27 Online Resources for Researching Colonial America

map-White1585(1150x2305)The Adam Fletcher Adventure Series is set in the period between the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. It takes place on the coast of North Carolina and involves smuggling and old pirates, among other things.

I’m pretty obsessive about getting historical details right, so I thought it might be helpful to share some of my regular sources for research. While some of these apply primarily to North Carolina, hopefully, you can find similar resources for your own historical projects.

Online Resources

Archives.gov – The official website for the National Archives of the United States

Calendar of State Papers, Colonial (1574-1739) –  These are the British equivalent of American colonial records. Remember, until the American colonies won the War for Independence, we were a part of the British colonial empire, and thus they kept records about their colonization efforts here.

Calendar of Home Office Papers on the reign of George III (1760-1775) – Here’s where things really started heating up between England and her colonies across the Atlantic.

FamilySearch.org – Although this is a genealogy website, you’ll find millions of scanned historical documents from across the United States. Many are searchable.

DigitalNC.org – North Carolina Digital Collections features images, newspapers, memorabilia, city directories and yearbooks from across North Carolina.

Newspapers.com – With well over 3,000 different newspapers from across the United States dating from the 1700s through the 2000s, a subscription, or at least a well-used trial might be a huge help to your research. I have done a good bit of digging and found articles about smuggling, shipwrecks and other nautical news of note.

State Archives – Listed here are the state archives or digital collections for each of the original 13 colonies, in order of their founding. Obviously, an online search should reveal if any states not herein listed have their archives online.

Colonial and State Records of North Carolina – The first series is available in its entirety online. Consisting of 26 volumes of historical materials dating from the earliest days of the Carolina colony, through the ratification of the United States Constitution, and on into the 1800s. There is also a second series that was done about 15 years ago, but those aren’t available online, at least not that I’m aware of.

RevWarApps.org – Southern Campaign Revolutionary War pension statements & rosters. This is a great resources for finding narratives about Revolutionary War service.

DateandTime.com – Use this site to create a calendar for any month in history, complete with moon phases. I’ve written more about this particular resource here.

Archive.org – If you’ve never been to the Internet Archive, you’re missing out. This huge repository of audio, texts, films and even websites, is second to none. Don’t think that just because you’re researching something from the pre-Internet days that there’s nothing helpful for you here. In fact, the Calendar of State Papers linked above can all be found at Archive.org.

Google Books – Online books on any variety of topics are available in abundance here. If you do a search from the main page for Google Books, you’ll most likely be overwhelmed with results, but take heart — you can actually search through their vast library using the same search operators that you would for the main Google site to narrow down your results. It’s particularly helpful to be able to see an actual search result in context on a page within a book, and if the book is in the public domain, you can read it instantly from the site, as well as download it. If it’s a current title, links will be provided for purchasing the book either in print or as an ebook (if available.


What are some of your favorite online sources for historical research? Please post them in the comments box below.