The following are some suggestions for countries not, or incompletely, covered in this guide. The archival practices that have evolved in different countries differ greatly. This page outlines general methods. We have listed a selection of resources for Africa, Asia, and Latin America on another page of this guide
- Getting the Lay of the Land
- 1. Look at national archives and national library web sites.
- 2. Do structured web searches.
- Look for online research guides to a particular geographic region or topic.
- Look for topic-specific archival institutions, including disciplinary history centers.
- Do Google searches for digital collections by region/subject.
- Search geographic-specific digital archives for primary sources
- 3. Search online library catalogs (HOLLIS, WorldCat).
- Look for published catalogs, bibliographies, and guides of archival holdings
- Look for printed genealogy guides
- Look for microfilm or printed copies of archival collections from your geographic region or on your topic.
- 4. Search in historical periodical indexes.
- 5. Look for accounts of user’s experience using a particular archive.
- 6. Search in digital libraries.
- Is there a national level (or several regional) collective archival catalog?
- Are there printed guides describing the country’s archival resources?
- Does the national archives and its branches hold private as well as government collections?
- Does the national library hold archival collections?
- What are the major archival repositories, and do they have printed and/or online guides?
- Do other countries, perhaps colonial or other European or North American countries, have archival collections derived from colonial government, scholarly collecting, government foreign relations, missionary work, or other activities? See Displaced Archives
1. Look at national archives and national library web sites.
Look at the websites of your country's national, and other, archives. Also look at the national archives websites for colonizing countries or neighboring countries, if applicable. Watch for:
- Country level guides and databases
- Archival collection search engines, including repository catalogs
- Lists of alienated collections (often in the archives of colonizing countries)
- Archival printing, microfilming and digitizing programs which may allow remote viewing of records.
Search for the websites of other archives using the available archival directories.
- List of National Archives
- Les Bibliothèques nationales de la francophonie, ed. by Marcel Lajeunesse. (PDF) 3rd ed. 2008.
- The International Directory of National Archives, ed. by Patricia C. Franks and Anthony Bernier. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018, 448 p.
- List of national and state libraries
- lib-web-cats (library web sites and catalogs)
- List of Archives (Wikipedia)
- Find an archive in the UK and beyond
- World Wide Diplomatic Archives Index (U.S. Dept. of State) is a guide to the accessibility of diplomatic archives around the world
- FamilySearch Research Wiki Look for Research Tools, also Local Research Resources (lower right). Genealogical guides often list repositories by country.
- Rechtshistorie: A gateway to legal history: Digital archival collections. Scroll down to Archives worldwide: Overviews and portals (Not just legal history)
- Look for websites of archive schools and archival societies which often offer country-wide lists of archival resources.
Multi-country research guides:
- Library Resources outside the U.S. (Brown University) includes information on archives and manuscript collections.
- Languages: A selection of resources covering Czech, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian and Spanish studies, and to some degree to Francophone, Hispanic, Latin-American and Lusophone culture (University of London, School of Advanced Study)
- Memory of the World Register UNESCO) lists documentary heritage of “world significance and outstanding universal value”. For each collection, open Nomination form for full information.
2. Do structured web searches.
Look for online research guides to a particular geographic region or topic.
Try a general Google search on, say, Angola archives. This search can be focused in Google Advanced Search, and by using country domain names.
Do a Google Advanced Search:
- All these words: country name, archives (do separate searches for archival, manuscripts).
- Any of these words: guide research resources
For any of these searches, use the “site or domain” box to search within just .edu List of country domain names.
Example online guide: African manuscripts and archives (British Library)
Look for topic-specific archival institutions, including disciplinary history centers.
These often compile lists of archive collections and house collections without other homes.
Example: Center for the History of Physics, NY
Google search example: Literary archives research Germany
Do Google searches for digital collections by region/subject.
In Google Advanced Search
- all these words: library [your topic keywords]
- any of these words: "digital archives" "digital collection" "digital library" "online collection" "primary sources"
- site or domain: .edu [or ac.uk or country domain, etc.]
Search geographic-specific digital archives for primary sources
See the Digital Libraries/Collections by Region or Language section on the Library Research Guide for History for lists of digital libraries and lists of digital collections according to specific geographic regions.
3. Search online library catalogs (HOLLIS, WorldCat).
Look for published catalogs, bibliographies, and guides of archival holdings
Search HOLLIS and WorldCat (a collective catalog of thousands of libraries including Harvard. Also includes online sources, often on separate records from the print version). Printed sources are often valuable and are commonly not included on websites. Example -- Example
- Repository name: Keywords anywhere exact phrase: Arquivo Histórico de Angola"
- Subject: Zimbabwe Sources AND Subject: Bibliography OR Catalogs
- Subject: Zimbabwe AND Subject: Archives OR Archival OR Manuscripts
Look especially for:
- Repository catalogs Example [Always note the Subject terms on good records: Kenya -- History -- Sources -- Bibliography -- Catalogs] Example
- Repository, country, or continental-level research guides Example
- Archival periodicals. Example
We have listed a selection of guides for Africa, Asia, and Latin America on another page of this guide
Look for printed genealogy guides
Example: Subject: India Genealogy yields:
Journeys of discovery: ancestral searches in India, by Shubha Singh. New Delhi: Shipra Publications, 2012, 149 pages. HOLLIS Record
Look for microfilm or printed copies of archival collections from your geographic region or on your topic.
Search HOLLIS and WorldCat (a collective catalog of thousands of libraries including Harvard. Also includes online sources, often on separate records from the print version). Printed sources are often valuable and are commonly not included on websites:
- Microfilm: Subject contains: Kenya AND Subject contains: Archives OR Archival OR Sources OR Manuscripts AND Keywords anywhere: microfilm* OR microform
- Print: Subject exact phrase: Africa, French speaking West AND Subject contains: Sources OR Manuscripts OR Archives OR Records OR Diaries OR Narratives OR Correspondence
Look especially for:
- Repository, country, or continental-level bibliographies of printed or microfilmed sources (Example)
- Published (printed) archival material Example
- Microfilmed archival material Example (Microfilms themselves at Syracuse University (Example)
4. Search in historical periodical indexes.
Look for descriptions of an archive's holdings in:
- bibliographies of a region or repository
- repository guides
- articles about a researcher's experience using a particular archive
- articles written using the archive's holdings as sources
Use historical, regional or topical periodical resources.
General index: Historical Abstracts with Full Text
Bibliographie francophone sur l’archivistique
For former British colonies/possessions: Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH)
Historical Periodicals: By Country/Region
Find topical periodical sources in HOLLIS Databases or via Harvard Library's research guides.
5. Look for accounts of user’s experience using a particular archive.
- Archives Made Easy
- Fresh from the Archives offers graduate students' reports on using archives worldwide.
- Perspectives on History (AHA) Search Archives in the search box.
- Wilson Center In Menu (upper right) search Archives. Narrow results by Type: Blog post.
6. Search in digital libraries.
Search general digital libraries for research that made use of your country’s archives
The three big digital libraries, HathiTrust, Internet Archive, Google Books, allow full text searching of millions of books and periodicals. Searching a repository name as a phrase (in “”) may yield books and articles reporting research.