Iowa Archives, Libraries, and Societies

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This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
Iowa sil.png
the Iowa Family History Research series.
History of Iowa
Iowa Vital Records
Census Records for Iowa
Background Sources for Iowa
Iowa Maps
Iowa Land Records
Iowa Probate Records
Iowa Court Records
Iowa Tax Records
Iowa Cemetery Records
Iowa Church Records
Iowa Military Records
Iowa Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Iowa Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Ethnic Groups of Iowa
Iowa County Resources
Map of Iowa

State Historical Society of Iowa Library

600 E. Locust
Des Moines, IA 50319

This statewide organization encompasses all the state historical operations, including the historical libraries (at the Des Moines address and at Iowa City'see below); State Archives (including manuscript, maps, school and institutional records, and photographs); museum; and membership and development of publications. The extensive holdings of the research library at the Des Moines location are the largest in the state. The staff is very responsive to written requests for general information, and the society's website contains several bibliographies and finding aids (see list of publications under Periodicals).

State Historical Society of Iowa

Research Library
402 Iowa Ave.
Iowa City, IA 52240

The second largest research collection in the state is located at the Iowa City branch of the State Historical Society's research facilities. Holdings include local, state, and national histories; biographies; government documents, and current historical periodicals not all identical to the facility at Des Moines. Microfilm holdings are loaned between the collections. Of specific interest to genealogists are county histories, state census data, cemetery records, atlases, and plat books. Iowa newspapers, beginning in 1836, can be found in 10,000 bound volumes and 12,000 microfilm rolls (microfilm available through interlibrary loan). Fire insurance maps include more than 700 Iowa communities. Over 100,000 photographic images can be located by standard subject headings, geographical designations, or the portrait index.

Iowa Genealogical Society

P.O. Box 7735
Des Moines, IA 50322

Maintains an extensive genealogical reference library (shelf list available), publishes Hawkeye Heritage and a member newsletter, and publishes in cooperation with its chapters a wide variety of genealogical reference works, primarily Iowa vital records. State and national speakers are featured at an annual conference. The society is also placing county research guides on its website. The society has a genealogical library at 628 E. Grand Ave., directly across the street from the Iowa State Historical Building.

Newberry Library

60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, IL 60610

Although in Illinois, this repository should be considered a source for Iowa research. According to Peggy Tuck Sinko, author of Guide to Local and Family History at the Newberry Library (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1987), 'The Iowa holdings of The Newberry Library are surpassed in size, scope, and quality only by the library's Illinois collection.' The Iowa collection includes considerable genealogical and local history material, plus a number of rare books and manuscripts included in the Graff Collection.

Resources of Iowa research can be found in a multitude of other locations in the state. County/city level archival programs exist, for example, in Dubuque and both Polk and Scott counties. See the following to locate other valuable resource collections in the state of Iowa:

  • Horton, Loren H., ed. Historical Organizations in Iowa. Iowa History Sources, No. 2. Iowa City: Iowa Historical Department, Division of State Historical Society, 1982.
  • Ludwig, Cherie, comp. Iowa Genealogical and Historical Resources by County'.' Iowa State Historical Department, Division of Historical Museum and Archives, 1978.