Skip to Main Content


Profile V2

Primary Sources

A primary source is a record or artifact produced during or shortly after a particular event, experience or time period by those who participated in or witnessed the event.

Examples include speeches, interviews, letters, census records, diaries, newspaper articles, government documents, clothing, photographs, posters, paintings, maps, court records, poems, plays, television and radio broadcasts.

To locate primary source materials in the library catalogue, conduct a keyword search and add sources, documents, diaries, or personal narratives or correspondence to other relevant search terms. For example, "cold war" (sources or diaries or documents)

You can find primary documents on the Web using similar keywords like those used to locate sources in the library catalogue and keywords such as eyewitness, first-hand accounts, oral history, autobiography, digital exhibition, digital collection, and primary sources. 

Remember to critically evaluate all of your primary documents before you use them for your history paper.

Select Microfilm Collections at MacEwan Library

Hudson's Bay Company Archives - Records of the Hudson's Bay Company posts primarily in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Many of the HBC microfilm reels may also be available online from the Archives of Manitoba.

Aberdeen Town Council Registers, 1541-1675

Slavery & Anti-Slavery Pamphlets - pamphlets, speeches and reports (1840s & 1850s)  - From abolitionist government officials Salmon P. Chase and John P. Hale

Decisions of the Court of Session of Scotland

Statutes, at Large Passed in the Parliaments in Ireland, 1310-1800


Evaluating Primary Sources

Questions to ask when evaluating primary sources:

  • Who created the primary document?
  • When was the document created?
  • Who was the intended audience?
  • If the primary source is online who created the website? 
  • If the primary source is digitized does it include a reference to the original source?
Licensed under CC BY-NC | Details and Exceptions