Iowa Biography

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The moderator for Iowa is familyjournals

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Biographies provide useful genealogical information, such as an individual's birth date and place (including foreign birthplace, where applicable); names of family members; wife's maiden name; parents' names; occupation and education; and social, political, and religious affiliation. They may also contain a physical description, previous residences, and immigration information. Biographies are the product of family knowledge or previous research often compiled about the early settlers and prominent citizens of the state, county, or town. Many lesser-known individuals may have biographical sketches written about them, especially in local histories.

Biographies in Local Histories[edit | edit source]

  • Biographical information is often found in state, county, and town histories.
  • Towards the end of the 19th century, began publishers soliciting short biographical/family histories from local founding families, offering to publish them in an upcoming local history. This then became an incentive for family members to buy a copy of the book.
  • Families represented were not necessarily prominent. Practically everyone living there, especially in the Midwest, counted as an early settler.
  • These biographies often start with the first member of the family to settle in the area, and detail their descendants at the time of publishing. They may tell where the family moved in from. Children's marriages often are given, with maiden names included.

Finding Biographies[edit | edit source]

  • The county Wiki page lists several county histories. It also lists local libraries, and societies which probably have copies of local histories.
  • Many histories are no longer under copyright and can be found in the following online, digitized book collections. Search with keywords "History" and "the name of your locality" (state, county, or town).
  • The FamilySearch library has extensive collections of these local histories. Many are digitized. Search the FamilySearch Catalog under your locality for the topics "Biography" and "History".
  • Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. [1] Contains bibliographies and background information on history and ethnic groups. Also contains maps and tables showing when each county was created.
  • Iowa History Reference Guide. [2] This bibliography includes sections about American Indians, immigration, land, government, courts, military, schools, churches, businesses, history, and biographies. It is arranged by subject and has an index.
  • Iowa History and Culture: A Bibliography of Materials Published Between 1952 and 1986 [3] This book supplements the book mentioned above. For a supplement covering 1987–1991, see the Annals of Iowa (1993).

Pioneer Biographies[edit | edit source]

An index to over 44,000 early pioneers named in 120 Iowa county histories is:

  • Biographical Index to the County Histories of Iowa [4]

A similar index with about 8,000 names is:

  • Iowa Biography Index [5]


The State Historical Society in Des Moines and the Family History Library have three important biography collections about Iowa residents:

  • Citizens Historical Association [6] These sketches are alphabetical and were compiled between 1938 and the 1940s.
  • Biographical Data Collection [7] This collection consists of alphabetical personal-history surveys.
  • Biography Files [8] These files are alphabetized folders of newspaper clippings and correspondence.'

Two representative biographical encyclopedias are:

  • A Memorial and Biographical Record of Iowa. [9]
  • Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa: Leaders in Business, Politics and the Professions, Together with an Original and Authentic History of the State [10]

The following gazetteer contains biographical information: Iowa State Gazettee[11] Cited fully in Iowa Gazetteers. See also United States Compiled Genealogies and United States History for helpful nationwide indexes such as:

  • Family Finder Index.
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index (for prominent persons).

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has many biographical publications and histories with biographical information. They are generally listed in the the Place Search feature on catalog drop down menu of the FamilySearch Catalog to find more records under:

  • IOWA - BIOGRAPHY
  • IOWA, [COUNTY] - BIOGRAPHY
  • IOWA, [COUNTY] - HISTORY

Sources and Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. Eichholz, Alice, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. Rev. ed. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992. FHL book 973 D27rb 1992;
  2. William John. Iowa History Reference Guide. Iowa City, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1952. FHL book 977.7 A3p.
  3. Dawson, Patricia and David Hudson. Iowa History and Culture: A Bibliography of Materials Published Between 1952 and 1986. Ames, Iowa. State Historical Society of Iowa, 1986. FHL book 977.7 H23d.
  4. Morford, Charles. Biographical Index to the County Histories of Iowa. Baltimore, Maryland: Gateway Press, 1979. book 977.7 D32m
  5. Iowa Biography Index Menlo, Iowa: State of Iowa Lending and Research Library, 1986. book 977.7 D22i; fiche 6125666
  6. (Indianapolis, Indiana). Biographical Sketches of Iowans. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1976. FHL films 985407–409.
  7. Iowa. State Department of History and Archives. Biographical Data Collection. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1978. films 1023885–89 and 1023620.
  8. Iowa. State Department of History and Archives. Biography Files. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1978. FHL films 1023616 item 2 and film 191023617.
  9. A Memorial and Biographical Record of IowaTwo volumes. Reprint of 1896 edition, Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Co., 1978. FHL book 977.7 D3m; film 1033791 items 2–3; fiche 6051365 also film 934926 item 6.
  10. Gue, Benjamin F., and Benjamin Franklin Shambaugh. Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa: Leaders in Business, Politics and the Professions, Together with an Original and Authentic History of the State. Two volumes. Des Moines, Iowa: Conaway and Shaw, 1899. FHL book 977.7 D3b; film 934927 items 2–3; fiche 6051353
  11. Hair, James T., Iowa State Gazetteer.