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Research Guides | Library | Amherst College

FYSE-109: Finding Your Roots

Small group activity

  1. Talk as a group about some of the kinds of primary sources you hope to find for your own project. What people, places, or events might you use as keywords?
    • Review the set of primary sources that your group has been assigned, and choose one database/collection to explore
    • Decide as a group which topic/ keywords you will use to search (choose one, don't search on everyone's topic)
  2. Once you're searching in a database/collection, consider the following:
    • What do the items in this collection have in common? Why are they together?
    • Can you search the site? If so, what terms did you try? if not, what did you do instead? What happened?
  3. Choose one source from the collection and answer the following:
    • What kinds of questions could you answer with this source? What questions does it raise?
    • Does this source lead you to others? For example, are there other related sources in the same collection? Can you gather additional information (like keywords or proper nouns) you might use for a future search?
  4. If you have time, explore a second database/collection to search as a group.

Groups 1 & 2: Digitized Archival Collections

Amherst College Digital Collections

Collections from other institutions

Collections organized by era

Collections organized around slavery and abolition

Collections organized around social identities & social histories

Collections organized by geographic region

Collections organized around political histories and political activism

Group 3: Historical Newspapers

These databases have collections of newspapers published generally pre-1990, often digitized from print or microfilm. They are searchable, but be aware that the results won't be as accurate as born-digital newspapers.

Group 4: Government Documents