Language has changed over the centuries, and it is often difficult to speak like - and think like - our 17th century ancestors.
Words like college, race, "Indian," meant different things, and concepts like gender or nationalism didn't even exist.
As an example, a search for "gender" in Colonial America only yields 2 results, and only then relating to grammar rules.
Wide range of material (correspondence, journals, notes, etc)
PRINTED MATTER (BOOKS, BROADSIDES, ETC)
Magazines and Popular Periodicals
Letters, Diaries, Papers
Most primary source databases will have "thematic" filters to get you started. Before keyword searching, start there. See what curated documents come up. From those documents, see what terminology is being used by contemporaries. Note, as an example, Colonial America's Thematic Section.
Begin with basic searches and do not be too complicated. If you're interested in women who became pirates, try a Sabin search for simply wives AND marriage. Example below:
When you search, be sure to limit the publication date range to your period of interest!
You can also use the following keywords to find specific types of documents: