Friday, March 27, 2015

Historical Research & Some Helpful Links

One thing that I really love is doing historical research. To me, it's so much fun to go on the hunt for specific information buried somewhere in historical documents. There are so many rich resources out there - newspapers, magazines, first-hand accounts, photographs, journals, radio transcripts, paintings, recipes. . . the list goes on.

Currently I'm writing an historical fiction novel set during WWII on the American homefront in Indiana (where I'm from!). I have found a few websites invaluable in my research - a few of them that I go back to time and again for reference. I thought I'd share them with you here.

Keep in mind that while many of these links are specific to the 1940s, you can apply similar research ideas to whatever time period you're researching. The 1940s calendar website is useful, because it's a general calendar site where you can look up whatever calendar for as far back as the website allows. That's pretty great! I hope these links give you some good ideas for your own research.

Social Security Popular Baby Names By Decade - This is my go-to website for names for my American characters. If you want to have authentic names from a certain time period dating as far back as the 1880s, then this is the site for you!

Top-Grossing Movies By Year - I stumbled on this website very recently, and I have loved it! Strangely, it is very difficult to find when movies were released by year and month, which is vital to my story and important for being as accurate as I can. This is the first website that has movies listed by what month in the year they came out. Awesome!

WWII Timeline - There are quite a few timelines out there, but this one by National Geographic is nice since it divides the timeline between the two main theaters of war - Pacific and Europe.

1940s Slang - I've found a few lists of '40s slang, but this list seemed the most comprehensive.

1940s Calendars - There was one part in my book where I needed to know what day of the week a certain event in the war took place, and this site was really helpful!

Government Acts and Executive Orders - This is one of those few times where I approve of wikipedia for research. It's nice to be able to find a concise description and explanation of one of many government acts out there. The above link leads to the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, i.e. the Draft.

Government websites - Many state government websites (like archives) offer histories of their states relating to main historical time periods. This link leads to a site that isn't very pretty to look at, but has a nice, detailed history of Indiana, including a lot of the homefront stuff that I'm looking for. - I'm a member of this paid subscription site, and being able to look at local newspapers from the 1940s from the comfort of my own home has been awesome! They have a lot of free information on their site too, and you can even join for free with limited use of some features of their site. The site is of course for doing genealogy work, but it's useful for many other aspects of research as well!

There are a lot more sites I could put on here, but I'll stop with these. Research can be fun, but you definitely need to look outside the box and think about the many aspects of your character's lives that you're writing about. Even little details like the period appropriate lipstick brand they're using or a tiny feature of the car they're driving makes a world of difference to your readers!


I've started out this author blog for myself to focus on writing and what I'm working on these days. To learn more about me, see the tab at the top.

If you'd like to read through my history blog you can check it out at I recently completed a year long project where I cooked & baked my way through 52 WWII ration recipes, one for every week of the year. It was loads of fun and all the recipes I tried, good and bad, are on my history website!