ONLINE SOURCES: Most of Clackamas County’s records and documents are NOT available online. On this web site, I’ve tried to list as many on-line sources as I could find. You’ll find links to these on the various genealogy pages (Census, Cemeteries, etc.). I’d appreciate hearing about any new links: please write to Patricia Kohnen.
WPA Histories A project completed during the 1930s is now on-line. These are wonderful personal histories, reminiscenses, and anecdotes from Oregon old-timers who were still alive in the 1930s. They are searchable for names and terms and appear in complete form.
SEARCHES: Begin with the OREGON STATE ARCHIVES Records Index to do an ON-LINE NAME SEARCH through over 500,000 entries and and dozens of records. These entries are not Soundexed [see explanation below] and are listed with the exact spelling shown on the record; search with a variety of spellings of the surname if appropriate.
If you are researching an ancestor who arrived in Oregon during the covered wagon pioneer era, it's especially helpful to know the date your ancestor came to Oregon. Name lists and information associated with the Oregon Trail are most often organized by year of travel to Oregon. You'll find suggestions about how to research early settlers at Connie Lenzen’s First Pioneers web site. 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 (activities, experts, and newsgroup): Northwest California-Oregon Trails Association.
If you know the year, go to Stephanie Flora’s Oregon Pioneers, which lists Oregon arrivals year-by-year 1792-1855. This wonderful web site includes biographies, land claim numbers, sources, and much more. Specialized name lists—church rosters, petition signers, etc.—are listed as links or books on the genealogy pages at this web site. You may enjoy reading the diary of someone who traveled the Trail during the same year as your ancestor-- many of these are on-line. For example, try the links at "Diaries, Memoirs, and Reports Along the Trail West". At libraries, try a search using “overland journeys to the Pacific” as a subject.
Pioneer or not, SURNAME SEARCHES are a good place to begin with local records. Public and society libraries, such as the Oregon Historical Society, usually have an index of names in their card/computer catalogues. The Multnomah County Library has a free service-- Ask Us Online—librarians will consult an index names in Oregon newspapers from 1850 and after. (Actual copies of obituaries and articles will be mailed for a nominal fee). Nationwide online searches such as of Church of the Latter Day Saints’ extensive microfilm records or on other sites such as Family Research Associates will list the names of particular records for free (although copies of the records themselves require a fee). If you know the name of a record that contains your ancestor's name (for instance, "1850 Oregon Territorial Census") you often can find the record yourself on-line or at a library (and for free).
PRINTED AND MICROFILMED SOURCES: On this web site, you will find links to online catalogues at libraries and archives. These will give you the precise name, and sometimes the library catalogue number, of a document. (Copies of the same document might be in several libraries/archives). The various printed sources listed and described in this web site are from a survey of materials at the Clackamas County Historical Library—a good sampling of the types of documents and transcripts available. If you cannot visit a library that carries a particular document, then you may phone, email, or write for a copy, usually for a fee. At this web site, you’ll find a list of addresses, phone numbers, and fees for libraries and non-profit genealogy societies.
LOCATION?: Clackamas County Cities displays a list of the county’s CITIES and communities with links. If you are unsure of the COUNTY location of a particular city go to the City Location Search Page.
NAME PROBLEMS?: Sometimes the name itself presents a special problem for research. Even the best search engines can't deal with the wrong spelling--for example "Smit" for "Schmidt". In the 19th century, spelling had not been standardized. Sometimes census takers and respondents were barely literate. For example, there's a case where the same "Howard" was listed as "Herd", "Hord" and "Hoard"--in this case Mr. Howard couldn't write and the census takers couldn't understand his accent or spell. The many French-speakers from Canada, some of the earliest settlers in Oregon, are typically not listed properly on the census. What a census taker from Kentucky did with names like "Chalifoux" and "Gregoire" is not to be believed. The Joyelle family, trail emigrants in 1841, eventually surrendered and changed their name to "Yell".
If you suspect a name problem, a good place to begin research is the Clackamas County, Oregon, 1910 Soundex--a basic guide available at many libraries in the county. It lists possible alternate spellings for all the names in the 1910 census. If you don’t know the Soundex code (which gives various spellings of a name the same code number) use this Soundex generator from RootsWeb:
GENEALOGY HELP: Connie Lenzen’s excellent Primer on Genealogy has an emphasis on Oregon records. A helpful site for beginners is Genealogy Basics on Surname.com. The incomparable Cyndi's List has gathered more than 250,000 links and yet is organized in a way that's easy to use.
There are, of course, hundreds of records about the people of Clackamas County that are not listed on this web site. For more complete catalogues see Oregon Guide to Genealogical Sources (a widely-available index compiled by Connie Lenzen) or link to the Oregon State Archive's on-line index at the Archive Catalogue. An inventory of Clackamas County records, whatever their location, is at Clackamas County Records Inventory Home.