All vital events occurring in the state such as birth, death, and marriage, and the bureau has an interstate exchange agreement with all of the other states. The bureau registers approximately 100,000 events and issues about 85,000 certified copies annually.
In Iowa, official registration of births, deaths, and marriages began July 1, 1880. All original records that have been registered are on file with Iowa HHS, Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Statewide record searches are available from the state registrar.
Local registrars are located in county recorders offices and maintain records of birth, death and marriages that have occurred in that county.
County registrars do not have the following records in their physical custody:
- Single-parent births prior to July 1, 1995;
- Birth records after a legal change of name through Iowa Code chapter 674;
- Delayed records filed one year or more after the event;
- Any record ordered seal by a court of law;
- Birth, death, and marriage records between the years 1921 to 1941.
All applications for certified copies of vital record events must be in writing and completely identify the record, as well as satisfactorily establish entitlement to the record being requested.
Entitled persons include the person named on the record or that person’s spouse, children, legal parents, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, or legal representative or guardian. Legal guardians, legal representatives, and siblings must also provide additional proof of entitlement.
Certified copies of birth, death, or marriage certificates may be obtained from the state office of vital records by telephone, in-person, or through a postal service.
Fees are payable by check or money order made out to the Iowa Department of Public Health. In-person requests may also be paid in cash. Checks must be drawn from the applicant's account; money orders must be in the name of the applicant. Fees must be paid at the time of the application.
Fees must be paid in U.S. funds to the issuing registrar's office. In some instances, the local county registrar (County Recorder) may only accept cash or money orders for in-person requests and money orders for mail-in requests. All applications must be accompanied by a valid, current government-issued photo I.D. (legible photocopy if applying by mail) and all applicants must satisfactorily prove entitlement.
Administrative processing fees at the state level are $15 as of July 1, 2019. This includes for amendments, delayed registrations, legal change of names, recision of paternity affidavit, paternity registry searches by adoption attorneys, revelation of county of adoption, private paternity establishment judgments, court orders, and any other action requiring an administrative processing fee.
The application fee for the Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry remains unchanged at $25.
For further information on Birth, Death, or Marriage Certificates:
The Iowa State Board of Health was established on July 1, 1880. During the first meeting, they created an Iowa Vital Records system of birth, death, and marriage record keeping. At the same time, registration responsibilities were not well defined, resulting in poor record keeping in some areas of the state. A few events, primarily marriages, were recorded in some counties prior to the 1880 date; however, little information is included on those records.
Availability of Records
At the county level, all vital records occurring in that county are open to the public for inspection. County offices may set and charge a reasonable fee to inspect the records.
To secure a certified copy of a record from the county-of-event, applicants must have direct or tangible interest in the record. In other words, you must be the registrant (person named on the record) or have a lineal relationship to the registrant, such as a legal parent, grandparent, spouse, brother, sister, child, legal guardian, or legal representative. All requests or applications for each certificate must be in writing and include the purpose for the certificate.
Vital records maintained at the state level are closed to inspection and are not open to public inspection.
To secure a certified copy of a record from the state, applicants must have the same direct and tangible entitlement as for a county record. Requests may be in writing or by telephone using a credit card.
At both the county and state level, a fee of $15.00 is required for each record search conducted, with a copy issued if one is found. If the record is not found, a record search letter, also called a no-record letter, will be provided. The fee is not refundable.
Applicants should follow the Index Schedule if the exact name, date, or place of event is unknown.
Statistics Indexes of Births, Deaths, Marriages in the State of Iowa
NOTE: Official registration began in Iowa - July 1, 1880.
* Index Search: At both the county and state level, a fee of $15.00 is required for each birth, death, or marriage index search conducted, with a copy issued if one is found. If the record is not found, a no-record letter will be provided. The fee is not refundable.
Death Record Search for the years 1880-1895: To search, the county of occurrence and the year must be furnished. A fee of $15.00 for each year and county is required, with a copy issued if one is found. If the record is not found, a no-record letter will be provided. The fee is not refundable.
Marriage Record Search for the years 1880-1915: To search, the county of occurrence and the year must be furnished. A fee of $15.00 for each year and county is required, with a copy issued if one is found. If the record is not found, a no-record letter will be provided. The fee is not refundable.
Iowa census enumerations began in 1850. The final census was taken in 1925. These records are open to the public. For more information, visit or write:
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Library Archives Bureau
State Historical Museum
600 E. Locust Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Genealogical information and assistance may also be obtained by writing to:
Iowa Genealogical Society
628 E. Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50309-1924