Skip to main content
Banner Image

Primary Sources for Colonial America: Colonial America Primary Sources

Guide to resources for the study of colonial America.

Portals to Primary Sources

Image attribution: Flicker "question mark," Cutty Sark Greenwich, London, England, UKDon't know where to start? Try one of the following database portals. They allow researchers to search  across multiple databases produced by the same publisher.

Archive Explorer (Publisher: Adam Matthew)

Artemis (Publisher: Gale)

Archive of Americana (Publisher: Readex)

Image Flicker: Cutty Sark, "question mark"

Newspapers, Books, & Pamphlets

Digital Manuscript Collections

  • Ancestry Library Edition Major source of census and other records of interest to historical, social and genealogical researchers.
  • Virginia Company Archives Digital archive of manuscript collections that document the founding, economic development and social composition of colonial Virginia.
  • Making of the Modern World Digitized library of economic and business literature on topics like the Industrial Revolution, the development of modern capitalism, and the emergence of modern economics.
  • Digital Library of the Caribbean Includes documents from the 18th and 19th century Caribbean and the Atlantic World

Government Documents

Microfilm, A-Z

Colonial America on microfilm:

  • Chalmers collection: Philadelphia George Chalmers (1742-1825) [microfilm]. Papers of British historian, civil servant and author, George Chalmers. He was a lawyer in Baltimore until the American Revolutionary War. After he returned to England, his positions included chief clerk at the Office for Trade in London and colonial agent for the Bahamas. He wrote biographies, poetry and pamphlets on the American colonies and collected a large library of books and manuscripts. The collection consists of documents relating to the American colonies, writings and correspondence. Documents include materials on Canada, the Carolinas, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Florida, and Indians in North America. Guide available.
  • Collection of Calvert family manuscripts (1516-1805) [microfilm]. The collection includes family papers; documents relating to the Avalon, Virginia, and Maryland colonies; land, financial and government records; papers dealing with the Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary dispute; correspondence; and miscellaneous documents.
  • Draper manuscript collection [microfilm]. The collection as a whole covers primarily the period between the French and Indian War and the War of 1812 (ca. 1755-1815). The geographic concentration is on what Draper and his contemporaries called the "Trans-Allegheny West," which included the western Carolinas and Virginia, some portions of Georgia and Alabama, the entire Ohio River valley, and parts of the Mississippi River valley. Military records and information are pervasive throughout the Draper Manuscripts. Particular strengths include the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, especially those actions which occurred in the West. Digital guide.
  • Great Britain Colonial Office Papers, Original correspondence, America and West Indies. Georgia, 1600-1775 [microfilm]. Also available: East Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia.
  • Indian Committee records: letters and misc. / Department of Records of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends [microfilm]. Major topics discussed in the records include Friends' 18th and 19th century visits to Indians at various locations (Oneida, Genesanguhta, Stockbridge, etc.), the settlement at Tunesassa and later boarding school (Friends Indian School), the Ogden Land Company, Buffalo Treaty fraud of 1838 and resulting land problems, Kansas land claims, leasing of Indian land, temperance, legislation impacting on Native Americans, the "Salamanca Commission" (Joseph Scattergood), the Kinzua Dam project (Allegheny Reservoir, N.Y.) and efforts to stop it, civil rights issues and the 1972 shooting by police of Leroy Shenandoah in Philadelphia. Digital guide.
  • New England Women and their Families in the 18th and 19th centuries [microfilm]. The collection includes manuscripts on the New England family and women's history and covers material from a variety of social classes and station. It contains personal papers, letter, and diaries which provides information on everyday life in 18th and 19th century New England, especially the considerable influence New England women had on American society and how the changes affected individual families. Guide available.
  • The Thomas Penn papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1728-1832 [microfilm].The Papers are in two series: The first three rolls contain the letter books of Thomas Penn. The second series is chiefly letters to Penn originally collected in the Penn Papers or added from other collections in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Within each series, the letters are chronologically arranged, and each of the letter books also provides its own index of correspondents. Guide available.
  • The Papers of Pierce Butler (1744-1822) and successors from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania [microfilm].This collection provides documentation concerning the running of the South Carolina and Georgia estates of the Butler family from 1786 to 1885. As a series of plantation records they provide a total overview of the business from the Revolutionary period, through the Civil War, to the 1880's. Digital guide.
  • Records in the British Public Record Office relating to South Carolina, 1663-1782 [microfilm]. At the end of the nineteenth century, W. Noel Sainsbury, a retired English civil servant, arranged the records that make up this micropublication from colonial documents held in the British Public Record Office. Some of the subjects covered in the records are: Acts of Assembly, Acts relating to abuses, the public care of buildings, newspapers, establishment of churches, pirates and the suppression of rebellion. Guide available.
  • The William Blathwayt papers at Colonial Williamsburg 1631-1722 [microfilm]. Long years of effective service as secretary of the Lords of Trade and Plantations and in other prominent administrative posts made Blathwayt well known in his own time. His habit of carefully Pennpreserving his wide correspondence has made his papers an important archive of British-colonial relations. Digital guide.

See also: Guide to the Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation

© Emory University Libraries - 540 Asbury Circle, Atlanta, Georgia 30322