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.
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 the sugar trade, try a Sabin search for simply sugar AND trade Example below: