Marieta's Retirement Ramblings

“Iowa Genealogical Research” by Ruby Coleman


Iowa Genealogical Research by Ruby Coleman, self published, 2014, 410 pages, 8 1/2 x 11 format, spiral bound.

Ms. Coleman has done a yeoman’s job of assembling a wide range of information. However, I find some significant inaccuracies in the book. For example, she says that birth, marriage, and death records are found in the District Court office; these records are found in the Recorder’s office. I disagree with the statement “Between 1880 and 1921 only about fifty percent of the births and deaths within the counties were registered (p. 53). Also she says, “There are two State Historical Societies in Iowa.” (p. 43). There is only one State Historical Society, with libraries and archives in two locations: Des Moines and Iowa City.

I don’t understand the organization of her chapter on Ethnic Settlements. The same comment applies to the chapter on Religious Records; what is the arrangement of the information?

The entire book is lacking in source citations. The author has some footnotes, but not nearly enough. At the end of each chapter is a “Suggested Reading” section, but it is obvious that much of the information in the chapter came from additional sources that are not listed either as footnotes or in the Suggested Reading section.

Ms. Coleman presents some interesting information. I appreciated the link to a list of colleges that have closed, merged or changed names. The list of German newspapers by town and timeframe is helpful. And, her information on Institutions and Hospitals, including mental facilities, poor houses and prisons is interesting. The Wars and Military Records section is quite complete. The section on Schools focuses on higher education with very little mention of the country schools and no mention of where country school records may be found. The sections on Cemeteries and City Directories are minimal. The section that lists county histories definitely misses one for Warren County and one for Kossuth County, which makes me wonder how many others are omitted.

The author uses many tinyURL‘s to simplify finding websites, but I found some of these links are broken, and would have much preferred the actual website URL. For example, I tried to locate the list of defunct colleges for which records were transferred to the University of Iowa, but the link was broken (p. 167).

This is a large, unwieldy book that is too heavy (nearly 3 pounds) to place in a lap to read. This guide would be easier to read if the author used a 2-column format with smaller font size. Also, she uses many full-page examples of documents that can be easily found on various websites, such as IAGenWeb, and With better formatting and layout, this book would be physically more manageable.

I wonder if most of the research for this book was done at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and online, not on-site in Iowa’s wonderful libraries and court houses, or by talking with the people who use the records on a regular basis.

Ms. Coleman is a professional genealogy researcher, writer and lecturer in North Platte, Nebraska. She can be contacted at or via her website at