Early Census, Rosters, and Pioneers

Skip to census for 1850 and later

Skip history background and pioneer lists. Go to Early Records

Early records labeled "Clackamas County" actually include all of what is now Multnomah County, all of the counties north of Marion (Champoeg) and east of the Cascades, parts of Washington County, and even a portion of Washington State. This site's Changing County Borders page details when and how areas were subtracted or added to Clackamas County.

Among the many records consulted by the Oregon State Archives Search Engine are some 14,848 name entries in Provisional and territorial government censuses, 1845-1859.

The first US Census of the Oregon country was in 1850. Oregonians who arrived prior to this census are listed in a variety of sources such as unofficial census lists, pioneer societies, land claim records, and rosters of wagon train members. Fortunately for family history researchers, historians have made a tremendous effort to collect and list the names of these early Oregon settlers.

Clackamas County is a good source for these early records. Before American government in the Oregon country, most records found their way to Oregon City, then the only major settlement outside of the missions and the Hudson Bay Company outposts.


There is no census of the Native American population of the region before 1870. By the time of the first emigration on the Oregon Trail--1841--very few of Clackamas County's first people remained. Unlike the censuses of later years, early rosters do list African Americans and other non-whites as well as mixed-race people who were settlers or employed by fur trade companies or the missions.

In 1842, the non-native population was tiny--only 300 to 500 in all of the Pacific Northwest--but contained an astounding variety of people. Emigrants from the States (beginning in 1810) arrived by ship from New England or overland from Missouri and Spanish California. The Hudsons Bay and Northwest companies employed French, British, and Scotch Canadians as well as emigrants directly from Europe. The "French" of Champoeg were usually the sons or husbands of women from eastern Canadian tribes such as the Iroquois or Ojibway. By the mid 1830's, missionary fervor brought more emigrants from Canada and the States. Hawaiians came with the very first fur trading ships and stayed to assist at the American missions. There were even a few ship-wrecked Russians, Japanese, and Aleuts reported along the Columbia River.

The majority of Oregon Trail emigrants from the United States were agricultural settlers of English, Irish, and Scotch stock. Previous generations had settled the piedmont and tidewater regions of the South and then moved with the frontier into the Mid-West, especially to southern Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. A great many of those bound for Oregon left the most recent frontier settlements in Kentucky and Missouri, entire families relocating for a second time to homestead on the American frontier. The earliest arrivals on the Trail--about 36 men with families in 1841--were joined by nearly 1000 newcomers in 1843. Numbers grew every year and, in the peak year of 1850, some 55,000 pioneers traveled the Trail.


Link to The Oregon Territory: a list of Oregon arrivals 1792-1855 with lots of additional historical and genealogical material. Stephenie Flora's fine web site contains more information on many Oregon pioneers such as biographies and land claim numbers.

Early Oregon Pioneers is a list of many residents living in the Oregon Territory or Oregon before October 31, 1872 arranged by surname. From the Oregon Genealogical Society Pioneer Certificate Project.

Names associated with the American Fur Trade through the 1840s; "searchable" for names only page by page using Ctrl + F but contains many names and the full text of primary resources.

Names associated with Canada and the Hudson's Bay Company through the 1860s; especially designed for genealogical research, has a search engine for surnames.

Jesuit Oregon Province Archives: Educated Catholic priests, most of French ancestry themselves, provide more rational spelling for French surnames and some names omitted from other records.

How to Research an Oregon Pioneer Ancestor by Connie Lenzen

Finding Overland Trail Ancestors by Sandy Wilbur

For $10 you can run a search through the California Oregon Emigrant Names Database. Fifteen years in the making, this list indexes over 2000 documents compiled by the California-Oregon Trails Association. Their local chapter (with activities, experts, newsletter, and a web newsgroup) is Northwest California-Oregon Trails Association.


A list of primary sources--such as Oregon Trail journals--can be found at Oregon Trail Time Frame. This web site lists sources year by year for 1792-1843.

1842 Census of French Prairie; census taken by Indian Sub-Agent Elija White, unalphabetized, poorly spelled, and little beyond names of adult males. Like Elija White, census takers after the beginning of the Oregon Territory in 1849, tended to omit non-whites and "foreignors" or to list them separately.

"Early Settler Certificates" at the Clackamas County Historical Society library; information taken from descendents of pioneers who arrived before 1900. Over 100 names from various counties. Includes vital statistics, biographies, and family trees.

"Roll of the Overland Astorians, 1810-1812"; Oregon Historical Quarterly, no. 34 (1933)

"List of the First American Settlers of the Oregon Country [1813/14]" contains 2 sections: "The Astorians of the Pacific Fur Company" and "North West Company Employees"; names, occupations, and stations (fort/trading post) extracted from Hudson Bay Company Archives (F.4/61, fos. 6-7d.) for the winter of 1813/1814. This list is available at the Clackamas Historical Society, the Oregon City Public Library, the Lake Oswego Public Library and elsewhere--it is a reprint from the periodical Mt. Hood Trackers August 1961.

"List of overland trail party to Oregon with Nathaniel Wyeth, 1832" is in Wyeth, John B., Oregon or a Short History of a Long Journey from the Atlantic Ocean to the Region of the Pacific, by Land, Drawn up from the Notes and Oral Information of John B. Wyeth, July 28th, 1832, Four Days’ March Beyond the Ridge of the Rocky Mountains and the Only One who Has Returned to New England: 1833, John B. Wyeth, Cambridge; reprint 1966(Xerox) University Microfilms; also in Young, F.G., editor, The Correspondence and Journals of Capt. Nathaniel J. Wyeth: 1897, Eugene; also in Shane's Early Explorations Through the Warm Springs Reservation Area: 1950, Binfords & Mort, Portland. Nathaniel Wyeth returned to Oregon on the Trail in 1834.

"Methodist Annual Reports Relating to the Willamette Mission, 1834-1848"; Oregon Historical Quarterly, no. 23 (1922); contains petition and subscription lists; list of mission residents

"Arrivals of 1837, 1839, and 1840" reported by Rev. William H. Gray in Personal Reminiscences of the Early Pioneers by H.O. Lang: 1885, Geo. Himes Publisher, Portland; page 232.

"List of Overland Party with Thomas J. Farnham, 1839" and names from the "Petition to the U.S. Congress from Americans in Oregon, 1839" appear in Hubert Howe Bancroft's History of Oregon, first published in 1885 but widely available. The "Petition" in full is in 26th Congress, 1st session, Senate Document 514.

"Records of Rev. J.S. Griffin, 1839-1844"; a traveling Congregational missionary's records of marriages, birth, deaths in the Willamette Valley; in Oregon Historical Quarterly, no.23 (1922)

Catholic Church records of births, deaths, marriages, and confirmations begin in 1840+ in Munnick, Harriet Duncan and Mikel Delores Warner, Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest, 6 vols.: 1979, Binsford & Mort, Portland.

"List of Emigrants for the Columbia [1841]" lists heads of households by name, number of women and children for trail journey from Red River country (Canada) to Puget Sound area (most moved to the Willamette Valley the next year); on page 94 of John C. Jackson's Children of the Fur Trade: 1995, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Montana; from Hudsons Bay Company records.

"Overland Expedition to California [from the Willamette Valley], Sept. 1841"; list of names in party on page 24 of Columbia River to the Sacramento by Charles Wilkes, commander of the U.S. Exploring Expedition: 1958 by Biobooks, Oakland, CA [first published 1845]; this account of the Exploring Expedition has many names of settlers, missionaries, and HBC employees throughout; also roster of those with the Expedition.

"The Oregon Archives 1841-1843"; lists those attending early government meetings in Champoeg and Oregon City; office holders elected to office in the Provisional Government July 5, 1843; edited by David C. Dunniway and Neil R. Riggs; pamphlet printed by the Oregon Historical Society and available at public libraries.

"Roster of the Wagon Train to Oregon of 1842"; adult males, from the journal of Medorum Crawford appears on page 249 of Personal Reminiscences of the Early Pioneers by H.O. Lang: 1885, Geo. Himes Publisher, Portland; also on page 256 of Hubert Howe Bancroft's History of Oregon, first published in 1885 but widely available; and in Sources of Oregon History, vol. 1 (at the Oregon Historical Society)

"1842 Census of Persons Living South of the Columbia" was taken in the fall of 1842 by Elija White, a missionary who had been appointed Indian Sub-Agent, the only U.S. official in Oregon. "Comprising of the non-Indian males, excluding the missionaries and Hudson's Bay Company officers" it includes names of heads of households, number of males over 18 (married or unmarried), number of females over 18, number of Indian servants, number of children, and amounts of fenced acreage, wheat, other grains, potatoes, cattle, horses, sheep, and swine. White's original was transcribed, alphabetized, and tabulated by Herb Bumgartner. It appears in the periodical The Trackers, vol.15, no.1 (1975). Copies are at many libraries in xerox or microfilm.

"1842 Census of French Prairie" was a second census taken by Indian Sub-Agent Elija White, unalphabetized, poorly spelled, and little beyond names of adult males. An alphabetized and otherwise improved version with additional material is at the web site, French Canadians in the 1842 Oregon Census

Rosters of Oregon Trail pioneers, divided by year, 1840 through 1855, at The Oregon Territory; with additional material on many individuals such as short biographies, family trees, and land claims.

"Oregon Miscellaneous Records", a folder at the Clackamas County Historical Society library contains a list of voters in favor of the Provisional Government, July 1843 with their year of arrival in Oregon and their religious affiliation. This same folder contains, among other materials, a list of the Oregon Trail travelers of 1845.

"Members of the First Emigration Party to the Columbia River, 1843"; wagon train roster on page 63 of Edward Henry Lennox, Overland to Oregon: in the Tracks of Lewis and Clark 1843: 1902, facsimile reprint available at the Lake Oswego Library.

"Diary of the Emigration of 1843" by James W. Nesmith, an Oregon Trail traveler, includes a roster of the wagon train; in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, no. 5 (1906); this list differs slightly from that of Edward Lennox; available at public libraries.

"Petition to U.S. Senate, March 25, 1843"; list of signers at Oregon City meeting; in Appendix 6 of The Oregon Archives 1841-1843; edited by David C. Dunniway and Neil R. Riggs; pamphlet printed by the Oregon Historical Society and available at public libraries.

"Petition March 4, 1844" lists Oregon City/Champoeg French Canadian settlers and missionaries. The petition appears in early versions of The Oregon Archives 1841-1843 edited by Lafayette Grover (erroneously dated May 2, 1843) and on page 300 of John C. Jackson, Children of the Fur Trade: 1995, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Montana; at many Oregon libraries.

"1845 Census of Clackamas County, Oregon Territory" (or four county version "Territorial Census; First Census Taken in Oregon") names single and married (white) men; reports numbers of males and females in 4 age categories. Very few French names and excludes Hudsons Bay Company employees. Lists a count of 220 males and 128 females. In the periodical The Trackers [Mt. Hood Trackers] summer 1972. Copies of this census at various libraries including the Oregon Historical Society Library. The entire Trackers series is at the Clackamas County Historical Society.

"Index to Clackamas County Probate Records" at the Clackamas County Historical Society library begins with the year 1845. "Clackamas County Birth Records" at the Clackamas County Historical Society library begin with the year 1847.

"Oregon City Assessment Roll of 1846" is not alphabetized. Names head of household. Includes town lot number, and valuation of carriages, mills and wagons, cattle and hogs, clocks, watches, and merchandise, with total tax to be paid; at the Clackamas County Historical Society library .

"Territorial Roads", 1847-1870, includes index at Clackamas County Records Center.

1849 Census of Oregon Territory, Clackamas County; by Nancy Prevost. This full census online includes Clackamas, Champoeg, Clatsop, Linn, Polk, Twality, Yamhill and Washington State's Vancouver, Clark, and Lewis counties; alphabetized with many French names but no mixed race. Divides population into foreign and U.S. citizens. Names single and married men with headcount of women, boys, girls. Total pop. 1,387.

At the State Archives: Full texts of these items are not online; most are on microfilm: Clackamas County Marriages, 1848-1893, 1910-1921 and Clackamas County Probates, 1844-1928; Oregon Provisional and Territorial Records (1843-1859), index; Clackamas County Provisional and Territorial Records (1843-1859), index; US District Court Case Files, 1846-1859, Docket 1849-1856, Journal and Index, 1848-1856, and Fee Book, 1846-1854; Circuit Court Dockets, 1845-1901, Journals 1845-1848, Judgement Docket, 1846-1951; US; Census Rolls, 1842-1857; Clackamas County Clerk and Recorder, Miscl, 1845-1858; County Commissioners Journals, 1847-1939.

Go to Library Page

Links to Other Oregon Counties

Clackamas County GenealogyWillamette MeteoriteClackamas County HistoryClackamas Native AmericansClackamas Co. Home Page Clackamas County GenealogyWillamette MeteoriteClackamas County HistoryClackamas Native AmericansClackamas Co. Home Page

Patricia Kohnen