Let’s Talk About…. Gold Rush Ancestors?

 This 33-cent stamp, issued in 1999, commemorated the California Gold Rush. Did you have an answer who “went west” to make his fortune…….. but didn’t…… and possibly was never heard from again? 

I won’t recount the history of how gold was discovered; that’s easy finding-reading. I will explain that those eager gold seekers from the East who managed to make it to California by the end of 1849 numbered about 90,000. 

Life in the gold fields was pretty rough; mining work was hard and most finds were minimal. Within a year or two many gave up and, if they had the means, returned home.

The fall 2009 issue of New England Ancestors, carried an article on this topic, written by Nancy Peterson, CG. I quote:

“No official documents collected the names of fortune seekers who traveled to California. No comprehensive governmental passenger lists recorded the names of the fortune seekers who sailed to California via Panama or San Francisco. We learn of journeys to the gold fields from diaries and letters, from California newspaper listings of new arrivals, and from reminiscences written many years later. Newspapers “back home” often printed news and letters from the California-bound adventurers.”

The article continued, “Perhaps the most comprehensive resource about the Overland route is J.S. Holliday’s The World Rushed In. This book is based upon accounts by more than 500 men about their westward journeys and early lives in California. The book’s sources serve as an excellent starting point in the search for these emigrants.”

Certainly, there are other resources to be found; use Google. Check out CyndisList and the FamilySearch.org/Wiki. 

At the conclusion of her article, Peterson states: “for a comprehensive well-annotated source covering all aspect of the gold rush, see Kenneth N. Owens, Riches for All: The California Gold Rush and the World, published in 2002. I just checked (Dec 2023):

One comment on “Let’s Talk About…. Gold Rush Ancestors?

  1. Larry Turner says:

    The World Rushed In was fascinating. But the author never identified the frequently mentioned “Meek” as Joe or Steven. Would have been nice to know.

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