Primary Sources

BECOME A GOOD RESEARCHER! When you know what kinds of sources are available to you, you can find exciting stories, facts and photographs which can make history come alive!


A PRIMARY SOURCE is an ORIGINAL WORK of a person. A PRIMARY SOURCE tells you a person's ideas in his or her own words. You can gather first-hand information about people, events, topics, or places that a person may have written about years ago. When you are a good researcher you become an eyewitness to history! When you use first-hand eyewitness accounts to help you write a story, book, paper, or film, you are creating a secondary source. Two examples of PRIMARY SOURCES are letters and diaries. Try to identify other examples in the activity below.

Read the following examples of sources. Place a check by the ones that are PRIMARY SOURCES. Be careful! Some of the these are diffucult!

____1. Diary kept by John Smith, a soldier in the Confederate Army, published in a collection
of Alabama papers
____2. Photograph of Dr. George Washington Carver taken in 1898
____3. Biography of George Washington
____4. Newspaper article about the assassination of President Kennedy written on November 23, 1963
____5. Television mini-series about President Franklin Roosevelt's life
____6. Scrapbook kept by Mrs. Mary Smith in 1883 with copies of recipes and household hints
____7. Photograph album containing pictures of classmates at Tuskegee Institute in 1923
____8. Letter written by Emily Smith to her friend Pamela Jones, May 3, 1826, describing her trip by
wagon from North Carolina to Huntsville, Alabama and the log cabin her father was building
for the family
____9. Article about Martin Luther King, Jr. in People Magazine, 1988
____10. Information about Creek Indians in World Book Encyclopedia
____11. Cassette tape of an interview with Dr. James Lee describing his life as a doctor in Montgomery
   County during the 1920s
____12. The Story of Alabama, a textbook by Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton
____13. Matthew Mason's will, 1896
____14. Map of Alabama drawn by John LaTourette, 1841
____15. Minutes from the 1898 organization of Dexter Avenue United Methodist Church published in a play in 1988
Visit the Alabama Department of Archives and History Reference Room or your local library to find many types of PRIMARY SOURCES

For more information contact the:
Alabama Department of Archives and History
Attention: Curator of Education
P.O.Box 300100
Montgomery, Alabama 16130-0100
Return to ADAH Web Activities Mainpage
Return to Archives homepage

Updated: September 18, 2008