Oregon Genealogy – Guide to Ancestry and Family Tree Records

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In the 1500s and 1600s, it is believed that sailors from both England and Spain sailed along the coast of what is now Oregon. However, it wasn’t until 1778 that the Northwest Passage was charted by Captain James Cook. Then Captain Robert Gray came to the area in the Columbia and named the river that he found the Columbia, after his ship. At that time, the area was claimed for the United States by him.

The famous explorers Lewis and Clark explored the region in 1805. Then, in 1811, the Astoria fur depot was founded by John Jacob Astor. The Hudson Bay Company and the American settlers had many disputes over land control. However, the Oregon Treaty, which was enacted in 1846, brought an end to those disputes, since it stated that the region was firmly out of British control and in the hands of the United States.

Oregon is located in the northwestern part of the United States. It’s capital, Salem, is located in the state’s northwestern section. Washington borders it to the north and shares the Columbia River with it. Idaho is to its east and over 50 percent of that border is defined by Hells Canyon and the Snake River. Both California and Nevada border Oregon to its south. They share similar desert and mountain topography. The Pacific Ocean makes up Oregon’s western border, which is part of why the western part of the state has such a mild climate.

Oregon is the 33rd state to join the Union, which it did on  February 14, 1859. It is a state that is quite physically diverse. It features plains, valleys, plateaus, deserts, and mountains. The eastern deserts are harsh and dry, while the western regions of the state are more lush and fertile. The state also includes many natural wonders, including: Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Caves National Monument, Crater Lake National Park, Central Oregon “Moon Country”

The so-called “Moon Country” is a region that has been used for astronaut training back in the 1960s due to the lava field landscape.

Oregon, which is believed to have gotten its name from the Native Americans, also has many forest-filled mountains in both its northeastern and western areas, which are a large part of the state’s economic support system. In fact, a large part of the country’s soft plywood, paper, pulp, hardboard, and softwood lumber all come from Oregon forests. Oregon is one of the country’s top suppliers of products made from wood.

The state’s Columbia River system is also economically beneficial to residents, since it supplies recreational water, electricity, shipping channels, and irrigation water. However, it is the Willamette River Valley that is the state’s major hub. That area is home to the major cities of Salem, Portland, and Eugene, as well as many agricultural areas.

Oregon has an area of 97,048 square miles, which is 251,353 square kilometers. Its population in 2010 was 2,831,074. As of 2012, it had an estimated population of 3,899,353.

Getting Started with Oregon Genealogy and Family Trees

Oregon Genealogy Tips & Hints – Now a very popular location for people to relocate, the state of Oregon has a much more diverse and lengthy history than most realize. A strong Native American background, plus the history associated with early exploration, the Gold Rush, and immigration from Asia have created a heavy demand for Oregon genealogy materials.

Begin Looking for Oregon Genealogy Information – Where do you find such materials? They are going to be “online” and “offline” resources found in a large number of locations. Because the modern era is one of digitized information, many places have started to convert their collections into online databases when possible. This means that as you begin searching for Oregon genealogy materials, you will be able to begin in front of your computer, where you will harvest data and even order copies of documents.

When you discover that your resources are not digitized, you can still look for Oregon genealogy data on the Internet before traveling to any location, and ensure you will be able to obtain what you need. It is important to spend time identifying such resources for Oregon genealogy in order to discover which are the best online tools for your project.

Resources for Oregon Genealogy Data – A researcher will quickly learn that their search tends to begin in the public records. These are also among the most commonly found of the online tools for Oregon genealogy too. They fall under the following categories:

  • State Records – from probate information to surname lists, state census information, private manuscripts, newspapers, military or veterans information, marriage details, maps, land records, genealogical folders, estate information, deeds, death records, cemetery information, birth certificates and more, these are records usually available as online and offline resources for Oregon genealogy.
  • Local Records – researchers looking for Oregon genealogy data will need to visit a county clerk’s office at some point should data be unavailable in the online format. They may also have to head to the local genealogical societies, small local libraries, historical societies, and school or college libraries for Oregon genealogy information as these are the places that are usually offline and/or open only by appointment or special arrangement.
  • Vital Records – these include the birth, marriage, divorce and death records from county, state, and national archives, and can also contain census records, cemetery or obituary information, immigration and naturalization details, newspaper items, military records, passenger lists and records as well. These are available as online and offline resources for Oregon genealogy.

Resources for Oregon Genealogy Materials – Where are the best resources found? Below is a list of the primary resources for targeted information for Oregon genealogy research:

  • Oregon Vital Records, P.O. Box 14050, Portland, OR 97293-0050. This is where you can find birth, death, marriage and divorce records via a written request or even through an online form.

Additional state and local records can be found at the:

  • Oregon State Archives, 800 Summer St. NE, Salem, OR 97310; Their genealogical page is a main resource for Oregon genealogy because it links directly to digitized sources. They have everything from vital records to land information dating back to the early 1800s.

Also, consider using the Oregon Genealogical page at: http://www.oregongenealogicalsociety.org/.

Also, these websites give researchers a tremendous amount of state-specific details for those in search for Oregon genealogy data.


Oregon Ethnic Group Research

Washington and Oregon had similar Native American population histories. Generally, the fur traders and the Spaniards in California did not have any impact on coastal tribes. Nevertheless, the middle of the 1800s saw many tribes losing their lands and being placed on reservations in the following places: Most Chinookan – Warm Springs and Grande Ronde Reservations in Oregon, Yakima Reservation in Washington, Athapascan – Siletz Reservation, Umpqua – Grand Ronde, Kusan and Yakonan – Siletz Reservation, Oregon Salishan – Grande Ronde and Siletz Reservations, Most Kalapooian – Grand Ronde and Siletz Reservations, Most Molala – Grande Ronde, Klamath – Klamath Reserve, Modoc – Klamath Reserve, Quapaw Reservation in Oklahoma, Oregon Shahaptian – Umatilla Reservation, Northern Paiutes – Klamath Reservation.

Early Catholic mission and parish registers, which are widely available, may contain information on native Americans who converted to Catholicism.

The Seattle National Archives-Pacific Alaska Region has several microfilmed Native American records on file. Those include records from the following agencies: Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency, Toledo, Oregon (1863-1954) available records include: General Correspondence and Decimal Files, School Records, Heirship Cards, Maps, Annuity Payrolls, Ledgers for Accounts of Individual Indians, Vital Statistics, Census Rolls, Health Reports, Social Service Case Files, Court Records, Tribal Constitutions, Records Concerning Land Allotments and Sales, Forestry Records, Civilian Conservation Corps Work Records, Relief and Rehabilitation Records.

The Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency was started in 1856 to cover those who had been moved from various parts of Oregon to the Coast Reservation. That generally included members of the Klamath, Joshua, Chastacosta, Chetco, Rogue River, and Sixes (Kwatami) tribes.

Klamath Indian Agency, Klamath Falls, Oregon (1865- 1960) available records include: General Subject Files, Tribal Election Ballots, Business Committee and General Council Minutes, Klamath Loan Board Files, Records Concerning Irrigation, Allotments and Other Land Transactions, Forestry Records, Grazing Records, Agricultural Extension Records, Accounts of Individual Indians, Law and Order records, annuity Records, Medical Care Records.

In 1872, Klamath gained its status as a full agency covering the Pit River, “Snake,” Modoc, Shoshone, and Klamath tribes.

Portland Area Office, Portland, Oregon (1902-64) available records include: Program Planning Records, Columbia Basin Inter-Agency Committee Minutes, Correspondence and Reports Concerning Schools, Grazing Permits, Welfare Case Files, Tribal Constitutions, Legal Case Files, Allotment Ledgers, Land Allotments and Sales Records, Land Classifications, Heirship Records, Forestry Records, Irrigation Records, Road Construction Records, Tribal Welfare Records, Health Records.

Umatilla Indian Agency, Pendleton, Oregon (1862-1964) records available include: General Correspondence, School Records, Tribal Rolls, Records Concerning Farming and Grazing Leases, Civilian Conservation Corps Program Records, Individual Indian Accounts, Land Allotments, Heirship Records, Family Histories, Medical Treatment Records, Law Enforcement Records, Court Case Records, Economic and Social Surveys.

The Umatilla Indian Agency was started in 1861 and presided over the Walla Walla, Cayese, and Umatilla tribes at first, although other tribes were later added.

Warm Springs Indian Agency, Warm Springs, Oregon (1861-1952) available records include: General Correspondence and Decimal Files, School Attendance Records, Land and Survey Field Notes, A Tract Book, Cattle Sales Reports, Ledgers and Abstracts of Individual Indian Accounts, Appropriation Land Allotment Ledgers, Census Records, A Family History Record, Individual Indian History Cards, Court Dockets, Birth and Death Registers, Medical Reports, Tribal Council Records, Records Concerning Lease Payments, Forestry Records, Civilian Conservation Corps Programs, Road Records, Per Capita Payment Records.

Warm Springs Indian Agency was started in 1851 and presided over the Northern Paiute, John Day, Wasco, Tenino, and Warm Springs tribes.

The records at the Chemawa Indian School are full of useful information about the history of Native Americans. It was established in 1880, at Forest grove, Oregon. However, it was moved to Chemawa, north of Salem, in 1885. So, it has been known as both the Salem Indian School and the Chemawa Indian School. Students from everywhere in the Pacific Northwest attended that school. Records that are still available from the school include: General Correspondence and Decimal Files, Descriptive Statements About Children, Applications for Admission, Attendance Records, Student Health Cards, Student and Graduate Student Case Files, Ledgers for Accounts of Individual Indians.

The FHL and the National Archives-Pacific Alaska Region in Seattle, Washington have those records on file.