Answered By: Joe Bond
Last Updated: May 15, 2017     Views: 202

Most primary sources are created at the time an event occurred. Others, such as autobiographies, are produced much later. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, photographs, audio recordings and films.

Finding primary sources on specific topics can be tricky. Try the links below. Need help? Ask a Librarian!

Library Databases (an active Library Card is required)

  • Ancestry
    Typically used for genealogical research, Ancestry contains Census records; birth, marriage and death records; immigration records; vital and church records; military records; and court, land and probate records.
  • American West
    Tales of frontier life, pioneers, Wild West shows, the Gold Rush, vigilantes and outlaws through primary sources.
  • American Indian Histories and Cultures
    Rare and significant documents including manuscripts, artworks, speeches and petitions, diaries, correspondence, linguistic and ethnographic studies, photographs, maps, photographs, rare printed books and American Indian newspapers.
  • JSTOR
    An archive of academic journals in the social sciences, humanities and sciences. It is an excellent resource for primary source documents dating back to the seventeenth century.
  • Academic Search Complete
    Includes speeches, letters, governmental documents, and more.  
  • MasterFILE Premier
    Also includes speeches, letters, governmental documents, and more.

Websites

  • National Archives
    Explore America's history through documents, photos and records.
     
  • Library of Congress
    Find digitized maps, photos, prints, drawings, newspapers, personal narratives, audio recordings and more.
     
  • Smithsonian Source: Primary Source Search
    Search by historical topic, like Colonial America, Westward Expansion and Civil Rights for artifacts, documents and photographs.