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If you are looking for primary source databases beyond what in on this guide's home page, see this list below. This is a great starting point for finding primary resources, but it is not comprehensive of all primary resources available to you through McNairy Library! If you're looking for a list of all our History primary source resources, visit our A-Z Databases list of History primary source databases.
Finding Primary Sources
You can find primary sources (first-hand historical accounts from people who experienced it) using these databases. Each database will contain different primary sources, so be sure to search multiple databases to find what you need!
Accessible Archives This link opens in a new window
Primary source materials in American history. Discover eyewitness accounts of historical events, vivid descriptions of daily life, editorial observations, commerce as seen through advertisements, and genealogical records through electronic versions of historical newspapers and books.
Adam Matthew Digital Explorer This link opens in a new window
Millions of pages of primary source content from the 15th-21st centuries.
American Antiquarian Society Historial Periodicals Collection, 1691 - 1877 ( all parts ) This link opens in a new window
The American Antiquarian Society (AAS), the premier library documenting the life of America's people from the Colonial Era through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Digitized images of American magazines and journals from 7,600+ periodicals with 7 million images.
American State Papers, 1789 - 1838 ( HeinOnline ) This link opens in a new window
The American State Papers contain the legislative and executive documents of Congress during the period 1789 to 1838. The collection includes documents that cover the critical historical gap from 1789 to the printing of the first volume of the U.S. Serial Set in 1817.
Avalon Project This link opens in a new window
Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy (ancient through 21st century).
Born in Slavery This link opens in a new window
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938 contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves.
British History Online This link opens in a new window
Digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust, it aims to support academic and personal users around the world in their learning, teaching and research.
Chronicling America This link opens in a new window
Historic Newspapers from 1789-1925.
Civil War Newspapers ( Accessible Archives ) This link opens in a new window
Contains major articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.
Digital Public Library of America ( DPLA ) This link opens in a new window
Contains more than 40 million images, texts, sounds, and multimedia objects form libraries, archives and museums in the United States. Copyright status of items vary; however, many items are public domain or available for re-use. Check the "rights" field for each item.
Documenting the American South This link opens in a new window
A publishing initiative that provides access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture.
Early American Imprints, Series I : Evans, 1639 - 1800 This link opens in a new window
Full text of books, pamphlets, broadsides and other imprints. With subjects ranging from captivity narratives to playbills to atlases to sermons to juvenile literature, this collection provides information about all aspects of American life and culture in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Eurodocs This link opens in a new window
European primary historical documents.
FBI Vault This link opens in a new window
The Vault is the FBI's Freedom of Information Act ( FOIA ) Library containing 6,700 documents and other media.
Founders Online : Correspondence and other writings of seven major shapers of the United States This link opens in a new window
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. Over 185,000 searchable documents, fully annotated, from the authoritative Founding Fathers Papers projects.
Hathi Trust This link opens in a new window
Millions of digitized items from libraries around the world.
HeinOnline This link opens in a new window
Nearly 300,000 recent and historical and government documents; comprehensive coverage from inception of more than 2,900 law-related periodicals; 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, and U.S. Presidents.
Historic Government Publications from World War II This link opens in a new window
Contains 343 Informational pamphlets, government reports, instructions, regulations, declarations, speeches, and propaganda materials distributed by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) during the Second World War. Digital Collection from Southern Methodist University.
James Buchanan and Harriet Lane Johnston Papers This link opens in a new window
From the Library of Congress, the papers of James Buchanan (1791-1868), representative and senator of Pennsylvania, secretary of state, and fifteenth president of the United States, and those of his niece and White House hostess Harriet Lane Johnston (1830-1903) contain approximately 1,600 items dating from 1825 to 1887.
Library of Congress Digital Collections This link opens in a new window
Provides free and open access to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.
Locating London's Past This link opens in a new window
Search digital resources relating to early modern and eighteenth century London. Map the results on a GIS version of John Rocque's 1746 map.
London Lives 1690 to 1800 : Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis This link opens in a new window
Primary sources about eighteenth-century London.
London Low Life This link opens in a new window
Street Culture, Social Reform & the Victorian Underworld. Sources from the Lilly Library, Indiana University.
New York Times Index ( 1851 - 1980 ) This link opens in a new window
To identify a pre-1980 New York Times article and obtain it for FREE, please follow these steps:
- Use the link above to go to the New York Times Index
- Search for articles using the search box and filters
- After identifying an article you want, complete the ARTICLE " Request It " form
Please include the following:
- Article title
- The title of the publication (New York Times)
- Date of the article
- Page(s) of the article (if provided)
Old Bailey, Proceedings of : London's Criminal Court, 1674 - 1913 This link opens in a new window
A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.
Pennsylvania Digital Cultural Heritage Collaborative ( PDCHC ) This link opens in a new window
The PA Digital Cultural Heritage Collaborative is a consortium of cultural institutions interested in digitizing Pennsylvania newspaper and manuscript collections.
Pennsylvania Civil War Newspapers This link opens in a new window
The Civil War Collection includes newspapers, regimental histories, and diaries.
Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive This link opens in a new window
Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive is the gateway to the Commonwealth's historical full-text searchable newspaper database, stretching back to the Commonwealth's colonial roots.
Philadelphia Inquirer ( 1860 - 2001 ) This link opens in a new window
Full-text archives of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper
Readers Guide Retrospective ( 1890 - 1982 ) This link opens in a new window
Readers’ Guide Retrospective covers the popular press and offers full coverage of the original paper volumes for nearly 100 years.
Salem Witch Trials : Documentary Archive and Transcription Project This link opens in a new window
Documentary archive and transcription project, hosted by University of Virginia.
Slavery & Abolition in the US : Select Publications of the 1800s This link opens in a new window
A digital collection of books and pamphlets that demonstrate the varying ideas and beliefs about slavery in the United States as expressed by Americans throughout the nineteenth century, created by Dickinson College and Millersville University. Funded through LSTA grants.
SlaveVoyages This link opens in a new window
Information on more than 35,000 slave voyages embarking over 12 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Smithsonian Open Access This link opens in a new window Teaching with Documents ( US National Archives ) This link opens in a new window
Teaching with primary documents encourages a varied learning environment for teachers and students alike. Lectures, demonstrations, analysis of documents, independent research, and group work become a gateway for research with historical records in ways that sharpen students' skills and enthusiasm for history, social studies, and the humanities.
Umbra Search This link opens in a new window
Brings together hundreds of thousands digitized materials from over 1,000 libraries and archives across the United States. Celebrates the vital efforts of the individuals and institutions that have helped to preserve and make accessible online hundreds of thousands of pieces of African American history and culture. The Umbra Society of the early 1960s was a renegade group of Black writers and poets who helped create the Black Arts Movement.
US Congressional Serial Set, 15th - 114th Congress, 1817 - 2017 ( HeinOnline ) This link opens in a new window
Reports, documents and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, originally published in approximately 13,800 bound volume.
Veterans Oral History Project This link opens in a new window
The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.
War of the Rebellion : A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies This link opens in a new window
The online version of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion available through Hathi Trust.
Other History Research Guides
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