyed.
  • Benton County Courthouse – The Courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1853. The county records were rescued by three courageous men who were seriously burned and died from their injuries three months after the blaze.
  • Buena Vista County Courthouse – On January 1, 1877 the courthouse was destroyed by a fire. Most records were destroyed
  • Calhoun County Courthouse – The Courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1884.
  • Carroll County Courthouse – In 1886, this courthouse was damaged by a fire
  • Cass County Courthouse – In March 1932, a fire destroyed the courthouse, but the county records were saved
  • Chickasaw County Courthouse – The Courthouse was totally destroyed in a fire on March 26, 1880. Many irreplaceable documents were lost, but many more were saved with the help of the “Hook & Ladder Co.,” and concerned citizens.
  • Decatur County Courthouse – The Second Courthouse was destroyed by a windstorm before it could be finished. The 3rd Courthouse was destroyed by a fire on March 31, 1874 (One book from the auditor’s office and one book from the clerk’s office survived). The 4th Courthouse was blown up on April 1, 1877 destroying the entire west side of the courthouse.
  • Des Moines County Courthouse – The Courthouse, along with some of the county records, was destroyed by a fire in 1873.
  • Dickinson County Courthouse – The Courthouse was destroyed in a fire in November of 1871, some of the county records were destroyed.
  • Fayette County Courthouse – The Courthouse burned in 1872 when a prisoner set fire to the courthouse during and escape attempt.
  • Floyd County Courthouse – One June 7, 1874, a terrific thunderbolt struck the courthouse (The important county records were saved). The courthouse burned down in 1881, destroying nearly all county records.
  • Fremont County Courthouse – The 2nd Courthouse was damaged by a gunny sack full of dynamite in 1863. In 1888, vandals poured Coal oil throughout the building and set a fire (A steel vault saved most of the records).
  • Guthrie County Courthouse – In 1857, in the cabin of the county clerk, a keg of gunpowder blew all the county records to pieces. This Courthouse burned to the ground on March 3, 1882 (A heroic clerk saved most of the court records). In November of 1963 courthouse was destroyed by fire (some records were destroyed).
  • Hardin County Courthouse – The first courthouse was destroyed that same year by in 1856.
  • Harrison County Courthouse – The first courthouse was destroyed in a fire in September 1854, all of the county records were destroyed.
  • Howard County Courthouse – The courthouse at Cresco burned down on December 1, 1876. Few records survived.
  • Ida County Courthouse – On January 12, 1877, the courthouse burned, along with most of the county records.
  • Jones County Courthouse – The courthouse built in 1848 and vacated in 1864 was destroyed by fire in 1875.
  • Lee County Courthouse – In 1911, fire damaged the courthouse
  • Madison County Courthouse – In 1875, a fire destroyed the building in less than four hours.
  • Muscatine County Courthouse – The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1864 (No records were lost in the fire, as far as can be determined).
  • Page County Courthouse – The Courthouse and the records were destroyed in an 1858 fire.
  • Ringgold County Courthouse – On June 8, 1858, a cyclone blew down the courthouse and many records disappeared.
  • Sac County Courthouse – The Courthouse burned down in 1888.
  • Story County Courthouse – The courthouse was destroyed by fire on New Year’s Day, 1864.
  • Union County Courthouse – The first courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1893.

List of Iowa Counties

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Adair 1851 Cass County Greenfield
Adams 1851 Taylor County Corning
Allamakee 1847 Clayton County Waukon
Appanoose 1843 Davis County Centerville
Audubon 1851 Pottawattamie County and Unorganized Land Audubon
Benton 1837 Native American lands and Wisconsin Territory Vinton
Black Hawk 1843 Delaware County Waterloo
Boone 1846 Polk County Boone
Bremer 1851 Native American lands andWinnebago County Waverly
Buchanan 1837 Delaware County and Wisconsin Territory Independence
Buena Vista 1851 Clay County and Sac County Storm Lake
Butler 1851 Black_Hawk County and Buchanan County Allison
Calhoun 1851 Fox County (renamed) Rockwell City
Carroll 1851 Guthrie County Carroll
Cass 1851 Pottawattamie County Atlantic
Cedar 1837 Wisconsin Territory Tipton
Cerro Gordo 1851 Floyd County Mason City
Cherokee 1851 Crawford County Cherokee
Chickasaw 1851 Fayette County New Hampton
Clarke 1846 Lucas County Osceola
Clay 1851 Native American lands Spencer
Clayton 1837 Dubuque County and Wisconsin Territory Elkader
Clinton 1837 Dubuque County and Wisconsin Territory Clinton
Crawford 1851 Shelby County Denison
Dallas 1846 Polk County Adel
Davis 1843 Van_Buren County Bloomfield
Decatur 1846 Appanoose County Leon
Delaware 1837 Dubuque County and Wisconsin Territory Manchester
Des Moines 1834 Michigan Territory and Wisconsin Territory Burlington
Dickinson 1851 Kossuth County Spirit Lake
Dubuque 1834 Michigan Territory and Wisconsin Territory Dubuque
Emmet 1851 Dickinson County and Kossuth County Estherville
Fayette 1837 Clayton County and Wisconsin Territory West Union
Floyd 1851 Chickasaw County Charles City
Franklin 1851 Chickasaw County Hampton
Fremont 1847 Pottawattamie County Sidney
Greene 1851 Dallas County Jefferson
Grundy 1851 Black_Hawk County Grundy Center
Guthrie 1851 Jackson County Guthrie Center
Hamilton 1856 Webster County Webster City
Hancock 1851 Wright County Garner
Hardin 1851 Black_Hawk County Eldora
Harrison 1851 Pottawattamie County Logan
Henry 1836 Wisconsin Territory Mount Pleasant
Howard 1851 Chickasaw County Cresco
Humboldt 1857 Webster County Dakota City
Ida 1851 Cherokee County Ida Grove
Iowa 1843 Washington County Marengo
Jackson 1837 Wisconsin Territory Maquoketa
Jasper 1846 Mahaska County Newton
Jefferson 1839 Native American lands Fairfield
Johnson 1837 Des Moines County and Wisconsin Territory Iowa City
Jones 1837 Wisconsin Territory Anamosa
Keokuk 1837 Washington County Sigourney
Kossuth 1851 Webster County Algona
Lee 1836 Des_Moines County Fort Madison andKeokuk
Linn 1837 Wisconsin Territory Cedar Rapids
Louisa 1836 Des_Moines County Wapello
Lucas 1846 Monroe County Chariton
Lyon 1851 Woodbury County Rock Rapids
Madison 1846 Polk County Winterset
Mahaska 1843 Fox and Sac Indian lands Oskaloosa
Marion 1845 Washington County Knoxville
Marshall 1846 Jasper County Marshalltown
Mills 1851 Pottawattamie County Glenwood
Mitchell 1851 Chickasaw County Osage
Monona 1851 Harrison County Onawa
Monroe 1843 Wapello County Albia
Montgomery 1851 Polk County Red Oak
Muscatine 1836 Des_Moines County Muscatine
O'Brien 1851 Cherokee County Primghar
Osceola 1851 Woodbury County Sibley
Page 1847 Pottawattamie County Clarinda
Palo Alto 1851 Kossuth County Emmetsburg
Plymouth 1851 Woodbury County Le Mars
Pocahontas 1851 Greene County and Humboldt County Pocahontas
Polk 1846 Native American lands Des Moines
Pottawattamie 1847 Native American lands Council Bluffs
Poweshiek 1843 Mesquakie Indian lands Montezuma
Ringgold 1847 Taylor County Mount Ayr
Sac 1851 Greene County Sac City
Scott 1837 Wisconsin Territory Davenport
Shelby 1851 Cass County Harlan
Sioux 1851 Plymouth County Orange City
Story 1846 Boone County, Jasper County, andPolk County Nevada
Tama 1843 Benton County and Boone County Toledo
Taylor 1847 Page County Bedford
Union 1851 Clarke County Creston
Van Buren 1836 Des_Moines County Keosauqua
Wapello 1843 Native American lands Ottumwa
Warren 1846 Polk County Indianola
Washington 1839 Wisconsin Territory Washington
Wayne 1846 Appanoose County Corydon
Webster 1853 Risley County and Yell County(defunct counties) Fort Dodge
Winnebago 1851 Kossuth County Forest City
Winneshiek 1847 Native American lands Decorah
Woodbury 1853 Polk County Sioux City
Worth 1851 Mitchell County Northwood
Wright 1851 Webster County and Kossuth County Clarion
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