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

CountyDate FormedParent CountyCounty Seat
Adair1851Cass CountyGreenfield
Adams1851Taylor CountyCorning
Allamakee1847Clayton CountyWaukon
Appanoose1843Davis CountyCenterville
Audubon1851Pottawattamie County and Unorganized LandAudubon
Benton1837Native American lands and Wisconsin TerritoryVinton
Black Hawk1843Delaware CountyWaterloo
Boone1846Polk CountyBoone
Bremer1851Native American lands andWinnebago CountyWaverly
Buchanan1837Delaware County and Wisconsin TerritoryIndependence
Buena Vista1851Clay County and Sac CountyStorm Lake
Butler1851Black_Hawk County and Buchanan CountyAllison
Calhoun1851Fox County (renamed)Rockwell City
Carroll1851Guthrie CountyCarroll
Cass1851Pottawattamie CountyAtlantic
Cedar1837Wisconsin TerritoryTipton
Cerro Gordo1851Floyd CountyMason City
Cherokee1851Crawford CountyCherokee
Chickasaw1851Fayette CountyNew Hampton
Clarke1846Lucas CountyOsceola
Clay1851Native American landsSpencer
Clayton1837Dubuque County and Wisconsin TerritoryElkader
Clinton1837Dubuque County and Wisconsin TerritoryClinton
Crawford1851Shelby CountyDenison
Dallas1846Polk CountyAdel
Davis1843Van_Buren CountyBloomfield
Decatur1846Appanoose CountyLeon
Delaware1837Dubuque County and Wisconsin TerritoryManchester
Des Moines1834Michigan Territory and Wisconsin TerritoryBurlington
Dickinson1851Kossuth CountySpirit Lake
Dubuque1834Michigan Territory and Wisconsin TerritoryDubuque
Emmet1851Dickinson County and Kossuth CountyEstherville
Fayette1837Clayton County and Wisconsin TerritoryWest Union
Floyd1851Chickasaw CountyCharles City
Franklin1851Chickasaw CountyHampton
Fremont1847Pottawattamie CountySidney
Greene1851Dallas CountyJefferson
Grundy1851Black_Hawk CountyGrundy Center
Guthrie1851Jackson CountyGuthrie Center
Hamilton1856Webster CountyWebster City
Hancock1851Wright CountyGarner
Hardin1851Black_Hawk CountyEldora
Harrison1851Pottawattamie CountyLogan
Henry1836Wisconsin TerritoryMount Pleasant
Howard1851Chickasaw CountyCresco
Humboldt1857Webster CountyDakota City
Ida1851Cherokee CountyIda Grove
Iowa1843Washington CountyMarengo
Jackson1837Wisconsin TerritoryMaquoketa
Jasper1846Mahaska CountyNewton
Jefferson1839Native American landsFairfield
Johnson1837Des Moines County and Wisconsin TerritoryIowa City
Jones1837Wisconsin TerritoryAnamosa
Keokuk1837Washington CountySigourney
Kossuth1851Webster CountyAlgona
Lee1836Des_Moines CountyFort Madison andKeokuk
Linn1837Wisconsin TerritoryCedar Rapids
Louisa1836Des_Moines CountyWapello
Lucas1846Monroe CountyChariton
Lyon1851Woodbury CountyRock Rapids
Madison1846Polk CountyWinterset
Mahaska1843Fox and Sac Indian landsOskaloosa
Marion1845Washington CountyKnoxville
Marshall1846Jasper CountyMarshalltown
Mills1851Pottawattamie CountyGlenwood
Mitchell1851Chickasaw CountyOsage
Monona1851Harrison CountyOnawa
Monroe1843Wapello CountyAlbia
Montgomery1851Polk CountyRed Oak
Muscatine1836Des_Moines CountyMuscatine
O'Brien1851Cherokee CountyPrimghar
Osceola1851Woodbury CountySibley
Page1847Pottawattamie CountyClarinda
Palo Alto1851Kossuth CountyEmmetsburg
Plymouth1851Woodbury CountyLe Mars
Pocahontas1851Greene County and Humboldt CountyPocahontas
Polk1846Native American landsDes Moines
Pottawattamie1847Native American landsCouncil Bluffs
Poweshiek1843Mesquakie Indian landsMontezuma
Ringgold1847Taylor CountyMount Ayr
Sac1851Greene CountySac City
Scott1837Wisconsin TerritoryDavenport
Shelby1851Cass CountyHarlan
Sioux1851Plymouth CountyOrange City
Story1846Boone County, Jasper County, andPolk CountyNevada
Tama1843Benton County and Boone CountyToledo
Taylor1847Page CountyBedford
Union1851Clarke CountyCreston
Van Buren1836Des_Moines CountyKeosauqua
Wapello1843Native American landsOttumwa
Warren1846Polk CountyIndianola
Washington1839Wisconsin TerritoryWashington
Wayne1846Appanoose CountyCorydon
Webster1853Risley County and Yell County(defunct counties)Fort Dodge
Winnebago1851Kossuth CountyForest City
Winneshiek1847Native American landsDecorah
Woodbury1853Polk CountySioux City
Worth1851Mitchell CountyNorthwood
Wright1851Webster County and Kossuth CountyClarion
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