Things to Remember
Primary sources are found in a variety of places but you have to know where to search for them. Because primary sources can be both published and not published, they can be tricky to find.
Often materials that are not published can be rare items that don't have many copies; things like diaries and letters. However, sometimes you can find primary sources that are published, like collections of letters or a person's diary published after the fact.
When doing primary source research, remember that you are often trying to find your keywords in historical documents. You'll need to think strategically about what words you are using as your search terms.
- Remember that vocabulary changes over time. You may need to search using terms that we now find offensive or would not use to describe something.
Try These Resources
- Digital Public Library of AmericaThe DPLA offers a single point of access to millions of items—photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more—from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. Users can browse and search the DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, format, and topic; save items to customized lists; and share their lists with others. Users can also explore digital exhibitions curated by the DPLA’s content partners and staff.
- Library of Congress Digital CollectionsThe Library of Congress has an extensive online collection of primary source material. Their online collection includes prints, photographs, historic newspapers, maps, sound recordings, oral histories, diaries, letters, family papers of prominent Americans, manuscripts, and more.
- Classroom Materials at the Library of CongressPrimary source sets covering American history from the Library of Congress.
- Harvard Digital CollectionsHarvard Digital Collections provides free, public access to more than 6 million objects digitized from our collections - from ancient art to modern manuscripts and audio visual materials.
- British Library - Online ResourcesBritish Library has online collections with primary sources. Unique collection items & expert commentary related to History, English, Religious Studies, Citizenship & a variety of other subjects.
- Chronicling AmericaChronicling America is a collection of over 600 newspapers from 30 states published between 1690-present, and it continues to grow. Backed by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, these newspapers are all freely available. Although each state on the previous page indicates if Chronicling America includes newspapers from it, this site also allows you to search all Chronicling America newspapers simultaneously.
- American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collections This link opens in a new window
Documents the life of America's people from the Colonial Era through the Civil War and Reconstruction, providing digital access to the most comprehensive collection of American periodicals published between 1684 and 1912. EBSCO
Features the following collections:
- American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 1 (1684-1820)
- American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 2 (1821-1837)
- American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 3 (1838-1852)
- American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 4 (1853-1865)
- American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection: Series 5 (1866-1912)
- Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers (Gale Primary Sources) This link opens in a new windowAccess to 500 newspaper titles from the 19th century, featuring full-text content and images from a range of urban and rural regions throughout the U.S. The collection encompasses the entire 19th century, with an emphasis on such topics as the American Civil War, African-American culture and history, Western migration and Antebellum-era life, among other subjects. Gale
- New York Times Historical (1851-4 years ago) This link opens in a new windowThis historical database of the New York Times provides the full image of articles published in the NYT from its first issue in 1851. It is searchable by keyword, author, article title, and first paragraph. It includes illustrations and advertisements. Proquest
Topic Specific Resources
- Noah Webster Papers - NYPL ArchivesA digitized collection of Noah Webster's papers from the New York Public Library.
- American Educational History TimelineA linked timeline with important dates and events in American educational history. Prepared by Edmund Sass, professor emeritus of education at the College of Saint Benedict.
- Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture and Law This link opens in a new windowThis HeinOnline collection brings together a multitude of essential legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world. This includes every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery, every federal statute dealing with slavery, and all reported state and federal cases on slavery. Hein
Note: Remote access is restricted to UHV users.
- English Crime and Execution BroadsidesThis collection of nearly 600 broadsides highlights crime and capital punishment, primarily in England, as seen through the popular press in the 18th and 19th century.
- Hein Online This link opens in a new windowHeinOnline is a premier online database containing more than 155 million pages and 200,000 titles of legal history and government documents in a fully searchable, image-based format. HeinOnline bridges the gap in historical research by providing comprehensive coverage from inception of more than 2,500 law-related periodicals. In addition to its vast collection of law journals, HeinOnline contains the entire Congressional Record, Federal Register, and Code of Federal Regulations, complete coverage of the U.S. Reports back to 1754, and entire databases dedicated to treaties, constitutions, case law, world trials, classic treatises, international trade, foreign relations, U.S. Presidents, slavery and much more. Hein
Note: Remote access is restricted to UHV users.
- Asylum: Topics in Chronicling AmericaA research guide from the Library of Congress that explores how to find information about asylums in their Chronicling America newspaper collection.
- Mental Illness - Social Welfare History ProjectArticles concerning the issues of mental illness and the treatment of insanity, including writing related to concepts such as moral treatment and the defective classes.
- Women & the Law - Hein OnlineMore than 1 million pages of contemporary and historical works related to women's roles in society and the law.
- Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment - National ArchivesA collection of primary sources from the National Archives. Links go to DocTeach.
- Women's Suffrage Primary Source Set - Library of CongressPrimary source set from the Library of Congress.