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Canadian History Research Guide: Primary Sources

General Digital Collections

Primary Sources: Newpapers / News

Primary Sources in Books

Many primary sources can be found in books.  To find these go to the library’s search engine, then search for your topic using one of the following terms:

  • Personal Narratives
  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Correspondence 
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Sources
  • Autobiographies
  • Memoirs
  • Government Documents 

An example of this search is displayed in the image below


Similarly there are digital books that can be used as resources.  Some can be located using the library search engine; others are available in digitized library and archival collections.  The same criteria outlined above apply to these resources  (i.e. identify if they are personal narratives diaries, etc).  However, before using them ensure they are from a reputable site.  Library and Archival collections, esteemed publisher collections, historical society records and government publications  are the most authoritative.  Some of these collections are listed below:

Pictures and Media

BU Library QuickLinks

Accessing Primary Sources from Home

If you are a student or faculty member at Brandon University, you can access primary sources from off campus.

If you are accessing the library's web site from off campus, most links on the library's web site will first take you to the Proxy Authentication Page, where you can log in with your Brandon University username and password. Once you have logged in, you will be taken to the destination of the link. You should only have to log in once per session.

To log in, you will need your Brandon University username and password - the same username and password you use to log into the Brandon University network when you're on campus. If you have not claimed your username and password or you are having trouble logging in with those, you should contact the Brandon University Help Desk (Phone 571-8500 Monday -Friday 8:30AM to 4:30PM).

For more information, see the Off-Campus Access Page

Primary Sources: Documents

Primary Sources: Maps

Map Collections

  • Atlas of Canada
    A selection of interactive and historical maps and geographical data available for reference or downloading
  • Canadian Country Digital Atlas Project
    The County Atlas Digital Project is a searchable database of the property owners' names which appear on the township maps in the county atlases. Township maps, portraits and properties have been scanned, with links from the property owners' names in the database.
  • David Rumsey Map Collection: This historical map collection has over 29,000 maps and images online. It is focused on rare 18th and 19th century North and South American maps. There are also historic maps of the World, Europe, Asia and Africa.
  • Exploration and Settlement 
    Library and Archives Canada holds vast resources related to exploration, immigration, naturalization and citizenship. Includes maps and artwork.
  • Atlas of Alberta Railways  The Atlas' 224 detailed maps are accompanied by short articles, illustrations, historic photographs, charts, graphs and interesting trivia that provide a comprehensive overview of the railways in our province.
  • Historical Atlas of Canada Online Learning Project 
    Maps and data generated for the Historical Atlas of Canada available online. 
  • Historical Maps of Canada: From National Geographic, view maps between 1700-1999 of Canada.
  • Wikimedia Commons Historical Atlas: Contains several historical maps which can be viewed online.

S.J. McKee Archives

The S.J. McKee Archives holds historical documents related the Westman area of Manitoba. It is increasingly placing a number of institutional and regional history documents online via the Institutional Repository at Brandon University.   Researchers wishing to use the Archives physical collections can visit it from 1:00-4:30 P.M. Monday-Friday (with the exception of Statuatory Holidays.)   During Covid contact the archives to arrange a visit.

One significant collection is the Fabian Society Tracts.  To access them go to the library search engine and follow tin instructional screenshots below.





HathiTrust Digital Library

HathiTrust Digital Library is a digital preservation repository and highly functional access platform. HathiTrust provides long-term preservation and access services  to digitized content from a variety of sources, including Google, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and in-house member institution initiatives. Items in the public domain are in full-view for everyone and items held in copyright are searchable.

To locate Digital Primary Sources in HathiTrust


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Meta Searching via ArchiveGrid

ArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies. ArchiveGrid is largely made up of MARC records from WorldCat.  

To search ArchiveGrid:

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EROMM European Register of Microform and Digital Masters

EROMM is an international database containing information about printed and handwritten material that have been reformatted to microform or digital form. It does not contain information about “digital born” material (e. g. electronic journals, e-books), nor information about non-textual items like images, photos or three-dimensional objects (e.g. artifacts, art).

To search EROMM

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Meta Searching Via Google Advanced Search

Advanced Google Searches

General Google searches may yield very many results, and it may take much sifting through the results in order to find relevant items. Using Google Advanced Search with specific search terms can help yield more focused results.

Within Google Advanced Search, use the “all of these words” and the “this exact word or phrase” to enter keywords for your subject, for example,

  • all these words:          Métis Rebellion
  • any of these words:    archives manuscripts correspondence diaries scrapbooks sources letters

This will yield a mixture of digitized full text and other material.

Also try:

  • all these words:          Women Canada
  • any of these words:    "digital archives" "digital collection" "digital library" "online collection"

Although less effective you can also try:

  • all these words:         [Your topic words]
  • any of these words:   cdm contentdm

"Cdm" or "contentdm" occur in the url of many digital collections

For any of these searches Use the Usage Rights option and select material that is openly available for you to use.

For any of these searches, use the “site or domain” box to search within just .edu, .org, or .gov sites.​​  List of country domain names.

Note: Examples adapted from Harvard University Libraries Libduide


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Carmen Kazakoff-Lane
Carmen Kazakoff -Lane, Scholarly Communications Librarian
John E. Robbins Library - ( LB 2-19 )
270-18th Street
Brandon, Manitoba
R7A 6A9

Ph: (204) 727-7483

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