IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

Clayton Co. Iowa Death records

Frequently asked questions (FAQ's)

And other useful information

Q - I know my ggg-grandmother died in Clayton co. about 1872. Why doesn't the courthouse have a record of her death?

In Iowa, death records were 'officially required' to be recorded at the county level, starting on July 1st, 1880. However, compliance was poor, for many reasons. Most people were born and died at home, generally with no or little professional assistance. The doctors were over-worked, or kept poor records; the death may have been unattended; or it may have been inconvenient or difficult for the parents, other family members or neighbors to visit the county courthouse and record the death.

It was not until 1921, that the state enacted stricter legislation requiring all deaths be recorded, and the county records be sent to the state registrar in Des Moines. There were penalties were for those who did not comply.

Q - My gg-grandfather died in 1892, will the county death record, give his mother's name? What other kind of information will I find in a death record?

From 1880 to 1904 information requested for a death included deceased's name, sex, color, age (years, months, days), occupation, marital status, nationality, place of birth, place of death, cause of death, and place of burial.

In 1904, the requested information was expanded to include the names of the deceased's father and mother, including the mother's maiden name, and the parents place of birth (state or county). In addition, a physician was required to certify the cause of death.

From mid-1904 to mid-1906 births and deaths were not required by law to be recorded at the county level. Therefore, only a few births and deaths for these years are available in county records.

Q - Who was responsible for reporting a death?

"Undertakers and coroners are required on or before the 5th day of each month to return to the state registrar certificates of death that have come under their professional or official notice for the month preceding. Clerks of district court report, on forms prescribed by the registrar, all marriages and divorces recorded in their respective offices, and the city. Births are reported by attending physicians, midwives and the people in general, to the clerk of court of the county wherein they occurred." ( Iowa Official Register, 1920/1921)

Q - If my ancestor died before mid-1880 or their death isn't in the county records, where else can I look?

Be sure to check more than indexes to county death records before you assume the death was not reported. Never forget that it is very common to find misspellings in older records of all types. It's also possible that your ancestor may not have spelled his/her name the same as it is spelled now. Be very creative with spellings if you search on-line databases!

Church records, newspapers, cemetery records, census mortality schedules, published county histories, funeral home records, fraternal organization records, estate, probate & pension records are all alternative sources to check. Obituaries of family members often give death dates and other information for more than just the recent decedant.

Make sure you are looking in the right county or state for the record! Deaths were registered and recorded in the county where the person died. This may be different from the county (or state) of residence. Great-grandmother may have been visiting her daughter who lived out-of-state when she died.

Q - Where do I find the cemetery records for Clayton county?

Cemetery burial records are not always easily located and there is no single repository. If the cemetery is associated with a church, the records may have been kept at either local or regional repositories. If a public cemetery (like a town cemetery) the records may be kept by a sexton, caretaker or in the town records. Private family cemeteries may have no record of burials other than in a family Bible or other family papers. Some of the Clayton co. cemeteries have been walked and recorded at one time or another, if you don't find your ancestor listed in one of the cemetery transcriptions on this website, check with the local Clayton co. town libraries to see if they have transcriptions of any of the cemeteries.

Clayton co. was surveyed by the WPA in the 1930's. The records are incomplete and often inaccurate, but certainly worth checking. A link to the complete WPA survey of Clayton co. is on the Death Records Index page on this website (click your 'back' button or the link at the bottom of this page).

If at all possible view your ancestors tombstone, in addition to the usual birth and death dates, they may also include military service, description of relationship in the family, birth place, and even cause of death. A few thousand Clayton co. gravestones have been photographed and can be viewed on the IAGenWeb Special Project: Iowa Gravestone Photo Project (GPP - A link to the Clayton co. section of GPP is on the Death Records Index page on this website - click your 'back' button or the link at the bottom of this page).

-sources for death record timelines:; State Historical Society of Iowa website and Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Health Statistics, Department of Vital Statistics website.

Do you have something to add to this page? Email the Clayton co. Coordinator.

Return to Death Records Index

Return to Clayton County Index