Those Vital, Vital Records

To a genealogist, vital records are the mainstay of his or her research, the triumvirate of documentation.  Birth, marriage, and death records pin down a life from start to finish and connect an unbroken (one hopes) line from one generation to another.

We here in Special Collections understand how, well, vital these records are to our patrons.  It has therefore become our goal to add to our collections the available vital records from as many Iowa counties as we can, from the earliest possible to each county’s cut-off after the 1920 changes in Iowa law that changed the duties of county clerks.*

Iowa has ninety-nine counties, so this is what we would call an extended project—but we’re off to a pretty good start with the births, marriage, and deaths of the easternmost fourteen:





Scott (of course)



If you look at a county map of Iowa, you can see that we are resolutely marching west in our quest for these records.  And we vow not to stop until we reach Lyon County at the northwest corner of our fair state.

So, if you’re in the market for an early vital record or two from the eastern 14% of Iowa, c’mon in for a visit— we have  six microfilm reader/printers , a change machine, and extremely comfortable chairs!**


*Iowa law did not require clerks to record birth, marriage, and deaths at the county level between 1920 and 1941—these records were sent to the state.  Many clerks continued documenting some vital records as their duties permitted, but most eventually stopped until the law required them to begin again.

** Or if you really can’t manage a visit, drop us a line.  But then, you won’t know if we’re telling the truth about our chairs . . .

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2 Responses to Those Vital, Vital Records

  1. Dan Renwald says:

    I left a message in another area of the library site but then happened upon you here and feel at home with your friendly approach. — so: 3 family members were patients in the Mercy Hospital system beginning in the late 18 hundreds through the 1950s. One died in the devastating fire at St. Elizabeths in 1950.
    My interest focuses on the diagnosis that resulted in my ancestors’ confinement since that might be important for present generations to know.
    ( And we can make accusations when we see little absurd character querks in one of our family members.) But wait, I might be on the receiving end of some of those!
    I reached out to the Genesis Health System hoping they would explore their archives, since Mercy Hospital was acquired by them. I found that my request was dismissed with no apparent interest. I cannot believe that medical records would be destroyed.
    Hopefully I can tickle the bottom of your feet enough to have you interested in helping me in my quest.

    • SCblogger says:

      Thank you for reaching out to us! We did receive your email in our Special Collections department and will be in touch with you soon (if we haven’t already). We would be glad to try to assist you in your research. While we have no access to medical records, there might be other information we can find for you. As we tell researchers, this was a time without medication or the ability to see a mental health expert while living at home and continuing with your daily life. Some patients at St. Elizabeth’s (and St. Joseph’s) had severe mental illness, some dementia, others maybe depression or other illnesses we treat are able to treat today. We are so sorry your family member was one of those who lost their lives in the fire.

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