The Douglas Archives

A collection of historical and genalogical records

‘Finding David Douglas’ was four years in the making and is the first to focus on remarkable botanist and plant hunter, David Douglas (1799-1834) who explored western North America in the 1820s and 1830s and introduced more than 200 new species to the gardens and forests of Europe.

The film - a collaboration between The Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, the U.S. Forest Service and Forestry Commission Scotland – focuses on Douglas’s contributions to science — forestry, botany, and horticulture.

Syd House, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Conservator for Perth & Argyll, and co-author of a biography of Douglas, said:

“Douglas was covering America at a time before European settlement irrevocably altered the landscape and he deserves to be acclaimed on a par with John Muir.

“He wrote about his travels and adventures with a real empathy for the natural environment and the people he met living and working there. His enthusiasm and sense of adventure can still be heard in the words from his journals and letters, which form the structure of the story.

“His spirit and foresight are today commemorated in many of the places to which he travelled and also in the magnificent Douglas fir, named in his honour. He was certainly ahead of his time.”

“When Douglas was born (1799), Scotland was substantively dependant on imported timber imported mainly from Scandinavia and eastern North America. During his life, he introduced many of the trees, such as Sitka spruce, that are now the mainstay of British forestry and upon which thousands of jobs depend. Thanks to that incredible contribution - and the work of generations of foresters - Scotland now produces more timber than it uses and exports substantial timber to markets in England, Ireland and beyond.

“The documentary helps honour Douglas’s contribution to forestry as a renewable natural resource.”

Rare botanical illustrations and period images - paintings, drawings, photographs and maps - join on-camera interviews in creating the visual magic of Finding David Douglas.

Encouraging today’s audience to appreciate the natural world and how one person’s efforts can make a difference, the film is available from Forestry Commission Scotland and is for use for presentations, education and broadcast.

Filmed on locations known to David Douglas – including Scotland, London, the Pacific Northwest around the Columbia River, Hudson’s Bay in Canada, California and Hawaii – the production team collaborated with Parks Canada, the World Forestry Center in Portland Oregon,, the US Forest Service and Forestry Commission Scotland as well as advisors and scientists from across North America, the United Kingdom, Hawaii and France.

Supporting Quotes:

Tom Kaye, Institute for Applied Ecology,
Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
"Finding David Douglas is a wonderful journey through the life and times of David Douglas. I enjoyed every minute of it. It brings the adventures of the "Grass Man" to life and provides a stunning glimpse into the natural world of western North America in the early 1800s. The character and personal challenges of Douglas are particularly well conveyed and juxtaposed with his enormous scientific contributions."

Christopher Mills, Head of Library, Art and Archives, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England
"Douglas is one of those plant hunters who one feels needs to be better known and respected for his endeavours and achievements. This film will go a long way to helping achieve that. Very watchable."

Nanette Napoleon, Historian, Kailua, Hawaii
"This production is a first rate documentary that is both vivid and compelling in telling the story of famed botanist and explorer David Douglas and his extraordinary contributions to botany on an international level. I found this film to be exceedingly well done from both a storyline and production point of view."

J Fenning Welstead, President,
Institute of Chartered Foresters, Edinburgh, Scotland
"David Douglas was a major contributor to forestry in the British Isles through his tree introductions, particularly Sitka spruce which is now the backbone of our domestic forestry industry. Finding David Douglas commendably captures his trials and tribulations as well as his successes, and I commend anyone with an interest in trees, forestry and adventure to view this entertaining [film]. You will then appreciate that Douglas has probably had more influence on the shape of our countryside today than any other single individual given the huge use made of trees he introduced in creating our modern forest resource."

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Comment by Bernadine Douglass on May 30, 2014 at 5:55

I used to go to the World Forestry Center often when I was growing up.

The David Douglas High School's Football field is just a few miles from my home in Portland, OR and I can hear their band when I sit outside on Friday nights in the Fall.

Making conections

The more information you can give about the people you mention, the more chance there is of someone else connecting with your family.

Dates and places of births, deaths and marriages all help to place families.

Professions also help.

'My great-grandmother mother was a Douglas from Montrose' does not give many clues to follow up! But a bit of flesh on the bones makes further research possible. But if we are told who she married, what his profession was and where the children were baptised, then we can get to work.

Maybe it is time to update the information in your profile?

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