Doing Iowa genealogy research can be a little difficult because their vital records regulations are stricter than most other states, leaving you with fewer options for finding data. So be prepared to take other avenues when looking into the past for this state.
Iowa Vital Records
The state collection of birth, death and marriage records starts in 1880 (some counties may have their own independent archives that go back farther). The problem is that the confidentiality records are permanent and do not expire even with very old records. That means you have to be a direct relative of the person on the record, no matter how old it is. Along with your application, you will need to supply documentation of your relationship along with a notarized signature.
The permitted relationships include self, parents, children, sibling, spouse, grandparents and grandchildren. If that applies to you, you can fill out the request form and get a certified copy of any vital record. The Department of Public Health website has the forms for you to print out, and once completed they can be submitted to the Health Statistics office in Des Moines.
The forms are easy enough to complete, as long as you have the pertinent information about the record you want. With the forms, and your own ID, you have to include the search fee as well. Each record will cost you $15, whether they find it or not.
Records requested for genealogical purposes are not given high priority so you can expect a 2 month wait if you mail your forms in. You can also visit the office yourself during regular business hours for their counter service. Going that route usually means you have to come back to pick up your papers in about 2 days.
State Historical Society of Iowa
If the government office is of no use to you because of the relationship restrictions, you can look elsewhere to find further Iowa genealogy information apart from the vital records.
You can find quite a lot about someone through their collections of public documents. Their holdings include census records from 1856 to 1930, old maps and photographs, county records, newspaper archives, genealogical books and periodicals and more.
There are 2 locations, one in Des Moines and one in Iowa City. You should check the website for the society before visiting because some resources will only be available at one location. Many records are on microfiche, and copies will be found at either location. The reading rooms are open 5 days a week (closed Sundays and Mondays) and their hours are typically afternoons only.
Iowa Genealogy Groups
Joining a group for Iowa genealogy is another great way to gain access to more records and personal information. Contact with other members can also be very valuable when you’ve hit a brick wall and could use some advice. There are smaller groups for most counties in Iowa, or you can join the state-wide Iowa Genealogy Society. They have regular classes and workshops as well as their own family history library. You can access their library collections for a $10 if you are not a member.