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American History: Find Primary Source Websites & Databases

Primary Sources vs Secondary Sources

Primary Source Databases

Other Libguides

Historical Statistics

Online Primary Sources


  • The Avalon Project at Yale Law School (American History: A Documentary Record): This site is the place to go to access government treaties, agreements between nations, declarations of war, etc.

  • Cornell University Library's Making of America (MOA), a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology.

Visiting local archives

  • The Monmouth County Historical Room at Monmouth County Library: "The Monmouth County Historical Room collection contains a variety of materials about state, county, and local history including books, magazines, directories, scrapbooks, and various other materials."  125 Symmes Drive Manalapan, NJ 07726


  • It's a hike, but you can also visit the state archives in Trenton. There is a certain amount of information that you can obtain online.  There is a searchable database.  You can obtain the state's 1885 census there.  There is also an image collection.


  • Philadelphia Area Special Collections   From here you link to area special and university libraries.  Most necessitate a personal visit, but there is a limited amount of primary source material online. 

What are primary sources?

A primary source is a document or other historical evidence written or created during or near the period under study. Because of their close relation to the subject, primary sources usually offer special insight about their topic. The person, organization, or body under study often generates them. There are many examples of primary sources; each varies according to the nature of your topic. Primary sources generally are:

• Original Documents: Diaries, manuscripts, speeches, letters, minutes, interviews, news or film footage, autobiographies, and official records and documents.  Note: Translations and excerpts are acceptable.

• Creative Works: Poetry, drama, novels, short stories, music, and art

• Relics or Artifacts: Jewelry, pottery, furniture, clothing, and buildings

Monmouth University Special Collections

Primary Source Training Module

Unsure about a Given Web Site?

Cultivate an attitude of skepticism when it comes to web-based content.  If you have any doubt whatsoever about the reliability of any given website, clear it with your instructor or check with a librarian before you use it in your paper.

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