A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the period being studied. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Also included are works created later by an eyewitness or a participant in an event, e.g. memoirs/autobiographies.
Types of primary sources:
Original documents (including excerpts and translations): diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage,
autobiographies, official records, ancient literature, magazine and newspaper articles.
Creative works: poetry, drama, novels, printed music, sound recordings, art.
Relics or artefacts: pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings.
Statistics and raw data
Reproductions, facsimiles or replicas of original documents, creative works or artefacts are also acceptable as primary
Examples of primary sources:
- Reports and Documents from the Ontario Ministry of Education.
- The life and letters of Annie Leake Tuttle: working for the best (Online at HathiTrust)
- The Constitution of Canada
- Newspaper article from the time an event occurred
- Photographic reproduction of Benjamin Chee Chee's "Dancing Goose"
- Sacred texts
- Publications, speeches etc from church or religious groups.
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
Finding primary sources in the library collection
- Original documents can be found by consulting the Archives and Special Collections (ARC) website.
- Reproductions can be found by checking Omni.
Use specific words to locate primary sourcees in the library's search tool, such as: correspondence, sources, diaries, letters, personal naratives. KEYWORD search examples:
- [PERSON’S NAME] AND correspondence
- [PERSON’S NAME] AND diaries
- [PERSON’S NAME] AND letters
- [KEYWORD] AND sources
In the library's electronic and microform collections
- Early English Books Online
- Peel's Prairie Provinces
- CIHM (Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions)
Microfiche reproductions from the time of the first European settlers to the 1920s. Items can be searched in Omni by entering relevant KEYWORDS or SUBJECTS and adding AND CIHM to the search
Historical Digital Newspapers
- Canadian Parliamentary Publications (Pre-Confederation)
- Canada Year Book 1867-1967 available online (Statistics Canada)
- Official Reports of the Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada (1883-86 to 1896-1900- Early Canadiana) ; (1901- lipad) ; (1881-1950 DDV CA1 X1 .D23)
- House of Commons Debates, Official Report (various years)
- Documents on Canadian External Relations
- Historical Statistics of Canada
For more assistance, go to the Government Information Webpages
Available on the Internet
Original documents are usually unique, so they are kept in a place of preservation such as archives and libraries Archives Canada, Library and Archives Canada, ARCHEION, and Archives of Ontario. Many of these institutions have undertaken digitization projects to make their holdings more accessible. This is only a select list of websites that have primary sources available free on the Web.
- Artefacts Canada
- Discover the Collection (Library and Archives Canada)
- Early Chinese Canadians 1858-1947 (Library and Archives Canada) (Archived Content)
- First Among Equals: The Prime Minister in Canadian Life and Politics (Library and Archives Canada) (Archived Content)
Various speeches by Canadian Prime Ministers
- Discover Canada - Canada's History
- Our Future Our Past: The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project
- Our Ontario
- The Ships List
For American primary sources, see the Subject Guide: American History: Finding and Using Primary Sources, Newspapers and Archives.
Centre for Research Libraries
The Center for Research Libraries (CRL)
A great institution to check for historical documents, newspapers, journals, archives and other sources. "The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is a consortium of North American universities, colleges, and independent research libraries. The consortium acquires and preserves newspapers, journals, documents, archives, and other traditional and digital resources for research and teaching and makes them available to member institutions through interlibrary loan and electronic delivery." Carleton University Library is a member of CRL.