Types of Records for Oregon Research

By Connie Lenzen, CG

Fur Trappers

Early Settlement

Wagon Trains

Early Government

Oregon State Archives

Oregon State Library

Oregon Historical Society

Genealogical Forum of Oregon

Multnomah County Library

U of O Library


Church & Cemetery


Immigration Records

Indian Records

Land Records


Naturalization Records


Tax Records

Vital Records

Oregon Research Strategy



In the winter of 1836-37, Lieutenant William A. Slacum prepared for President Andrew Jackson a list of settlers of the Willamette Valley—the first census of the Oregon region. In 1843, Dr. Elijah White, the newly appointed superintendent for Indian Affairs, submitted his "List of Persons Living [in 1842] south of the Columbia River," enumerating heads of households and tallying children in the homes. Agricultural production was detailed. It included such data as number of bushels of oats, wheat, potatoes, etc., that each family raised. The first federal decennial census was taken in 1850 and includes present Washington state. Privately published indexes and/or government-prepared soundexes exist for 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920.

Territorial Censuses

Sundry enumerations were taken in Oregon prior to statehood. The State Archives and the Oregon Historical Society make microfilmed copies available for research on the premises. Extant rolls are as follows:

Year Census


List of Settlers in the Willamette Valley [5]


List of Persons Living south of the Columbia River (1843 Elijah White Census) [6]


Enumeration of Champoeg (Marion), Clackamas, Clatsop, and Yamhill


Enumeration of Tualaty (now Washington)


Apportionment Census of Males over 21 for the counties of Benton, Champoeg, Clackamas, Clatsop, Lewis (Washington State), Linn, Polk, Tualatin, Vancouver (Washington State), and Yamhill


Census of Champoeg, Clackamas, Clatsop, Lewis, Linn, Polk, Tualaty, Vancouver, and Yamhill


Census of Benton, Clackamas, Clark (Washington State), Lane, Linn, Marion, Polk, Umpqua, and Washington


Census of Clackamas, Clatsop, Douglas, Jackson, Lane, Linn, Marion, and Tillamook


Census of Benton, Clackamas, Coos, Douglas, Jackson, Lane, Linn, Marion, Tillamook, and Yamhill


Census of Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington, and Yamhill


Census of Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Tillamook, Umpqua, and Washington


Census of Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Coos, Curry, Jackson, Lane, Linn, Multnomah, Tillamook, and Umpqua


Census of Clatsop and Umpqua


State Censuses

Various Oregon state censuses have been enumerated, but the whereabouts of only a few are known. The following are in the custody of the State Archives:

Year Counties


Benton, Columbia, Marion, and Umatilla


Umatilla and Yamhill


Lake, Umatilla, and Wasco


Linn and Umatilla


Linn, Morrow, Marion, and Multnomah


Baker, Lane, Linn, and Marion


Federal Censuses

In addition to the better-known population schedules taken every ten years by the federal government, there exist auxiliary schedules—primarily for 1850-80. Researchers for two reasons have traditionally neglected these: few are available through the National Archives; and both literature and archival labels commonly identify them as nonpopulation schedules. Almost without exception, they do cite individuals by name—those that fall within the relevant category—and are therefore of considerable value to genealogists. Because they were dispersed by the federal government early in the twentieth century, before the creation of the National archives, the present whereabouts of many of the schedules are not widely known. The records for Oregon, all microfilmed by the State Archives, are as follows:


Type of Schedule

Where Found


Agricultural Schedules

Oregon State Library and Oregon State Archives National Archives T623, roll 1353


Indian Schedules

National Archives T623, roll 1353


Industrial Schedules

Oregon State Library and Oregon State Archives


Mortality Schedules

Oregon State Library and Oregon State Archives; 1850 Mortality Schedule online here; 1880 Mortality Schedule online here.

Ancestry - 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880


Social Schedules: Dependent, Defective, Delinquent Classes

Oregon State Library and Oregon State Archives


Union Veterans/Widows

Oregon State Library and Oregon State Archives National Archives M23, Roll 77 (nothing for Columbia, Gilliam, Harney, Klamath, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, or Wallowa)


Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic missionaries arrived in the region in the mid-1830s; and other denominations quickly followed. For the most part, records are still maintained by the churches that created them. Genealogists should contact the appropriate congregation to confirm availability and access policies. The larger denominations maintain archives that preserve diaries, correspondence, registers, religious newspapers, and other historical materials. Records of some congregations have been filmed and made available at the Oregon Historical Society Library, and many transcriptions appear in the DAR collection at the same repository. As a beginning point, one might consult the WPA's Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations for the State of Oregon [7] and Freeman's Guide to Early Oregon Churches. [8] Lenzen's A Guide to Oregon Church Records [9] lists many published and microfilmed church records and histories.

The following thumbnail sketches survey the major denominations:

Baptist Records

The materials of primary value to genealogists are the membership rolls and minute books that record information on admissions, dismissals, and deaths. The Western Conservative Baptist Seminary library 5511 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard; Portland 97215) has a good collection of records from churches in the Willamette Valley, as well as old Baptist newspapers and numerous manuscripts. A published history of the Baptist faith in Oregon does exist. [10]

Catholic Records

Sacramental registers of this faith record principally baptisms, marriages, and deaths, with significant genealogical detail. The diocesan archives customarily takes possession of the records of inactive congregations. There are two such repositories for Oregon: the Diocese of Baker Archives (PO Box 5999; Bend, OR 97702) and the Archdiocese of Portland's History and Archives Department (2838 East Burnside Street; Portland 97214. URL Harriet Duncan Munnick transcribed most early Catholic church records of the Pacific Northwest, from 1838 to the end nineteenth century. A complete list of these publications is available from the St. Paul Mission Historical Society (Box 158; St. Paul 97137, online at Two useful histories of Catholicism in Oregon have also been published. [11] An online copy of Edwin Vincent O'Hara's Pioneer Catholic History of Oregon can be accessed at the Oregon Catholic Historical Society website.

Episcopal Records

Individual churches within this denomination maintain records of baptisms, marriages, and burials. When a congregation becomes inactive, its records are transferred to the appropriate diocesan archives. Two exist in the state: the Diocese of Oregon (11800 S.W. Military Lane, Portland OR 97219-8436) and the Diocese of Eastern Oregon (601 Union Street; The Dalles 97058). Sacramental records held by the latter have been microfilmed; and a research copy is available at the Oregon State Library, where an index to the 1873-1956 baptisms has been compiled and interfiled in the "Oregon Index" card catalog.

Methodist Records

While the Methodist church led the missionary movement in Oregon, early records of its churches and their members are incomplete and scattered. Researchers may find useful material at the United Methodist Archives (Waller Hall, Willamette University; Salem 97301) and in the Manuscripts Collection of the Oregon Historical Society Library. A useful study is Yarnes's History of Oregon Methodism. [12]

Presbyterian Records

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent the first Presbyterians to the Oregon region in 1836. Some extant records for various Oregon congregations are included in the manuscript collections of the Oregon Historical Society. Whitman College (345 Boyer Street; Walla Walla, zip 99362) holds some early material. Records of the initial missions in western Washington and eastern Idaho from 1838 to 1878 (consisting of marriages, admissions, and dismissals) are contained in a pamphlet located at the Oregon Historical Society. The researcher will also want to consult the WPA's Inventory of the Church Archives of Oregon Presbyterian Churches. [13]

Quaker Records

The Archives of the Northwest Yearly Meeting (George Fox College; 414 Meridian; Newberg 97132) maintains official records of this congregation, as well as those of Friends Cemetery in Newberg and biographical files of church members. Many of the church records in the Archives' custody have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available through the Family History Library. For historical information on the activities of Friends in Oregon, researchers should consult Beebe's Garden of the Lord. [14]

Cemetery Records

In pioneer Oregon, cemetery records were rarely maintained at the level that we now expect. If they were, the cemetery records may be found in the custody of the cemetery, of the church or institution that oversees it, or of individuals.

The scarcity of cemetery records has prompted individuals and groups to “read” the remaining permanent evidence; the tombstones.

Beginning in the 1930s, members of the Oregon chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) visited pioneer cemeteries and read the tombstones. They prepared lists based upon what they saw. These lists were sent to the DAR Library in Washington, DC as part of the Genealogical Records Committee (GRC) project. These have been indexed and are part of the DAR GRC National Index which is online at the Daughters of the American Revolution website, To get to the index, follow the Genealogy link. Copies of some of the GRC books are in the Oregon Historical Society Library in Portland.

The Genealogical Society of Utah microfilmed a portion of the Oregon collection in 32 microfilm reels. To find which cemeteries are in the microfilmed collection, go to the Family History Library catalog online at Enter the search term “Daughters of the American Revolution (Oregon)” without the quote marks as an “Author Search.” Note; this search can be done for any state. Change the word “Oregon” to the state of your choice.

A number of Oregon cemetery records have been transcribed for the Internet. Many of the transcriptions come from the DAR readings or from W.P.A. readings of tombstones. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, local historians were hired by the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) to copy the information on tombstones. These transcriptions have been sent to the Oregon State Library and the University of Oregon Library.

To find which cemetery readings have been transcribed and placed online, refer to the Linkpendium website,



County and State Courts

Records of litigations, trials, and probates conducted by courts of both the county and the state coexist in Oregon's county courthouses. The Oregon State Archives maintains an inventory of county level records called the "Oregon Historical County Records Guide." The guide includes a comprehensive descriptive inventory of selected records for each of Oregon's thirty-six counties and is online at the archive website,

Federal Courts

The federal court system has held or shared jurisdiction over a number of litigious matters of genealogical interest. The circuit and district courts have heard cases involving admiralty and prize disputes, bankruptcies, land grants and claims, equity suits not otherwise remedied, criminal matters involving federal law, and naturalizations proceedings. Extant records of the federal circuit and district courts covering Oregon are deposited at the National Archives - Pacific Alaska Region in Seattle, Washington, where they constitute a significant body of genealogical and biographical data. Some have been microfilmed. Szucs and Luebking's The Archives: A Guide to the National Archives Field Branches [15] and the National Archives' Federal County Records: A Select Catalog provides a convenient introduction to these records.

For further information about the National Archives - Pacific Alaska Region, researchers may check out the Archives' website, online at


[5] "Document[:] Slacum's Report on Oregon 1836-7," Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 13 (June 1912): 175-226.     

[6] "List [for 1842] of Persons Living South of the Columbia River," Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1881; Oregon Superintendency, 1842-1880, National Archives Microfilm Publication M234, Roll 607, frames 112-18.

[7] Directory of Churches & Religious Organizations, State of Oregon. (Portland: Oregon Historical Records Survey, W.P.A., 1940). (Available on fiche through Family History Center libraries. Fiche #6,051,178.)

[8] Olga Samuelson Freeman, A Guide to Early Oregon Churches (Eugene: P.p., 1976).

[9] Connie Lenzen, A Guide to Oregon Church Records (Portland, OR: privately printed, 2000).

[10] Charles Hiram Mattoon, Baptist Annals of Oregon, 1844-1900 (Tucson: W. C. Cox, 1974).

[11] Schoenberg, Wilfred P. History of the Catholic Church in the Pacific Northwest. (Washington, DC: Pastoral Press, 1987); Stone, William S., Monsignor. The Cross in the Middle of NoWhere The History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Oregon. (Bend, OR: Maverick Publications, Inc., 1993).

[12] Thomas D. Yarnes, A History of Oregon Methodism (Portland: Oregon Methodist Conference Historical Society, 1957).

[13] Inventory of the Church Archives of Oregon Presbyterian Churches. (Oregon Historical Records Survey, W.P.A.). (Film # 899323 at Family History Libraries)

[14] Ralph K. Beebe's Garden of the Lord: A History of Oregon Yearly Meetings of Friends Church (N.p: n.p., ca. 1968).

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