Your Guide to Researching Oregon Ancestors

State Capital: Salem
Territory: 1848, included land that was later to become Washington, Idaho, western Montana and a small part of Wyoming.
Admitted as the 33rd state in 1859
First mostly extant federal census: 1850 Oregon Territory Census
Statewide birth and death registration: 1903+
Marriage records prior to 1906 are available from the county; 1906+ they are kept at both the state and county level.
Federal (Public) land state

Find What is Available at the Family History Library

First, bookmark or print out these FHL documents:

Use the catalog at the FHL to find out what has been filmed covering the Oregon ; Click View Related Places in the upper right to find sources that have been filmed for the county you are researching and once there click View Related Places in the upper right to find sources that have been filmed for the township or city. You will want to check for resources in all three jurisdictions, although most people check the county holdings first, township next and state last.


State Sites : There are websites that try to provide free information for each state and each county of the state. Check to see what is available on each of these site; the USGenWeb site will have the most.

  • Oregon USGen Web (use the county clickable map or scroll down to use an alphabetical list to find what's available for each of the counties in the state of Oregon).

    The sites below will usually have substantially less information, but are worth checking:
  • ALHN Oregon page; scroll down to see the variety of links at the statewide level before checking the list of what is available for the various counties.
  • AHGP Oregon page.
  • Genealogy Trails Oregon page

Visit and explore the websites of these libraries, archives and societies.

The Oregon State Library partners with the Willamette Genealogical Society to offer some research services. Note there is a fee schedule

The Oregon State Archives website includes a County Records Guide, which describes the records held for each county in Oregon and a Historical Records Index, which is constantly growing.

The Genealogical Forum of Oregon maintains several indexes that can be searched. Also, visit the websites of other genealogical societies in Oregon.

Oregon is served by the Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle) of the National Archives

Visit the website of the public library in the city you are researching to see what they have available for family historians; also check the libraries of large cities that are in the county of or near that city.

Cemetery Records

  • Search online Oregon Cemeteries at Cemetery Junction's Oregon Page
  • Check, where you can find online Oregon trascriptions by county.
  • See if the cemetery you need has been done by the Tombstone Transcription Project for Oregon (scroll down)
  • ObituaryCentral's cemetery searches for Oregon
  • Select the Oregon county page of interest for the USGenWeb Oregon site to see if there is a cemetery section.
  • If you can't find a cemetery online, perhaps there is a cemetery look-up volunteer in the area you need.
  • Check the Family History Library Catalog for Oregon counties to find transcriptions, but once in a county be sure to click the RELATED PLACES button and find the city or town you are researching. Often cemetery listings are there instead of at the county pages.

Census Both federal and state/territorial census records exist for Oregon.

Land Records

Oregon Land Records overview

Early settlerment was encouraged by the promise of land, offered through the donation land claim act.

Land Records at the National Archives Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle) describes the records relevant to the original distribution of land, which was granted by the federal government. These records have been filmed and the Donation Land claim records are available through the Family History Library. You will want to first use the Abstracts, which serve as an index to the Oregon claims to get the certificate number. Then order the appropriate film from the original files.

This bibliography of donation land resources at the Oregon State Library describes the various documents and provides a list of further sources for researching donation land claims.

An 1887 list of Oregon claims has been digitized and made available by the Oregon Secretary of State. (because this is handwritten it is not searchable and the advertised searchable transcription is a bad link; I've contacted the webmaster to see if they will correct this.)

Oregon State Archives topical guide to Oregon land records.


Naturalizations prior to 1906 will be recorded in the courts at the county level. Some naturalization certificates of earlier settlers were filed with the donation land files, but are not included in the microfilmed records, although they are held at the National Archives.

Check the Family History Library topic Naturalization as well as the tone titled Naturalization indexes for statewide records. Check the topic Naturalization under the Oregon County you are researching.

Some counties have been indexed and can be searched at the Oregon State Archive's Digital Library (those linked). See also the Oregon State Archives's topical guide to Oregan naturalization records.


Oregon State Archives topical guide to Oregon military records


The Oregon Newspaper Project is coordinated by the University of Oregon has filemed many Oregon newspapers, which can be borrowed on interlibraryloan.



Oregon State Archives topical guide to Oregon military records

Vital Records

Birth and death records are recored at the state level beginning in 1906; marriages in 1903 and divorces in 1925. There are earlier birth, death and marriage records in some counties; you are more likely to find earlier marriage records than birth or death. Remember to ascertain when the county was formed to know where to look.

To find what records are available from the Family History Library for each county in Oregon, select the county of interest and open up the link for vital records. Check also the statewide holdings under the subject heading vital records and see what is available on film at the state level. Check also for vital records at the city level for Portland.

Oregon Death Records and Indexes online

Orgegon State Archives topical guide to Oregon vital records.

Some Oregon marriage records are included in the Western States Historical Marriage Records Index. To learn which counties are included, view the list of counties by state.

Any Black sheep in the family?

Look for any Oregon Black Sheep Ancestors

Help! Queries and Lookups

  • A Directory of genealogy lookup volunteers : Oregon
  • Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness: Oregon
  •'s GenForums: Oregon (this board doesn't break down into counties)
  •'s Oregon County Message Boards. (this link takes you to the Rootsweb interface, but both sites link to the same database)

More links

Reference Sources

There is nothing more helpful that a handy reference book with information specific to the area you are researching. I've listed below those that I know about.

All of the three books listed below have a small section covering each state that includes maps, historical information, vital records coverage and a bibliography of resources for that state.

  1. Handybook for Genealogists ( 11th edition) (find in a library) (note: some libraries may have earleir editions; those are perfectly usable)
  2. Ancestry's Redbook (you'll want the 3rd edition) (find in a library)
  3. The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogical Research (find in a library)

See Connie Lenzen's online guide to Oregon research: Oregon Records for Genealogists or purchase her 1992 Research in Oregon (NGS Research in the States series) or her 1996 Oregon Guide to Genealogical Resources, 3rd ed, rev, (find in a library)

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This page last updated Monday, February 16, 2008
Created by Barbara Snow Dec. 5, 2005
c. 2005 , 2006 , 2007, 2008 All rights reserved