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Oregon Genealogy

Bordered by the Pacific Ocean in the northwest region of the United States, the area has been inhabited by many indigenous tribes before the arrival of traders, explorers and settlers. The Native Indians included the Bannock, New Perce, Umpqua, Chasta, Klamath, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla and Kalapuya tribes.

There had been some Spanish exploring ships off the Oregon coast in the 16th and 17th century, but not until Juan Perez and others in 1770s, much was left unexplored. James Cook came in 1778 and in the late 1780s many ships from Britain, United States and other countries sailed to the Pacific northwest coast to be involved with the fur trade.

The Native people generally welcomed the arrival of Europeans, for the increased trading opportunities. Yet, many of them died off with the foreign diseases they were exposed to.

In 1806 and 1806 with the Americans, Lewis and Clark, and their expedition did they travel through the region, publicized the abundance of fur-bearing animals in the area. In 1810, Fort Astor was the first permanent white settlement in the region, developed by John Jacob Astor, to promote the fur trade.

From 1818 to 1846, the Oregon region was owned jointly by the British and Americans. In the 1830s, several parties of Americans traveled to Oregon, which helped establish the Oregon Trail. Many of these emigrants were missionaries there to convert the Indians. The Oregon Trail brought many new settlers to the region, starting in 1842 to 1843 with about 100 wagons. The dual ownership ended with the signing of the Oregon Treaty in 1846, when Britain ceded all claims to lands south of the 49th parallel. Oregon became a U. S. territory in 1848.

By the 1850s many of the Native Indians were relocated in other locations in Oregon, allowing additional new settlements by people from the eastern states. Oregon became the 33rd state on February 14, 1859. Many of the early pioneers in looking at Oregon genealogy were of European ethnic background, coming as farmers or mountain men.

From 1864 to 1868, many of the emigrates fought with the Paiute, Shoshone and Bannock tribes during the Snake War. Several army infantry units were needed to escort immigrant wagon trains, and protect settlers from Indian raiders.

While it was the Oregon Territory and later the State of Oregon there were laws and policies discriminating against people of non-white racial backgrounds. A statute of 1844 outlawed slavery, but also mandated free slaves to leave the territory. As of 1862, a law required all ethnic minorities to pay a $5 annual tax. Interracial marriage was prohibited by law between 1861 and 1951.

The state’s population in 1850 was only 12,000 individuals. By 1860 the growth was tremendous at 52,400 residents. There were 174,700 people living in Oregon by 1880 and in 1900 there were 413,500 people.

The largest ethnic group while examining Oregon genealogy is represented by the Germans at 22.5 percent. Roughly 62 percent of citizens of Oregon are of full or partial English, Scots-Irish or Welsh ancestry. Those from a Scandinavian background represent about 8.4 percent. The Native Indian population is about 2.4 percent and the African-Americans are at 2.4 percent. The state’s population in 2009 was about 3.8 million.

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