Oregon Emigration and Immigration

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Portal:United States Emigration and Immigration >Oregon


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 Family History Library 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.

Web Sites


Oregon Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.