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History Research Guide

Find Primary Resources Related to Family in the Atlantic World

Reprinted Primary Resources

Digital Primary Resources

General History

  • Center for History and New Media (Projects section)
    Produced by George Mason University, this resource offers multiple search engine. "There are literally thousands of links to historic journals, to Web sites for departments of history throughout the world, and to other sites that offer digital historical information." -Choice Magazine
  • Guide to Historical Newspapers, Library of Congress
    The Library of Congress has created a how-to guide for researching historic newspapers. Includes links to indexes and full-text, online, digitized historic newspaper collections across the US and beyond.
  • In the First Person
    • An index to letters, diaries, oral histories and personal narratives.
  • New York Public Library Digital Library Collection
    Gateway to the New York Public Library's (NYPL) "rare and unique" (from the website) online digital collections. Includes searchable databases, online exhibitions, and digital texts.
  • Readers' Guide Retrospective (EBSCO) Readers' Guide Retrospective is a database containing comprehensive indexing of the most popular general-interest periodicals published in the United States and reflects the history of 20th century America.
  • Time Magazine Archive
    A selection of Time Magazine full-text articles from 1923-present. Considered a popular resource, not a scholarly resource.

British History

  • 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection  (Gale)
    The newspapers and news pamphlets gathered by the Reverend Charles Burney (1757 - 1817) represent the largest single collection of 17th and 18th century English news media. The 700 or so bound volumes of newspapers and news pamphlets were published mostly in London, however there are also some English provincial, Irish and Scottish papers, and a few examples from the American colonies, Europe and India.
  • 19th Century British Library Newspapers  (Gale)
    19th Century British Library Newspapers contains full runs of influential national and regional newspapers representing different political and cultural segments of the 19th century British society.
  • 19th Century UK Periodicals  (Gale)
    19th Century UK Periodicals is a major multi-part series which covers the events, lives, values and themes that shaped the 19th century world. It is mainly based on the repositories of the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of South Africa, the National Library of Australia, and many others.
  • Archives Unbound  (Gale)
    Archives Unbound addresses students and scholars' pressing need to see primary, unpublished archival documents. There is no better way to study the past than through consultation of primary source documents. Archives Unbound presents topically-focused digital collections of historical documents that support the research and study needs of scholars and students at the college and university level.
  • Avalon Project
    Launched by Yale University Law School, this site offers primary Anglo and American documents from the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. Allows user to browse by century and includes a search engine.
  • Britannia-Documents
    Includes transcription of significant documents in British history including those created during the Middle Ages.
  • British and Irish History at IUPUI, History Guide
    Created by IUPUI history faculty, Dr. Jason Kelly, this guide includes links to freely avialable online primary resource material for Irish and British studies.
  • British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries (Alexander Street Press) British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries is the largest collection of British and Irish women's diaries and correspondence ever assembled. Spanning more than 300 years, it brings the personal experiences of nearly 500 women to researchers, students, and general readers.
  • British History Online
    British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Free registration is required for full-text access. Includes local, geography, urban, Parliamentary, and religious history of all areas of Great Britain including Wales, from 11th to 19th century. \
  • British Newspapers 1600-1900  (Gale)
    The British Newspapers 1600-1900 is the most significant digital collection of British historic newspapers. New conservation and imaging techniques and a new cross-searchable platform adopted by the British Library offers unparalleled access and discoverability to this valuable historical and cultural archive. In addition one will find specially commissioned essays and contextual materials written by expert scholars intended to help non-specialist users with perspective and analysis.
  • British Periodicals (ProQuest) This database provides access to the searchable full text of hundreds of periodicals from the late seventeenth century to the early twentieth, comprising millions of high-resolution facsimile page images. Topics covered include literature, philosophy, history, science, the social sciences, music, art, drama, archaeology and architecture.
  • Conditions and Politics in Occupied Western Europe, 1940-1945  (Gale)
    offers fully word-searchable original British Foreign Office documents from the National Archives of the UK, representing the majority of Britain's information flow from occupied territories in Europe, and from Germany itself after the cessation of normal peacetime diplomatic channels. Resistance, economic and social conditions and intelligence operations are all reported through telegrams, letters, coded messages and reports, and this documentary material is contextualised by a Chronology of World War II, cine film footage from the Imperial War Museum London and newly commissioned essays on life under German occupation in France by Prof. Rod Kedward, the Low Countries by Dr Dirk Martin and Norway by Dr Chris Mann. File selection and Introduction by Michael Stenton.
  • The Economist Historical Archive 1843-2006  (Gale)
    The Economist Historical Archive 1843-2006 ('EHA') is the fully searchable complete facsimile edition of The Economist, the weekly paper which is essential reading for anyone engaged in politics, current affairs and all aspects of business and trade worldwide. In 8,000 issues and more than 600,000 pages, EHA offers full-colour images, multiple search indexes, topic and area supplements and surveys, together with a gallery of front covers and a selection of exportable financial tables. Altogether this is an unrivalled multidisciplinary primary source for researching and teaching the 19th and 20th centuries. 
  • Eighteenth Century Collections Online  (Gale)
    Use Eighteenth Century Collections Online to access the digital images of every page of books published during the 18th Century. With full-text searching of millions of pages, the product allows researchers new methods of access to critical information in the fields of history, literature, religion, law, fine arts, science and more.
  • Internent Library of Early Journals: A digital library of 18th and 19th century journals
    A joint project by the Universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford. Inlcudes full-text PDF versions of articles from the following journals: Gentleman's Magazine, The Annual Register, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Notes andQueries, The Builder, and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine.
  • The Times Digital Archive (Gale)
    The Times Digital Archive provides convenient access to an extraordinary library of back issues of this renowned newspaper online.
    By taking the microfilm collection of The Times (London) and producing a high-resolution digital format with searchable images, The Times Digital Archive represents unprecedented access to one of the most highly regarded resources for the study of 18th century history and onward.
  • The World War I Document Archive Documents pertaining to WWI. One particularly pertinent section on this website is Memorials, Personal Reminiscences.

American History

  • AmDocs: Documents for the Study of American History
    A section of the WWW Virtual Library. A chronological listing of primary documents and maps related to American History.
  • The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries
    An excellent resource for the American Civil War contains 2,009 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of diaries, letters and memoirs. Includes table of contents, as well as simple and advanced search options.
  • American Memory Project-Library of Congress
    Housing more than 7 million digitized items, this collection contains items relating to U.S. history, people, politics, and culture. Items include photographs, maps, illustrations, manuscripts, diaries, sheet music, motion pictures, and sound recordings.
  • American Periodicals Series Online (ProQuest) 
    Over 1,100 periodicals that first began publishing between 1740 and 1900, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines, and many other historically-significant periodicals.
  • Amistad Digital Archive (Columbia University)
    While the educational guides on the site are geared towards a middle and high school audience the primary resources, including: photographs, audio, video, and documents, are of use to all research levels.
  • Black Thought & Culture (Alexander Street Press) When complete, Black Thought and Culture will provide approximately 100,000 pages of monographs, essays, articles, speeches, and interviews written by leaders within the black community from the earliest times to the present. The collection is intended for research in black studies, political science, American history, music, literature, and art. The collection begins with the works of Frederick Douglass and is targeted to include the works of W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, Alain Locke, Mary McLeod Bethune, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Ralph Bunche, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Houston Baker, Jesse Jackson, Ida B. Wells, Bobby Seale, and many others.
  • Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (Library of Congress)
    "This site allows you to search and read newspaper pages from 1900-1910 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP)" - Chronicling America Homepage.
  • Civil Rights Digital Library (University of Georgia)
    "The Civil Rights Digital Library promotes an enhanced understanding of the Movement by helping users discover primary sources and other educational materials from libraries, archives, museums, public broadcasters, and others on a national scale"- Homepage.
  • Digital History A collaborative project hosted by the University of Houston's website.
  • Discovering American Women's History: A Research Guide
    Women's history research guide page from Middle Tennessee State University. Features digital collections of primary sources, as well as tools for finding primary resources.
  • Documenting the American South
    "Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes ten thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs." (from website)
  • Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans 1639-1800
    "Based on Charles Evans' American Bibliography this database lists books published in 17th- and 18th-century America and links to images of the books themselves." -University of Virginia Libraries
  • Early Encounters in North America: Peoples, Cultures, and the Environment
    "This release of Early Encounters in North America contains 1,482 authors and over 100,000 pages of letters, diaries, memoirs and accounts of early encounters. Particular care has been taken to index the material so that it can be used in new ways." (from website)
  • Historical New York Times
    (scroll to Historic New York Times) Searchable online database which houses a digitized version of New York Times back to mid 1800's.
  • Historical Statistics of the United States
    "Contains quantitative historical information covering virtually every quantifiable dimension of American history: population, work and welfare, economic structure and performance, governance, and international relations, all from the earliest times to the present. Users will be able to graph individual tables or to combine data from different tables into "custom tables" and to download tables for use in spreadsheets and other applications."--Cambridge University Press website
  • US History in Context (Gale)
    Features over 100,000,000 pages of more than 5,000 primary documents, along with maps, images, and numerous secondary resources. "The primary purpose of the History Resource Center: U.S. is to provide students, their teachers, and library patrons with a single place to begin researching the vast topic of U.S. history from the earliest days of discovery and exploration to the present."
  • Indiana History Online (via Gale)
    Indiana History Online is an online resource comprised of a total of 351 works. Among these tens of thousands of pages readers will find not only the more general historical facts on the people, events, and places that made Indiana the state it is today, but also the detailed, lesser-known aspects of the Hoosier state. Many of the documents here are not readily available anywhere else, and whether student or scholar, the database has user-friendly search features that simplify your research. (from website)
  • IUPUI University Library Digital Collections
    Primarly focusing on Indianapolis history but spanning to all of Indiana the collections include early Indianapolis maps, the full run of The Indianapolis Recorder, early issues of Indianapolis newspapers, images from Indianapolis neighborhoods, civil war telegraph books, German Americana, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and more.
  • Making of America by University of Michigan and Cornell University
    A digital library of primary sources in American social history primarily from the antebellum period through reconstruction. These collections are particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology.
  • Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers (Gale)
    With digital facsimile images of both full pages and clipped articles for hundreds of 19th century U.S. newspapers and advanced searching capabilities, researchers will be able to research history in ways previously unavailable. For each issue, the newspaper is captured from cover-to-cover, providing access to every article, advertisement and illustration.
  • North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral Histories
    "Includes 2,162 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of information, so providing a unique and personal view of what it meant to immigrate to America and Canada between 1800 and 1950. Composed of contemporaneous letters and diaries, oral histories, interviews, and other personal narratives, the series provides a rich source for scholars in a wide range of disciplines." (from website)
  • North American Women's Letters and Diaries
    "Includes the immediate experiences of 1,325 women and 150,000 pages of diaries and letters. Particular care has been taken to index this material so that it can be searched more thoroughly than ever before." (from website)
  • Sabin Americana, 1500-1926
    Based on Joseph Sabin's landmark bibliography, this collection contains works about the Americas published throughout the world from 1500 to the early 1900's. Included are books, pamphlets, serials and other documents that provide original accounts of exploration, trade, colonialism, slavery and abolition, the western movement, Native Americans, military actions and much more. With over 6 million pages from 29,000 works, this collection is a cornerstone in the study of the western hemisphere.
  • Sixties: Primary Documents and Personal Narratives 1960 - 1974 (Alexander Street Press)
    The Sixties: Primary Documents and Personal Narratives 1960–1974 brings the 1960s alive through diaries, letters, autobiographies and other memoirs, written and oral histories, manifestos, government documents, memorabilia, and scholarly commentary. With 150,000 pages of material at completion, this searchable collection is the definitive electronic resource for students and scholars researching this important period in American history, culture, and politics. The database currently has over 38,000 pages.
  • Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive (Gale)
    Slavery and Anti-Slavery is a four-part collection devoted to the transatlantic history of slavery. It includes books, manuscripts, court records, and serials. The first part, Debates over Slavery and Abolition, documents the debates surrounding slavery and its abolition in the U.S. but also in the UK and other European countries, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa. Future parts are Slave Trade in the Atlantic World, Institution of Slavery, and Age of Emancipation. Once completed, it will include over 5 million pages.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978  (Gale)
    Containing nearly 11 million pages of records and briefs brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in the period 1832-1978, this product provides an essential primary source tool for the study of all aspects of American history as well as the U.S. judicial system.
  • Women and Social Movements in the United States (1600-2000) (Alexander Street Press) This Worldwide Web site is intended to serve as a resource for students and scholars of U.S. history and U.S. women's history. Organized around the history of women in social movements in the U.S. between 1700 and 2000, the website seeks to advance scholarly debates and understanding at the same time that it makes the insights of women's history accessible to teachers and students at universities, colleges, and high schools.
  • Women' Working, 1800-1930
    "Focuses on women's role in the United States economy and provides access to digitized historical, manuscript, and image resources selected from Harvard University's library and museum collections. The collection features approximately 500,000 digitized pages and images"-collection's website.

Finding Freely Availble Digital Collections

Some of the collections of primary resources listed above are freely available resources, digitized and placed online for scholarly use by cultural institutions such as libraries, museums, and historical societies.  Many other collections of this nature exist and can be located through a simple Google search.  Search strategies for locating possible collections: 1) Try a simple keyword search (Ex. Indianapolis Sanborn maps) 2) Try searching for the museums and libraries geographically or topically related to your research project. (Ex. Indiana Historical Society)

A word of caution, If you are searching the open web for primary sources make sure you carefully evaluate the source and site.  Don’t just assume the digitized document is a quality resource.  Follow this link to a guide for determining quality and for proper citation of such sources

Useful Subject Headings


Chesapeake Bay Region

United States

North America

New England

Middle Atlantic States

Washington (D.C.)

New York [any state by name]






Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775

17th century

18th century








Indians of North America

Indentured servants


African Americans


Irish Americans

German Americans


Polish Americans




Economic conditions

Social conditions

Race relations

Church history


Public opinion

History, military

Sex role

Foreign relations

Politics and government

Child rearing

Marriage customs and rights

Frontier and pioneer life


Religious aspects


Social life and customs



Related Journals

Journal of Family History

IUPUI has online and in paper.  Follow link for various access options.

 History of the Family

Indexed and some full text available via Academic Search in EBSCO.

William and Mary Quarterly

Full-text of all issues available through JSTOR.


Zotero is a free, online bibliographic organization tool.  See the Library's guide.