Uncovering Your Iowa Family Tree

This past weekend—thanks to the miracle of the Internet—I connected with a third cousin I never knew I had. We share a great-great-grandfather who served in the Iowa infantry during the Civil War and spent the rest of his life in Burlington. When I sent my newfound relative some old family photos, she discovered that her dad and grandpa, named after our common ancestor, were spitting images of their namesake. Our families haven’t been in touch since my grandpa was a boy, so I look forward to all the catching up we have to do!

The Iowa City area offers an array of resources for people like me who are interested in genealogy. Probably the best is the State Historical Society of Iowa’s downtown Iowa City branch at 402 Iowa Avenue. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the society houses the Iowa City Genealogical Society’s library, which contains an extensive collection of records from this state and beyond. The Iowa City Public Library also has a subscription to Ancestry.com that you can use the next time you visit.

If you have Hawkeyes perched in your family tree, you can find yearbooks from as far back as 1892 in the UI Libraries’ University Archives. You can also depend on our very own Alumni Records department, which can put you in touch with long-lost relatives or help you discover a graduate’s connection with the university.

I felt like a detective making a breakthrough in a case when I found my third cousin—much like I experienced when I saw a photo of the ship that my great-grandmother took from Czechoslovakia to Ellis Island, when I discovered an ancestor’s Civil War diary on an online auction site, or when I realized that some sides of my family had been in America long before it was a country. I hope you experience the same thrills as you explore your origins.

Shelbi Thomas
Associate Editor

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