State of Oregon
Court Records Research

Oregon Court Records - Just about all courts in America usually are courts of record that is they are required by law to maintain a record of their proceedings. Oregon courts are no exception. Often these days very few people escape mention within a court room records at some point throughout their lifetime as witnesses, litigants, jurors, appointees to office or as petition signatories. Nonetheless Americans of a few of generations ago also expected to be present before local court proceedings should they were in session. It had been a civic duty and they also could very well be fined if they didn't attend. Oregon court files represent U.S. history. Buried away in courthouses in addition to archives everywhere are the dreams and frustrations of lots of citizens. The chances are great that your particular ancestors have left a concise record of at least some areas of life in a court room records.

There are several courts that make up the Oregon court system. They are: Circuit Courts, County Courts, District Courts, Justice Courts, Municipal or City Courts, Supreme Court.

Circuit courts presided over major trials. Those included divorces, criminal cases, guardianship cases, and probate cases. In some cases, county courts existed. If so, they tried some probate and juvenile cases. Minor criminal cases were tried by district courts for each county. Justice courts shared county jurisdiction with circuit courts and also handled minor criminal matters. Liquor control violations and violations of municipal laws were handled by the municipal or city courts. The supreme court handled appeals and had the final say over all cases in the state.

The Oregon State Archives and some of the county courthouses hold most of the court records for the state. The "Oregon Historical County Records Guide" on the website for the Oregon State Archives has an inventory of those records and lists their locations.

Oregon Tax Records - The Oregon State Archives holds some tax roll and assessment records from 1845 to 1900. However, most of those records are still kept in the courthouse of the county where they were recorded originally. "Reports of Estates, 1903- 1913" is a state treasurer tool, which has been provided to the Oregon State Archives. It contains information on those who died testate (with wills) including the names of their heirs and the date on which they died. The tool lists that information according to county and year that they event took place.

"Tax Lot Cards" were created by each county. They list real property and track the size of the property and ownership of the property. They function as deed references. The "Oregon Historical County Records Guide" on the Oregon State Archives website has an inventory of those records.

Tax rolls were required to be kept until 1905 for each county. Any records made after that year must be kept for 50 years, but may be destroyed after that time has passed. However, records from years ending in five or zero are never destroyed because they are used as research tools.

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