Iowa’s First Europeans

the Des Moines River, Van Buren County, Iowa

Morning mist along the Des Moines River,
Van Buren County, Iowa. Photograph by author.

Long before Thomas Jefferson authorized the Louisiana Purchase, and long before Lewis and Clark’s famous journey up Iowa’s western border Missouri River, Europeans explored, trapped, and traded in the “land between two rivers.” Most of us are familiar with the journeys of La Salle, Marquette and Jolliet, but they were soon followed by other adventurers.

Between 1673 and 1803, the central part of the North American continent was controlled by France and Spain. They, along with the British, vied for supremacy in the lucrative Native American fur trade. Fur was king, and traders expanded spheres of national influence as they crisscrossed the vast western frontier. Continue reading

Native Peoples

Native American tribes associated with Iowa belonged to two major families:

  • Chief Black Hawk

    Chief Black Hawk

    Sioux (Dakotahs) family included related tribes Ioway, Omahas, Winnebagoes, Osages, Sisseons, Missouris and Otoes. These tribes migrated from the eastern Great Lakes region to present-day central and northern Iowa, southern Minnesota, and the Dakotas.

  • Algonquin family consisted of the Illinois, Sauk (Sac), Fox (Meskwaki), Chippewas, Attouays and Pottawattamies. These tribes occupied northern Missouri and southern Iowa.

The state of Iowa derives its name from the Ioway tribe, who migrated to southeastern Iowa in the late 1700s, settling in the vicinity of present-day Davis, Van Buren and Wapello counties. They were pushed out of these lands by other tribes in the 1820s and moved into central and southwestern Iowa. Between 1820 and 1840, the tribe ceded its lands in Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri and relocated to reservations in Kansas and Nebraska. Continue reading

An Iowa Reading List

As I write this, Iowa still has some winter days left. It’s the perfect time to pull the chair closer to the fire, put your feet up, and delve into a good book. Before the winds turn mild and you hit the highway for your Iowa heritage road trip, take the opportunity explore our state through the written word. A number of published histories provide an overview of Iowa’s past. These are great starting-point resources for understanding your Iowa ancestor.

  • historyofiowafro04guebBergman, Marvin, ed. Iowa History Reader. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1996.
  • Gue, Benjamin F. History of Iowa: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century. 4 vols. New York: Century History Co., 1903. Available online, Internet Archive: http://www.archive.org.
  • Harlan, Edgar Rubey. A Narrative History of the People of Iowa. 5 vols. Chicago & New York:American Historical Society, 1931.
  • Sage, Leland L. A History of Iowa. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1974.
  • Schwieder, Dorothy. Iowa: The Middle Land. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1996.
  • Schwieder, Dorothy. Patterns and Perspectives in Iowa History. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1973.

annalsiowa00harlgoogState Historical Society of Iowa publications have preserved Iowa heritage since 1863. Many of these are indexed, and older issues have been digitized.

  • Annals of Iowa: A Quarterly Journal of History. 1863 – present.
  • Iowa Historical Record and Iowa Journal of History and Politics. 1885 – 1948. State Historical Society of Iowa, 1903 – 1961.
  • Palimpsest and Iowa Heritage Illustrated.1920 – present.

Grab a cup of cocoa and your fuzzy slippers– your Iowa adventure awaits!

A Year “Between Two Rivers”

Territorial Iowa has long held a fascination for me—I’ve researched the experiences of my own family and others who arrived early in Iowa lands and helped forge the twenty-ninth state.

Iowa District, Wisconsin Territory

Iowa District, Wisconsin Territory 1836 [1]

From the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 until Iowa attained statehood in 1846 and through the first pioneer years of statehood, the “land between two rivers” has played its part in the development of the great American frontier. Although legal settlement did not officially begin until 1833, the land was populated with Native Americans and trailblazing pioneers before that date and boomed in the years that followed. Documentary evidence for these early inhabitants can be challenging to locate, but rewarding in its discovery.

This year I’d like to take us back in time to those long-ago days—let’s explore the land “between two rivers” together.

  1. Henry J. Abel, “The Entire Territory of Wisconsin, As Established by Act of Congress, April 10, 1836,” Map of the Settled Part of Wisconsin Territory compiled from the Latest Authorities by Aug. Mitchell (Philadelphia: J.H. Young, 1838); digital image, Cartography Associates, David Rumsey Map Collection (http://www.davidrumsey.com : accessed 1 January 2016).

Christmas Wishes

Christmas 2015 - Copy

The earth has grown old with its burden of care, but at Christmas it always is young, the heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair, and its soul full of music breaks the air, when the song of angels is sung. –– Phillip Brooks

We wish our clients, colleagues and friends the blessings of peace, goodwill, faith and family this Christmas season and in year ahead.

Genealogical Proof Standard: Written Conclusions

by Alice Hoyt Veen, CG [note: this article appeared in the November 2015 issue of the Iowa Genealogical Society newsletter]

GPS graphicYou’ve asked a focused question, conducted a “reasonably exhaustive search,” analyzed, correlated and resolved all the evidence. Now share what you know! At its most basic, a written genealogical conclusion is simply a statement of fact connected to its source by way of a source citation. Continue reading

Genealogical Proof Standard: Resolving Conflicts: Therapy for Problematic Evidence

by Alice Hoyt Veen, CG [note: this article appeared in the September 2015 issue of the Iowa Genealogical Society newsletter]

Mind Map Data Analysis

Mind Map Data Analysis

You’ve crafted a focused research question, conducted a thorough search of relevant sources, pulled out the evidence that might answer your question, and correlated your findings. Now what? If the evidence is clear, uncontested & reliable, hooray! You can skip GPS Step 4 and go right to Step 5: writing your conclusions. But if the data includes major inconsistencies or disagreements that impact your ability to arrive at a confident solution, it’s time to put your evidence on the analyst’s couch and provide some therapeutic intervention for those troubled sources. Continue reading

Genealogical Proof Standard: Analysis & Correlation– Part 2

by Alice Hoyt Veen, CG [note: this article appeared in the July 2015 issue of the Iowa Genealogical Society newsletter]

Correlation table

Correlation table

Our last post discussed analyzing each piece of evidence found in each source. We recognized that a single source may contain various types of information and evidence, and that a single source may provide evidence of varying degrees of reliability.  That’s why it’s so important to conduct your search over a broad range of sources: you can correlate what you find and arrive at a sound conclusion. Continue reading

Genealogical Proof Standard: Analysis & Correlation– Part 1

by Alice Hoyt Veen, CG [note: this article appeared in the May 2015 issue of the Iowa Genealogical Society newsletter]

Martha L Martin Wilson death certificateWe’ve explored basics of source analysis by defining the differences between resources, sources, information and evidence. Now let’s analyze those sources in the context of their value and reliability for answering research questions.

We access many sources in our quest for information that produces evidence. Good news: any source can be right! Bad news: any source can be wrong! Confusing news: some sources can be both right and wrong!

How can this be? Let’s work through an example step-by-step with this death certificate for Martha Lydia Wilson. [1] Continue reading

Destiny of a “Dark Horse”

James A. Garfield 20th President 4 March - 19 September 1881

James A. Garfield
20th President
4 March – 19 September 1881

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, by Candice Millard. New York: Anchor Books, 2011. 198 pp. Photographs, index, source notes. Paperback.

Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield, by Kenneth D. Ackerman. Falls Church, Virginia: Viral History Press, 2011. 486 pp. Photographs, index, source notes. Paperback.

It has been some time since I last offered a book review from reading through the U.S. Presidents. Frankly, when it came to James Garfield, my initial enthusiasm was lacking—after all, what could possibly be said about a man who served less than a year in office? Continue reading