Do you recognize either of these seals?
Don’t feel bad if you don’t! They both predate the State of Oregon but at one time or another they were the official seals of the territory, which now constitutes our great state! The Oregon Territory and The Provisional Government of Oregon are part of our State’s great history and our Archives Division is working on a project that will help us all get more familiar with some of the people who lived here during that time.
The Early Oregonians Project combines census, death, probate and other records into a searchable database to help researchers find relevant information about the people who lived in Oregon from 1800 to 1860.
To begin, Archives staff outlined an ‘Early Oregonian Criteria’, to establish just who could be counted as an Oregonian. This task was made difficult by the fact that parts of the territories that made up the Oregon of the time are now prominent sections of Washington, Idaho and Montana. For example, the 1850 census for Oregon Territory included what became Washington Territory as soon as 1853. However, in creating the Early Oregonian Criteria it was decided that individuals living in or born in that part of the Oregon Territory prior to 1853 were to be included in this database as Early Oregonians.
With a criteria in place, staff began extracting vital data and other relevant information on these early Oregonians.
The initial information for this project was taken from the 1850 and 1860 federal censuses conducted in Oregon. A team of volunteers and student interns reviewed the extracted information and combined entries that appeared on both censuses.
In addition to primary sources, various records from the Oregon State Archives such as probate records, death certificates and marriage records were also searched to identify individuals who appeared to meet the criteria. Currently there are over 105,500 entries representing these early Oregonians.
The database is up now, but what you see today is not what the finished project will look like. As additional features of the database are made available, researchers will be able to view a list of associated records for individuals and request copies from the Archives.
Archives is also looking to YOU for help making this project a success! If you have documentation you would like to contribute to the Early Oregonians Database or a website you think might be helpful in our staff locating more information, send an email to Early.Oregonians@state.or.us and let us know!