Firsthand accounts that focus on the authors’ role in the events in which they participated. Includes autobiographies, diaries, correspondence, memoirs, and personal narratives.

Suggested resources

Arksey. American Diaries
Location: Skillman Ref CT214 .A77 1983x
Coverage: 1492-1980
Annotated bibliography of published American diaries and journals.

American Women’s Diaries
Location: Microforms (connect to catalog)
Diaries of eight middle and upper class women who lived in New England between 1761 and 1910. Includes guide and index to 21 microfilm reels.

Cole. Civil War Eyewitnesses
Location: Skillman Ref E601 .C67
Annotated bibliography of personal narratives written by soldiers, civilians, and foreign travelers that were published as books or articles between 1955 and 1996. (2 volumes)

Early Encounters in North America
Major collection of over 100,000 pages of letters, diaries, memoirs, and accounts of early encounters between Europeans and North American Indians. Indexed to allow for unique browsing and searching (e.g. by type of flora or fauna, encounters between specific groups of peoples, particular events or places, etc.).

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories
Database documenting the experiences in North America of immigrants from across the globe. The collection can be searched by facets such as ‘age when writing’, ‘point of departure’, and ‘occupation’, etc. or can be browsed by place (‘where written’, ‘where sent’, ‘discussed’), nationality, and personal events experienced.

Library catalog searches

Use the table below to develop search strings for locating primary source bibliographies and collections in library catalogs.

Searching for . . . Enter this phrase + modifier(s)
bibliographies bibliography and autobiograph*
[ethnic group]
personal narratives
diaries (general) diaries and [person]
diaries (by topic) diaries and [ethnic group]
letters correspondence and [location]
personal accounts personal narratives and [event]

Sample searches:

  • personal narratives and united states and slavery
  • bibliography and autobiograph* and women
  • diaries and holocaust
Keyword type Examples
[ethnic group] african american*
hispanic american*
[event] holocaust jewish 1939 1945
tiananmen square incident
world’s columbian exposition
[gender] women*
[location] easton
north america
pacific northwest
united states
[nationality] american
[topic] race relations
[war] napoleonic wars
united states history revolution 1775 1783
vietnamese conflict