What Are Your Favorite Research Tools?

Today we’re going to do something a little different here at Petticoats & Pistols. Since we all love (or love to hate) research, we thought we’d share some of our favorite research resources.

And you’re invited to share yours, too.

Tracy Garrett ~

One of my favorite research sites is the Texas State Historical Association’s The Handbook of Texas Online. It is an amazing source of all things Texas, from battles to state parks to famous figures to railroads to… You get the picture.

Another site I love to poke around on is the Buffalo Bill Historical Center website, www.bbhc.org. There’s a Firearms Glossary on their Research page that is great!



Karen Witemeyer ~

  • My favorite site for historical cookbooks – Feeding America. They’ve scanned dozens of authentic 19th century cookbooks and allow you to search them by recipe name or ingredient. Fabulous!

Library of Congress site: American Memory. This is a great place to find authentic photographs and all kinds of US historical tidbits. My favorite piece, though,is the railroad maps. They have maps from various years during the 19th century that allow an author to see exactly where the railroads did and didn’t exist. I’ve used this in nearly every book I’ve written.



Phyliss Miranda ~

I have two favorites.  My “I couldn’t write a western historical romance without this book” is Everyday Life in the 1800’s by Marc McCutcheon.  It has everything from the names and colors of horses to food and drink, not to mention clothing of the era. I couldn’t do without that book as my major resource for 1800’s research.

The second can be labeled as research or just for fun.  Have you ever wondered which word or phrase is more commonly used?  Then go to  http://googlefight.com.  You can put in two words or two phrases and the little avatars have a fight and then will tell you how many times each can be found on the Internet. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are correct, just simply what is the more popularly used word.  It’s fun!


I recently found a very interesting informative site that has all kinds of goodies on it from the price of food in the 1800’s to what the pioneer might’ve eaten for breakfast or supper. There’s also a couple of menus with prices from certain restaurants. The link is:  http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodpioneer.html





 Victoria Bylin–

My favorite research sites involve the hunt for character names.  The best is the Social Security Administration. You can look up names by year (back to 1879) and popularity. I also like Behind The Name because it gives meanings and origins. Then there are the rosters for professional organizations. For cowboys and critters, I like the Professional Bull Riders (PBR).





How about you? When you have to—or get to—do research for your work in progress, what book or website do you rely on? Or if you aren’t writing a book, where do you go to find a favorite new recipe?



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10 thoughts on “What Are Your Favorite Research Tools?”

  1. Wonderful sites and sources, Fillies! Thanks for extending my list of resources. Since my stories take place in Wyoming, one of my go to sources is
    http://www.wyonewspapers.org/. They have a collection of newspapers from the 19th Century on from any town in Wyoming printing a paper. It’s a wonderful source, but can also lead me down many rabbit holes. :o)


  2. Kirsten – I love old newspapers! So easy to get distracted, though. I can remember back in the day, Wendy’s (the fast food chain) used to have tabletops made to look like old newspaper ads, selling everything from farm implements to long underwear. (In honor of their “old fashioned” hamburgers.)I used to sit there as a kid and read every ad over and over. Loved it. I feel the same way now when I flip through my reprint of the 1895 Montgomery Ward catalogue. That’s another resource I use with every book.

  3. Kirstin, I love old newspapers, too. When I was in Mead, KS, at the Dalton Gang Hangout (a place I absolutely love). The whole newspaper is about the Daltons “The Robber Gang Meet Their Waterloo in Coffevville”. It even has a drawing of the town and where everyone was at “The Scene of the Battle with the Daltons”. And, of course the fantastic advertisements. It is wonderful, such flavor of the people. A full half page is devoted to the famous picture of the four Daltons.

    Also, thanks Victoria for the information on the SS office. I didn’t know that, nor did I know you’re a PBR Fan. I am, too. Every writer has a little “something of their own” in their books, kinda like a secret that they are the only ones who know and mine is that I always have the name of a PBR Bull of the Year in my books.

    Thanks to all the Fillies who shared their resources. This will definitely be a post that I’ll print out and keep for future use. It was fun! Hugs, P

  4. So many good sites added to my research tools. Seems you can find whatever you want online if you just take the time and energy. Some of these will definitely give my current WIP a boost. Thanks, Filly sisters.

    Kirsten, old newspapers are full of interesting story ideas. What a treasure trove! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great post. Interesting sites. I don’t need them for research, but I find sources interesting. Each will be another “time suck” that will guarantee my house doesn’t get cleaned. I follow blogs by historical authors like yourselves because of the information and links that are included in posts. My version of studying history.

    I have been collecting old books for a long time and have some very interesting ones. The first was one I found in an attic when I was helping someone clean it out. I was about 17 at the time. It is CHILDHOOD: ITS CARE AND CULTURE by Mary Allen West and printed in 1887. Almost 800 pages that show just how much things have changed. I also have a slim volume of childhood games, with pictures printed about the same time. Another interesting one is THE JOHNSTOWN HORROR OR VALLEY OF DEATH – Being A Complete And Thrilling Account of the Awful Floods and Their Appalling Ruin. It was published in 1889 shortly after the flood. It contains many prints, firsthand accounts, etc. and would compare to to contemporary sensationalizing press.

    I also collect old and reproduction cookbooks. I started when I was searching for my grandmother’s rice pudding recipe.

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