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Hist 111 : American History Since 1877


Your Family and Modern American History

Your family history likely includes some fascinating examples of persistence, struggle, and triumph. You might already know a little bit about your family background, or maybe you are just beginning to learn. There are likely relatives, still living today, who can share details of your family history and know oral family history that you might never have heard. A conversation with them might illuminate a piece of your past that informs your own life story.

Your family history is also informed by the historical processes that affected your relatives and ancestors - whether it be the circumstances of immigration, facing discrimination, choosing a career path, the effects of war, economic circumstances, or a host of other themes and issues. Regardless of which topic you choose, there are likely to be a good variety of both primary sources, and scholarly books and articles to inform your research and provide evidence for your thesis.

This library guide is designed to help you navigate some of the resources that might be helpful in identifying primary and secondary sources related to your family history assignment. Whether you have your family tree filled out, or are just beginning to learn about your past, this guide also includes links to potential genealogical research resources.

Primary Sources

Historical Newspaper Collections

Newspapers databases can be an excellent place to search for a primary source that relates to your topic. You might be lucky enough to find an article that mentions a relative. An article that addresses your topic, published at the time of the event you are researching can be helpful. Historical newspaper articles can bring an event to life, providing a tangible snapshot of the past and illuminate the impact of an event. Consider this February 13th, 1952 article from the Seattle Times related to Seattle rotation troops serving in Asia:

1952 Seattle Times newspaper clipping about troops coming home from Asia

Census Information

Secondary Sources

Article Databases for Historical Research

The databases listed below each has its own scope, and it is therefore advisable that your try searching more than one of the resources listed. There is some overlap in the journals that each indexes, but each of these databases also indexes unique titles that are not necessarily discoverable through other sources.

Genealogical Research

Online Resources for Geneaological Research

There are literally thousands of geneaology research sites online, each with a different scope.  The list below is just a small sampling, but you might also want to try a search on Google for geneaological history sites that focus on specific countries, time-periods, and types of documents. also offers a 14 day free trial, but you have to remember to cancel your membership at the end of the trial.

Additional Resources

Digital Collections

Digital Collections

Libraries, universities, archives, museums, and organizations host a wide variety of digital collections. Below is a small selection of what is available online. Most of the materials found through these sites are considered primary sources, however some of these collections do include secondary sources as well, so be certain to evaluate the item if you choose it as a primary source for your research. To find other materials, try a Google search using language related to your topic, and include the phrase "digital collections". For example: polio and "digital collections."

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