Anecdote Regarding:
Destruction of Poor Farm Records in Floyd County, Iowa
from Angie       Email:   angie-web@webtv.net

Mom and I spent a day, a few years ago, in Charles City, Iowa. We visited cemeteries, obtained dates of death from gravestones, then visited the courthouse. We obtained death certificates for Great Uncle Fred and Great Uncle Otto Schultz, but could not find any government record of their father, Carl Schultz, who died in 1888 while working at the county poor farm. 

It was sad to learn that Otto spent his last years at the Floyd County Home-which used to be the county poor farm, where his father had died so long before. Leaving the courthouse, I had a last minute inspiration.  Most counties still have "county relief" offices in the courthouse.  So we inquired about such an office and were directed to the basement.  

When we walked in, I noticed a cart filled with file folders with names on them. We spoke with the woman in the office and explained we were searching for our ancestors.  We asked what kind of records might still exist from the county poor farm. She had this distressed look on her face almost immediately. 

She motioned at the cart and said that the County Attorney had ordered the old records burned for lack of storage space. (This county has a large historical museum, by the way.) She said half the records were already gone. 

I was stunned and almost had tears in my eyes as I explained to her how I never knew Uncle Otto, but that I had inherited his photo album of pictures and how cute it was that he had loved his dogs so much, and I explained of his father dying in 1888 and he dying at the same location 60yrs later and how sad that was. She excused herself from the room and I peeked at the top folder in the cart.  It contained almost 100 yr old records!  

When she came back … I couldn't believe it! …she handed me a banking folder with Otto's name on it (which gave me his handwriting and a middle initial I didn’t have before!) and inside was an assortment of account records which had his uncle, my Great Great Uncle Carl Kley, listed as financial co-signer. There was even a tax statement about the dog license 

We last went to the town library to look up the obituaries. We learned that not only had the Schultz name died out with these two uncles, but that Otto and his wife never had children. 

The last coincidence was amazing. Great Uncle Fred's daughter had been the county relief director in that county for many, many, years! If my parents’ generation had begun searching for their roots earlier, just imagine what an open door that would have been! I wonder what she would have thought about all those records being burned?!

Return to IOWA             HOME