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Maple Woods - American History

Find resources for the study of American History

What Are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are original sources created at the time of an event. They include such personal writings as diaries or letters as well as official documents such as laws, treaties, court decisions, and government records. Eyewitness accounts, autobiographies, interviews, speeches, and oral histories are also primary. Historical objects, places, and photographs may also be considered primary sources. 

Where Can I Find Primary Sources?

Published primary sources may be found in books or on websites. Many of the library's online databases devoted to history contain sections of primary sources. Museums, historical societies, and archives will also have primary sources.

Use the library catalog to search for books. Search MOBIUS, a network of academic libraries with a shared catalog, for more. In searching, use your keyword(s) with such search terms as correspondence; diaries; interviews; oral history; personal narratives; sources; speeches, addresses, etc.; and treaties.

American Memory is an especially good website from the Library of Congress that is filled with primary sources.

Find More Websites on These Guides to Primary Sources