Oregon has been the home of more than 20 Native American tribes. It’s natural resources attracted the Spanish, the Russians, the English and a host of others looking for riches and a better life. It was the destination of those who traveled the Oregon Trail starting in Independence, Missouri. If your ancestors are from Oregon, their story is likely one of adventure and conflict.
The Oregon Territory was established in 1848 and covered what is present day Oregon, Washington, Idaho, as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming. The Territory was split into Oregon and Washington Territories in 1853. Oregon became a state in 1859 and the rest of the area was assigned to the Washington Territory.
The first settlements in the area were in the late 1700s and by the 1800s a variety of settlers and explorers were descending upon the state. In 1850, gold was discovered in Rogue River Valley area. The Donation Land Claim Act, that same year, allowed settlers to claim 160 to 320 acres for free in return for working the land for 5 years. And both a husband and a wife could make individual claims. If your ancestors settled around this time, make sure you look for land records for both.
Oregonians participated on the Union side of the Civil War, but during the 1860’s with the Homestead Act, many were moving to the state in hopes of finding a better life.
By the late 1800s the Railroads were being completed and new immigrants used them instead of the Oregon Trail as means of moving to the area.
The Oregon State Guide will give you timeline of events in the state as well as quick links to useful resources for finding your ancestors.
You can also check out the rest of our state guides on this page.
The 1800s also saw many wars between recent settlers and Native American people; most resulted in Native Americans being relocated into Indian reservations throughout the Oregon and Washington Territories.