Start your own roots rush with our guide to finding family history gold in California, Oregon and Washington.
Back in the mid-19th century, even though it was long before CNN or the Internet, news of the California gold rush spread east like wildfire. In Missouri, for example, Luzena Wilson and her husband "early caught the fever," and in a few days packed their belongings and walked away from the land they had worked for two years. "It sounded like such a small task," wrote Luzena, "to go out to California, and once there, fortune, of course, would come to us."
The Wilsons embodied the spirit of tens of thousands of Americans who poured west in the mid-1800s. Whether they were chasing free land, a better climate, good health or gold at the end of the rainbow, they knew it could be reached by following the setting sun. If your ancestors were among them — or in any of the subsequent migrations, well into the 20th century, that lured Americans to the "golden West" — you'll find a wealth of genealogical resources to help you trace them. It's not quite as small a task as the Wilsons imagined finding gold would be — your family history won't, of course, come to you — but it is getting easier all the time.