Part of this sites goal is to promote a better understanding of U.S. history through free access to primary documents such as letters and journals. In support of that goal we encourage educators to use the content we've gathered and organized.
Create Custom Collections
Any document on the site can be added to a 'collection'. Collections on this site are basically sets of similar documents that support a given theme or unique perspective on an historic event. For example if your lesson plan is exploring what roles women played in the American Revolution then you might choose to add select letters of authors already on the site, such as Abigail Adams, or identify new primary sources and work with us to get them on the site. Each collection can also be customized with an introduction, your contact information, links to your project, follow up questions and more.
Add New Documents
Chances are you may have access to primary documents or know of other resources within the public domain that are not on this site. We are open to working with educators to add new documents to the site that support your project. The only requirement is that the documents be free of copyright or other legal restrictions and that you are willing to share the documents with the general public. By adding new documents to our site you help us achieve another of our goals which is creating a single, searchable place for historic, primary sources.
Use Advanced Search Queries
Finding very specific sets of documents is easy on familytales by combining a number of search query terms. For example to find letters written by George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie use a url like so:
Or make the url more specific with additional search modifiers:
We currently have about a dozen search modifiers and plan on adding more as the need arises. We will also be adding an advanced search tool to make using our modifiers more intuitive.
Discover History Through Social Networks
The basic principle driving the success of today's popular social networking sites is nothing new of course; we humans have always formed relationships with others in some fashion. The need to associate with others is an intrinsic part of being human. That's why primary documents such as letters written to friends, family or colleagues can be so intriguing. These documents tell the story of our relationships, and taken together they help shed light on our history. An understanding of where a given individual sat within a social network points to possible opportunities and constraints they may have had at the time. It's intriguing to think we might gain some insight into an historic figures decision making process as we study who they knew.
If you have an idea you would like to talk about, be sure to drop the site's founder a line at email@example.com