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HIST 2242 / AMST 5408: Immigration, Ethnicity and Race in US History

Primary Sources

Primary Sources in Databases

Some of our databases contain primary source material. Databases that have primary source material are noted like this on the database page:

Remember! Not all material in a database will be a primary source. You still need to examine the resource to make sure it is a primary source document. 

Primary Sources in Catalog

You can search for primary sources in the catalog by searching for keywords such as:

  • Correspondence
  • Document
  • Manuscripts
  • Personal Narratives
  • Reports
  • Speeches
  • Letters
  • Diary
  • Memoir

Tip: Combine them with a keyword related to your topic, such as civil war AND letters.

Selected Primary Sources in the Library Catalog:

Immigrant voices : new lives in America, 1773-1986
JV6450 .I553 1993
Letters and narratives related to Irish, Russian, Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, and other immigrant groups.

Irish Immigration in the United States: Immigrant Interviews
E184.I6O4 1969
Reprint of a 1864 book of inteviews with Irish immigrants.

The world of Mexican migrants : the rock and the hard place
E184 .M5 H385 2008
Interviews and personal narratives of Mexican immigrants.

Chinese American voices : from the gold rush to the present
E184 .C5 C479 2006
Documents, narratives, songs, letters fo Chinese immigrants from 1852-2003.

Words of the uprooted : Jewish immigrants in early twentieth-century
E184.J5 W885 1998
From the series, Documents in American social history.

100 Key Documents in American Democracy
Ref. E173.A15 1994
Includes several documents related to class, race and religion. The collection was created with awareness of the importance of sexual and racial inclusion.

The Annals of America
Ref. E173.A793
Includes a lengthy introduction, chronology, and maps. Documents range from reports to songs to opinion pieces to Supreme Court rulings.

Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers
HD8072.L883 1974
Leaders of rank-in-file movements from the 1930's to the present record their ideas and experiences.



Websites for Locating Primary Sources

Tips: Any website can be changed without notice, so be sure to evaluate every site you use.  For help evaluating websites, see our evaluating websites page or read Berkeley's very thorough Evaluating Websites: Techniques to Apply.

American Factfinder -
Access historical census data.

American Memory
A growing collection of primary resources collected by the Library of Congress.

Google Book Search -
Use the advanced search and limit your search to the years that you are researching.

Google News Archive -
Contains some digitized historical newspapers.  Important note: Do not pay for any articles!  If you need an article that is unavailable and you cannot find it through the library's databases, please contact a librarian.

In the First Person
Indexes oral history collections in English from around the world. Contains pointers to audio and video files, full text, and bibliographic records. With future releases, the index will broaden to identify other first-person content, including letters, diaries, memoirs, and autobiographies, and other personal narratives.

Regional Oral History Office -
"ROHO conducts, teaches, analyzes, and archives oral and video history documents in a broad variety of subject areas critical to the history of California and the United States. ROHO provides a forum for students and scholars working with oral sources to deepen the quality of their research and to engage with the theory, methodology, and meaning of individual testimony and social memory."

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening. Usually a pair of people enter a StoryCorps booth and record their conversation. These are (usually) ordinary people recording primary source material from their lives. Website is searchable.

United States Historical Census Browser -
Uses US Census data that allows you to create datasets and view maps based on ethnicity/race/place of birth, family size, and slave population.

Primary Sources in Databases

You can search for primary sources in databases by searching for items such as:

  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Legal documents
  • Reports
  • Speeches
  • Letters
  • Historical newspapers or magazines
  • Eyewitness video
  • Images
  • Works of art
  • Data sets
  • Results of experiments and clinical trials


  • Use the "Advanced Search" option and enter a term listed above as a keyword  combined with a keyword related to your topic, such as civil war AND letters
  • Some, but not all, databases offer a content or material type limiter built into the Advanced Search options. Select one or more terms listed above, or other relevant primary sources, to help you locate these sources in a database.