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Finding Primary Sources: Primary Sources

This guide will assist you in discerning what primary sources are and where they can be located.

What is a Primary Source?

Primary sources (also called primary resources or primary documents) are original records created at the time historical events occurred.

Examples include letters, diaries, journals, letters, oral accounts, hearings, speeches, interviews, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, maps, photographs, government documents, reports, novels, autobiographies, memoirs, newspapers, short stories, artifacts, family trees, business records, the census, coins, stamps, buildings, roads, tools, weapons, articles of clothing, and more.

Some primary sources may be after the fact, such as oral histories or memoirs, if they are created by a person present for the event.

Secondary sources are accounts of the past created by people writing about events sometime after they happened.