Oregon Emigration and Immigration

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Early Migrations

  • Early 1800s, traders and trappers came into the area from Canada, Russia, Latin America and the United States.
  • 1811, John Jacob Astor, an American, established the first white settlement in Oregon.
  • 1830s and 1840s, other settlements were created in the Willamette River valley. These settlers generally came from midwestern and eastern states, Canada and Russia.
  • 1843, a provisional government was set up by American settlers.
  • In the same year, over 900 more Americans arrived, mostly from Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa.

Oregon Donation Land Claim Act

  • see (ch. 76, 9 Stat. 496, September 27, 1850), a federal act.
  • The Oregon Donation Act of 1850 guaranteed free land to those who settled and cultivated the land before 1 December 1855. 7,437 patents were issued before the expiration of the Act.
  • New settlers surged into the Oregon Territory, primarily from the Mississippi River valley, the Midwest and the South.
  • Foreign-born immigrants came mainly from Canada, Germany, Scandinavia, England and Russia.

Gold Discovery

  • 1860, gold discovery at Pierce, in northern Idaho made Portland an important trade depot.
  • 1862, gold discovery at what was Auburn, Oregon by Henry Griffin and David Littlefield opened up settlement of the Eastern Oregon.
  • The completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1883 going up north from California, brought many new settlers into Oregon. This was Oregon's first transcontinental rail connection.
  • Later immigrants came from China, Japan, the Philippines and Latin America.
  • By 1889, the Oregon Short Line connected Union Pacific Railway with Oregon Railway and Navigation Company at Huntington, Oregon brought in more settlers faster in more direct link from the East Coast.
  • A helpful source on overland migration is William Adrian Bowen, The Willamette Valley: Migration and Settlement on the Oregon Frontier (Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 1978; FamilySearch.org Family History Library book 979.53 X4b; fiche 6101360).


  • There are no known lists of passengers arriving in Oregon ports (such as Astoria, Coos Bay (then Marshfield,) Portland and Tillamook).
  • Records of ethnic groups and shipping enterprises are available at the Oregon Historical Society Library.


  • The Oregon-California Trails Association is an educational organization that promotes the story of the westward migration to Oregon, among other places. Their site includes a personal name index to trail diaries, journals, reminiscences, autobiographies, newspaper articles, guidebooks and letters at http://www.paper-trail.org/.


  • Records of minorities, such as the Basques, Swedes and Chinese, are listed in the FamilySearch.org catalog under the group-Oregon (e.g. Swedes - Oregon, Chinese - Oregon, etc.)

Native Americans

  • For records of Native Americans, see Indians of Oregon on this site. Some of these tribes are the Cayuse, Klamath, Modoc, Nez Perce, Paiute, Tillamook, and Umatilla.