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Iowa Land Records

Identifier: MsC0108

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Scope and Contents

The Iowa Land Records Collection includes both primary and processed data. The original records consist of Xerox reprints of the County Recorders' Books of Original Entry of fifty-three counties, printed from microfilm copies taken in the respective county seats. These books, usually one per county, are available for the following counties: Appanoose, Benton, Blackhawk, Boone, Buchanan, Calhoun, Carroll, Cedar, Clarke, Clayton, Clinton, Dallas, Davis, Decatur, Delaware, Des Moines, Dubuque, Greene, Grundy, Guthrie, Hamilton, Hardin, Henry, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Jones, Keokuk, Lee, Linn, Louisa, Lucas, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Ringgold, Scott, Story, Tama, Union, VanBuren, Wapello, Warren, Washington, Wayne, and Webster.

"Also among the primary sources in the collection are microfilm copies of several Iowa state land-office tract books on file in the office of the Secretary of State at Des Moines. These typewritten tract books, compiled as a WPA project in the 1930s, record the disposition of the special land grants to the state from the United States government, specifically, the Sixteenth Section grant (School lands), Internal Improvement (500,000-acre) grant, Saline grant, University grant, Agricultural College grant, Five-Section grant, Des Moines River Improvement grant, Iowa City town lot auction book, and a volume of miscellaneous conveyances to the state. All of the original entry records, whether federal or state, contain similar information -- the legal description of each tract and its exact acreage, the name of the purchaser, purchase date, consideration paid, and often the method of payment, i.e., cash, land warrant, or donation."

"The processed records include a rich variety of computer-tabulated listings of the original records that were abstracted from some 58 Books of Original Entry and 299 early Deed Registers. Most valuable are the alphabetical and chronological listings of all items in the Books of Original Entry of the thirty-three full counties of Royce Cession 262 and the nineteen selected townships (one per county) in Cessions 175, 226, and 244 of eastern Iowa. The alphabetical listings are arranged by grantor and the chronological listings are by year of entry," i.e., the sale date. Both listings are grouped by individual counties (or townships) and also by the two major cession areas of southcentral and eastern Iowa. The tabulations include summary statistics of all entries in the various groups, including annual sales figures. The entries of the large buyers -- those who acquired 600 acres or more in the thirty-three counties of south central Iowa -- are also grouped separately in alphabetical order by individuals and in sub-groups by year and by county. The tabulations of the deed records include alphabetical and chronological listings of all land transactions after original entry through 1849 in the nineteen eastern counties (through 1856 for four selected counties-Clayton, Delaware, Johnson, Linn), and through 1860 for the thirty-three south central counties. A special tabulation of the eastern data lists all grantors who had ten or more sales or who had aggregate sales totaling more than 500 acres prior to the end of 1849."

From Swierenge, Robert P. "The Iowa Land Records Collection: Periscope to the Past." Books at Iowa, Vol. 13:No.20,pp. 25-30.

In 1984, Robert Swierenga donated papers and microfilms he had created or gathered in his research. These include James Easley papers; microfilm of tax sales and state land grants; photocopies of manuscript collections, including those for Nathan Gordon, John Honeyman, Andrew Startett, and the Roebling Land Warrant Receipts; and photocopies of volumes of land sales records.


  • Creation: 1850-1970


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.


30.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Books of Original Entry of fifty-two eastern and central Iowa counties and computer print-outs of data abstracted from these books and from Deed record books arranged chronologically and alphabetically.

Method of Acquisition

The core of this collection was donated to the University of Iowa in 1965 by George B. Pletsch, Attorney of Record for the Sac and Fox Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. It was augmented in 1984, when Robert Swierenga donated copies of his research on land records to the University.

Related Materials

A state-supported effort to provide public access to land records is available at The content of this database may or may not duplicate or overlap the present collection, and its early iteration (circa 2007) was partially taken down in response to concern about private information that may have been inadvertantly revealed. None the less, it is very much worthwhile to check the site as it will permit machine-searching of many records of land transactions across the state of Iowa. Swierenga, Robert P. " The Iowa Land Records Collection: Periscope to the Past." Books at Iowa,13:20 (illus), 25 -- 30 Virginia Heritage, A Guide to the Papers of James S. Easley, 1837 - 1904. Easley was a speculator in midwest land, and this collection includes correspondence, daybooks, ledgers, land lists and maps. Plat maps indicate Easley was active in Hancock and Woodbury counties, as well as in Sioux City, Iowa. Once at the website, click on "Complete Guide" to view the box contents of this collection.

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)