Oregon Land Records
This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Oregon is a Public-Domain State.
Land records for the Oregon territorial period of 1844 to 1857 were kept with the territorial recorder. These records are indexed and are in the Oregon State Archives. Early settlers who were in Oregon by 1855 may have received grants called Donation Land Claims. Claims often provide valuable genealogical information such as a person’s year and place of birth, date and place of marriage, given name of the wife, record of migration to Oregon, record of settlement on the land, citizenship, and names of witnesses and those who testified in behalf of the claimant.
Under the terms of an act of Congress approved on 27 September 1850, certain white and “half-breed” Native American settlers in Oregon Territory were entitled to land. This also applied to certain settlers arriving in the territory between 1 December 1850 and 1 December 1853. The number of acres granted to the settlers varied between 160 and 640 acres, depending upon marital status and date of settlement. Settlers were required to live on and cultivate the land for four years. Donation Claims, filed with each land office, have been abstracted, indexed, and published by the Genealogical Forum of Oregon. Indexing is both by name and geographical location. The Forum’s published editions are available in many genealogical libraries. The Oregon State Archives has a microfilm copy of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Oregon Donation Land Claim Files as does the FHL.
Public Land Offices were opened in the following towns: Oregon City (pre-1855–1905); Winchester (1855–59); Roseburg (1860–unknown); Burns (1889–1925); Le Grande (1867–1925); Linkville (1873–77); Lakeview (1877–unknown); The Dalles (1875–unknown); and Portland (1905–25). Records generated through these land offices included cash entries, homestead final certificates, canceled homestead entries, timber-culture final certificates, canceled timber-culture entries, desert-land final certificates, canceled desert-land entries, town lots, Indian allotments, and notifications of settlers on unsurveyed lands to the surveyor general of Oregon. The Genealogical Forum of Oregon Library has a microfilm series of the BLM tract books, plat books, and survey notes for Oregon. These land office records are also on microfilm at the FHL.
In 1862, under the five-year Homestead Act, Congress provided for a gift of up to 160 acres to persons who would settle on and cultivate the lands and reside upon them for five years. This requirement was reduced to three years in 1912. The original Oregon homestead applications have been moved to the National Archives—Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle) (see page 12). They contain names of those persons whose claims were canceled. The indexes and record books have been microfilmed and are available through the FHL.
Subsequent land records, including deeds and mortgages, were recorded in each county beginning at the creation of the county. County deeds are at the Oregon State Archives and some are on microfilm at the FHL.