Introducing Historic Iowa Statutory Law and Iowa Law Journals

John L. Cunningham served from Iowa in the Civil War. He died of illness in St. Louis. His widow, Sarah (Foote), and children, including my great-great-grandfather, John B. F. Cunningham, survived. The untimely death impacted the family. Several children were sent to an orphanage.[1]

A genealogist who knows the laws of the time and place where their ancestors lived better understands how the law impacted their decisions and lives. I welcome Iowa to my online law library.

The Iowa Legislature’s website hosts historic territorial and state session laws and compiled laws. The site is more user-friendly for those seeking current laws than historic ones. The quick search requires knowing a law’s citation, and how-to videos focus on finding current laws using known citations. There is a historic compiled law volumes page, but session law volumes are buried.

There is a way to reach the historic session laws. I wrote simple directions on how to find them. Look for the instructions near the Iowa Acts (session laws) link on the Historic Iowa Statutory Law page.

I added links to topical compilations, such as State of Iowa Dairy Law and Iowa Laws Relating to Intoxicating Liquor. Check my links for books focusing on specific topics, like Legal and Political Status of Women in Iowa: An Historical Account of the Rights of Women in Iowa from 1838 to 1918, and History of Poor Relief Legislation in Iowa. While not the law, these accounts explain how Iowa law treated those topics, and may lead to related statutes and case law.

There is also a new Iowa Law Journals page. Do not be intimidated by the title. Articles of interest to genealogists are available. For example, Race Discrimination in Naturalization, The Interests of Survivor in Real Property of Deceased Husband and Wife in Iowa, and The History of Dower in Iowa, all appear in the linked law journals. Some articles, like that on race discrimination, are of national interest and even useful to those without Iowa ancestors.

There are over 180 years of law accessible through the Historic Iowa Statutory Law page. Why not give it a spin?

[1] For military service, death, and orphanage notes: Military Records Index, “Index of Military Records of Jefferson County, Iowa,” data compilation, ( : accessed 9 November 2021), FHL film 1684359, Item 5, DGS 8640460, image 2345 of 2460; entry for John L. Cunningham, Co. H, 30th Iowa Vol. Inf. Reg., died of disease, 15 August 1862, St. Louis, Mo. For orphanage they cite: “Soldiers Orphans Home Records,” Hawkeye Heritage (January 1969), orphans of John L. Cunningham Co. H, 30 Inf. (Iowa) sent from Jeff. Co., W. Scott Cunningham, 13, John B. Cunningham, 10, and Mary E. Cunningham, 8. For widow’s maiden name and marriage information: John L. Cunningham and Sarah Foote marriage record, (unnumbered) 1843, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, in Sarah Cunningham, widow’s pension file, application no. 21585, certificate no. 39293; service of John L. Cunningham (Pvt., Co. H, 30th IA Vol. Inf. Regt., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications … , 1861–1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Record Group 15; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Pension file documents support the military service and death.
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