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Birth, Death, Marriage

A certified copy of a birth, death, or marriage record may be obtained from the county in which the birth or death occurred, and where the marriage license was applied for (this is not always the county where the couple was married.)

Shelby County has a gap in birth records from 1921-1941 and death records from April 1907- April 1922 and 1935-1941. Some records may not be available in our office from those time periods. 

In some cases, a record may be sealed by the State of Iowa and is not available in our office.

Also, birth records from 1987- present may be obtained in any county; death and marriage records from 1954 to the present may be obtained in any county regardless of the county where the event occurred.

Documentation needed to apply for a certified copy when applying from either the county or state office:

  • Application form, signed in front of a Notary Public
  • Clear photocopy of your identification (i.e. driver’s license)
  •  Acceptable payment forms include cash, check, money order, or credit card to Shelby County Recorder or Iowa Department of Public Health, if the application is being sent to Des Moines.

Marriage Licenses


You may apply for a Marriage License at any County Recorder/Registrar in Iowa if the ceremony is to be performed in Iowa. Marriage applications are accepted in Shelby County between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.

A Marriage License may be applied for in person or by mail:

** Please be sure to include phone number(s) & the address you’d like your certified copy mailed to once you’re married.

If applying in person:

  • The parties to be married and one witness all must be 18 years of age or older) must appear in person.
  • All three people must present photo identification (driver’s license, state ID, or passport)
  • $35.00 application fee, which includes the cost of a certified copy of the Marriage Certificate
  • Payable in cash, by check, money order, or credit card, payable to Shelby County Recorder.

If applying by mail:

  • The signatures of the parties to be married and one witness (all must be 18 years of age or older) must be notarized by a Notary Public in the state in which it was signed.
  • A copy of photo identification is required of all 3 parties.
  • $35.00 application fee, as stated above.

In Shelby County, the marriage license is issued after a four (4) day waiting period. Either of the parties to be married is requested to pick up the marriage license unless they authorize in writing someone else to pick it up. Once the license is picked up, the actual marriage may occur. The license must be picked up within six (6) months of the date of application; once it is picked up it is good forever.

The officiant is responsible for returning the Certificate of Marriage to the Recorder/Registrar within fifteen (15) days after the date of marriage. The individuals are reminded to sign their names as they will be after marriage; all signatures must be in black ink, as per state regulations. After the Certificate is received by the County Recorder/Registrar and placed of record, a certified copy will be mailed to the couple at the address provided by the couple.

Additional Information

Iowa Department of Public Health

Contact Information

Shelby County Courthouse
612 Court Street
Harlan, Iowa 51537