African American Resources for Iowa

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

  • 1846-1867 U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867 at Ancestry ($)
  • 1865-1874 Freedman's Bank Records, 1865-1874 at FamilySearch
  • 1861-1872 United States, Freedmen's Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872 at FamilySearch
  • African American Digital Bookshelf - a growing list of digital books on FamilySearch and other websites
  • Discover Freedmen - this site searches all of the Freedmen's Bureau record collections on FamilySearch altogether (and redirects there)
  • Research Strategy[edit | edit source]

  • African American Genealogy
  • Beginning African American Research
  • History[edit | edit source]

    Iowa's first African American residents were slaves who were brought in the 1830s; some African Americans also entered the state to escape slavery. Lead mining also enticed many African Americans to migrate to Iowa in the 1840s. Iowa’s first constitution of 1846 required blacks to pay a $500 bond to enter the state and barred them from voting, holding office, serving in the state militia, attending public schools, and marrying whites. Many fought back against these "black codes" and a petition led to its repeal. Racial discrimination declined during and after the Civil War, partly because of the Colored Troops who helped the United States win. The decline of racial discrimination in Iowa led to an increase in the black population between 1865 and 1920. African Americans were also attracted to Iowa because of the work available there, such as mining, laying tracks for the railroad, and working as deckhands on ships that traveled up and down the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Racial tensions continued to decrease throughout the 1900s as African Americans participated in areas such as the military, education, civil rights movement, legislation, sports, art, and much more. When Fort Des Moines became the site of the Colored Officers Training Camp in 1917 the African American population greatly increased. Many of these families chose to stay in Des Moines after World War I ended in 1918. Many African-American leaders came from this area. For more information, see African-Americans in Iowa, 1838-2005 and Coming to Iowa: Opportunities for African-Americans. [1][2]

    See these websites to learn more about the history of African Americans in Iowa:

    See these books to learn more about the history of African Americans in Iowa:

    • Bergmann, Leola Marjarie Nelson. The Negro in Iowa. Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1969.
    • Gradwohl, David M. and Nancy M. Osborn. Exploring Buried Buxton. Ames: Iowas State University Press, 1984.
    • Robertson, James J. Jr. Iowa in the Civil War: A Reference Guide. Iowa City, Iowa: The State Historical Society of Iowa, 197

    Resources[edit | edit source]

    Biographies[edit | edit source]

    Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

    Census Records[edit | edit source]

    • Iowa Mortality Schedules, 1850-1880 - lists name, age, gender, race, marital status, birthplace, parents’ birthplaces, occupation, death month, cause of death, and length of residency in county

    Church Records[edit | edit source]

    Emancipation Records[edit | edit source]

    Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]

    Genealogies[edit | edit source]

    Land and Property[edit | edit source]

    Plantation[edit | edit source]

    Oral Histories[edit | edit source]

    Other Records[edit | edit source]

    Military Records[edit | edit source]

    Newspapers[edit | edit source]

    The State Historical Society of Iowa is digitizing Iowa newspapers and making them available online through Chronicling America. See the Iowa Digital Newspaper Project to find a listing of newspaper titles and links to Chronicling America.

    Probate Records[edit | edit source]

    Reconstruction Records[edit | edit source]

    Freedman’s Bank[edit | edit source]

    An excellent source is the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (visit the African American Freedman's Savings and Trust Company Records page to learn more). This company was created to assist African American soldiers of the Civil War and freed slaves. Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company signature cards or registers from 3 March 1865 to 25 July 1874 may list the name of the depositor, date of entry, age, birthplace, residence, complexion, name of employer or occupation, wife or husband’s name, death information, children’s names, name of father and mother, brothers’ and sisters’ names, remarks, and signature. Early books sometimes contained the name of the former master or mistress and the name of the plantation. Copies of death certificates were sometimes attached to the entries. The collection is organized alphabetically by state, then city where the bank was located, then date the account was established, then account number.

    Online collections of Freedman's Bank records:

    Freedmen's Bureau[edit | edit source]

    The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was created by the US government in 1865 until 1872 to assist former slaves in the southern United States. The Bureau created a wide variety of records extremely valuable to genealogists. Such documents include censuses, marriage records, and medical records. These records often include full names, former masters and plantations, and current residences.[3] For 1865 and 1866, the section on abandoned and confiscated lands includes the names of the owners of the plantations or homes that were abandoned, confiscated, or leased. It gives the county and location, a description of the house, the number of acres owned, and the number of cabins of former slaves. These films do not appear to contain the names of former slaves.

    To find Freedmen's Bureau records:

    Other FamilySearch collections not included:

    Visit the African American Freedmen's Bureau Records page to learn more about utilizing these records.

    School Records[edit | edit source]

    Slavery Records[edit | edit source]

    Vital Records[edit | edit source]

    Birth[edit | edit source]

    Marriage[edit | edit source]

    The Freedmen's Bureau (1865-1872) was created by the US government to assist former slaves in the southern United States. One of their responsibilities was to record the marriages (past and present) of the former slaves. These records can be found in the collections below and include the lists of marriages that occurred previously, marriage certificates, and marriage licenses. The information contained on the records may include the name of the husband and wife/groom and bride, age, occupation, residence, year or date of marriage, by whom, number of children, and remarks.

    Death[edit | edit source]

    • Iowa Mortality Schedules, 1850-1880 - lists name, age, gender, race, marital status, birthplace, parents’ birthplaces, occupation, death month, cause of death, and length of residency in county
    • Iowa, Death Records, 1904-1951 - lists name, death place, gender, race, marital status, death date, birth date, age, occupation, birthplace, cause of death, parents and their birthplaces, and burial date and place

    Divorce[edit | edit source]

    Voting Registers[edit | edit source]

    Archives and Libraries[edit | edit source]

    African American Museum of Iowa
    55 12th Avenue SE
    Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
    Phone: (319) 862-2101

    The African American Museum of Iowa seeks to preserve, exhibit, and teach Iowa's African American history; it is Iowa's leading educational resource on the topic.

    Iowa Digital Library
    Digital Research & Publishing
    The University of Iowa Libraries
    1015 Main Library
    Iowa City, IA 52242-1420
    Phone: 319-335-9275

    The Iowa Digital Collection has the African American Women in Iowa Digital Collection, which is a digital archive of materials related to African American women in the state. The site includes photographs, scrapbooks, pamphlets, oral histories, newsletters and more. Developed by the University of Iowa Libraries.

    Societies[edit | edit source]

    References[edit | edit source]

    1. "African-Americans in Iowa, 1838-2005," Iowa Public Television: IOWA Pathways,, accessed 15 August 2018.
    2. "Coming to Iowa: Opportunities for African-Americans," Iowa Public Television: IOWA Pathways,, accessed 15 August 2018.
    3. "African American Records: Freedmen's Bureau," "African American Heritage," National Archives, accessed 11 May 2018.