Skip to Main Content

Genealogy Research Guide

This guide is intended to assist genealogists in knowing what resources are available in the ISU Library and through the Internet. It also includes some information on genealogy resources at Ames Public Library and the Iowa Genealogical Society Library.

1950 Census

Other Census Records

Most of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire; however,some of it is still available to researchers. For more information see the link below.

The 1940 Census is available online and you can browse specific geographic areas as well as search for names in it. This census asked a number of questions that were not included in previous censuses. Besides name, age, relationship, and occupation, the 1940 census included questions about internal migration; employment status; participation in the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Progress Administration (WPA), and National Youth Administration (NYA) programs; and years of education.

Many genealogy websites and search engines cover content of the U.S. censuses; however, there are times when it is simply better or easier to browse individual areas of the census records directly. Most of the older censuses were handwritten and it can be exceedingly difficult for indexes to list some names correctly.

The United States census has been taken every ten years starting in 1790. The U.S. Census is arranged by state - so there is a section of each U.S. Census for Iowa. The ISU Library has microfilm copies of the original census records for 1840-1930 - but only for Iowa counties.

Population Schedules of the...Census of the United States...Iowa
HA 371.5 (Year) C45x - microfilm - Media Center
The Media Center has 1840-1880, 1880 Soundex, 1900, 1900 Soundex, 1910-1930
1890 is not available, the records were destroyed by fire at the National Archives.
This set contains individual handwritten household records as collected by census takers. The information collected varies with each census, but can include name, age, race, sex, marital status, household relationships, physical and mental disabilities, education, occupation, where migrated from, and parents place of birth. The Soundex is a somewhat complicated name index created specifically for use with census records. It allows researchers to search for similar sounding names - to help assist with errors due to illegible handwriting and the general lack of knowledge in how some names should be spelled.

Iowa State Census - the state did publish an independent census outside of the Federal census in some years, e.g., 1856, 1859, 1915, 1925. The 1925 census in particular asked a number of excellent questions that were never asked in other census years. These are, unfortunately, not available at ISU. The Ames Public Library has 1856, 1885 and 1895. They also have the Iowa State Census of 1915 and 1925 for Story County ONLY.

Census of Iowa - was issued from 1856-1925; however, this is not of use to genealogists. It does not list individuals living in Iowa, rather it summarizes information about Iowans as reported in the census - e.g., number of widowed people living in x county, the number of farmers, etc.

Other books about the U.S. census, and Iowa census indexes for 1840-1860, are available in the Media Center Reference area (Lower Level).

The Iowa Genealogical Society Library (IGS) has census records of the Sac & Fox Indians of the Mississippi living at the settlement in Tama, Iowa. With few exceptions, the census covers the period from 1891 – 1939. Visit the IGS Native American Records page for more details.

Ames Public Library has access to Library Edition (in library use only) and Heritage Quest.

Heritage Quest is an online index to Federal Census Records from 1790-1940. The ISU Library does not have a subscription to this; however, anyone with an Ames Public Library card can access it. Library Edition is a strong complement to Heritage Quest.

Visit the Ames Public Library Genealogy databases page for more information.

Your Librarian

Profile Photo
Lorrie Pellack
Head, Research & Instruction Services Dept.
150c Parks Library
Ames, IA 50011-2140
Phone: 515-294-5569