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Did I just watch as Kelsey Grammer caught “Oregon Fever?” So many of us are familiar with “gold fever” in the western United States, as thousands of people explored for the precious mineral; but the land fever was just as contagious. Newspapers around the world printed and reprinted bold headlines of the great opportunities found in the American west.

Exaggerated or not, the opportunities must have appeared to be nearly too good to be true.

This latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC told the story of Joseph Dimmick and his family, as they made their way west to the beautiful farm lands in the Willamette valley of Oregon. As so many did, they made great sacrifices to do so, including losing their son on the journey. Outlined for the audience in the form of newspaper articles, land records, and a published history of the community, we learned a great deal of the Dimmick family. You can find the family in Illinois here in the 1850 census on Findmypast.

Exploring and laying claim to the vast lands that extended west of the Mississippi River was certainly nothing new by the time the Dimmick family made the decision to try their luck. The Manifest Destiny; the idea that American settlers were destined to cover the continent, had started around 1840. The concept, generally speaking, was alive earlier than that as seen in the Alton Telegraph on 3 Oct 1838, but was disputed among politicians and citizens alike. The themes that make up the core of Manifest Destiny were certainly used politically to justify the war with Mexico and to divide half of Oregon with Great Britain, the “Oregon question,” which was finally settled in 1846.

This background knowledge is an important element in your family history, as these decisions would have certainly made an impact to the thousands that crossed the Oregon Trail, and other overland trails, to settle in the west. As a genealogist, one of the most exciting adventures we can take today is to place our ancestor’s into the greater context of world history; what was happening, and how did it affect them?

Life in Oregon carried on, of course, and the Dimmick’s maintained their place in the history of that state. Ebenezer, son of Joseph and Comfort, settled in Jackson County, Oregon, which lies just north of the California state line. You’ll see Ebenezer and his family in the 1870 census. Another son, John, appears to have enlisted in the 1st Regiment, Company B, Oregon Cavalry as a Sergeant during the Civil War, as discovered in Findmypast’s Civil War soldiers’ records.

As the 2014 season of Who Do You Think You Are? continues, the lessons for all family historians also continue. It is essential to search a variety of sources to build your family story.

Bring your own family history to life, and create a unique experience to share with Who Do You Think You Are? Story.

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