Washington Emigration and Immigration
In the early 1800s, traders and trappers came from Canada, Russia, Latin America, and the United States into what is now Oregon and Washington. In 1811 John Jacob Astor, an American, established the first white settlement in Oregon. Most early settlements of the 1830s and 1840s were in the Willamette River Valley. In 1843 more than 900 emigrants came to Washington from Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa.
In the 1850s, gold was discovered in eastern Washington and prospectors flocked in. Major Indian hostilities, however, slowed migration. In 1860 gold was found near Walla Walla, and this brought another rush of prospectors, including large numbers of Chinese. After 1870 immigrants came from Germany, Scandinavia (especially Norway and Sweden), Holland, Britain, and the Philippines. Many Japanese immigrated to Washington starting in the mid-1880s.
The Oregon-California Trails Association is an educational organization that promotes the story of the westward migration to Washington, among other places. Their site includes a personal name index to trail diaries, journals, reminiscences, autobiographies, newspaper articles, guidebooks and letters at http://www.paper-trail.org/.
The greatest influx of settlers started in the 1880s, when transport by rail became possible. The first of three transcontinental railroads to Washington was completed in 1888. Most of the settlers of the 1880s and 1890s were from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and other western, midwestern, and eastern states. Others came from Canada and Europe.
The Family History Library has copies of passenger and crew lists from Seattle (Port Townsend) from 1890 through 1921 (55 microfilms). Most Washington immigrants arrived in the United States through the port of New York or other east-coast ports. The Family History Library and the National Archives have records from 1820 to 1943. See the United States Research Outline for more information about these records.
Records of some ethnic groups in Washington, such as Chinese-Americans and Scandinavians, are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under WASHINGTON - MINORITIES.