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Primary Sources Guide

What Am I Looking For? Where Do I Find It?

Primary Sources for History might include:

  • Newspaper, magazine articles
  • Personal documents (diaries, letters, personal blog or website, tweet or post)
  • Memoirs
  • Interviews or speeches
  • Photographs
  • News footage, radio programs
  • Books and pamphlets
  • Posters and advertisements
  • Historic census data
  • City maps and directories
  • Legislation, reports
  • Recipes and cookbooks
  • Items or artifacts

Many of these sources are available online. Here are some good starting points:

Visit an Archives

Many sources are available online, but you can gain new insights if you view an original historic document in person. Visit an archive if you wish to access

  • Personal documents by historical figures
  • Institutional records
  • Municipal records
  • Historic maps
  • Images and audio records

Some local archives of interest include:

Examples of Primary Sources for History

Cover image for Me:  A Book of Remembrance by Onoto Watanna

Memoir or Autobiography

Source:  Me:  A Book of Remembrance by Onoto Watanna (Century, 1915)

image from handwritten journal

Diary or Journal

Source:  Diary of Sam Kimble

Image of front page for the Halifax Gazette, a newspaper


Source:  Halifax Gazette (23 March 1752)



Source:  Cosmopolitan (October 1908)


Source:  Twitter

Other History Guides