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Research Guides

Canadian Studies

Primary sources

Primary sources are materials produced at the time of the event under study, or first-hand accounts by those who participated in or witnessed the event. They take many forms, such as letters, diaries, government documents, photographs, broadsides, news accounts, memoirs, etc. Although much of this material resides in archives, some of it has been published or digitized.


Try adding sources and documents (one at a time) to your searches in the library catalogue.


      riel rebellion sources ("sources" is a term used in Library of Congress Subjects)

      riel rebellion documents ("documents" often appears in the titles of collections of primary sources)

In addition to sources, here are some other terms used in Library of Congress Subjects that can help you locate primary sources -- try adding one of these to your search in the library catalogue:

early works to 1800
personal narratives
pictorial works


     women canada diaries

     chinese canadians interviews



(Please note: The Special Collections section of this guide also contains links to digitized primary sources.)

Early Canadiana Online (ECO)

A digital library providing access to over a million pages of Canada's printed heritage. It features works published from the time of the first European settlers up to the early 20th Century.

Canadiana Online

Launched in 2017, Canadiana Online "Canadiana Online consists of Monographs, Government Publications, and Serials – Periodicals, Annuals and Newspapers. These collections bring together all the content in the existing Early Canadiana Online (ECO), the entire microfiche corpus of the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions (CIHM, now Canadiana), plus millions of pages of additional content never before published by Canadiana."


An "initiative to digitize and make accessible online some of Canada’s most popular archival collections encompassing roughly 40 million pages of primary-source documents [...] from the 1600s to the mid-1900s."

Canada's Digital Collections

Over 600 digital collections have been archived by Library and Archives Canada. These digital projects were created for Canada's Digital Collections (CDC), which "was operated by Industry Canada between 1996 and 2004 to provide young Canadians with skills and experience in preparing digital Canadian content of local, regional and international interest."

Canada in the Making

This site is about the history of Canada through the words of the men and women who shaped the nation. Built around the Government Documents collection of the Early Canadiana Online collection, it integrates narrative text with links to primary source texts, maps, and images, around the following themes:

  • Constitutional History, and
  • Aboriginals: Treaties and Relations
  • Pioneers and Immigrants

Canadian Illustrated News 1869-1883

A selection of almost 4000 images of people, places and events across Canada and around the world taken from the popular 19th-century magazine.

Early Encounters in North America ( EENA )

Contains 1,482 authors and over 100,000 pages of letters, diaries, memoirs and accounts of early encounters. Particular care has been taken to index the material so that it can be used in new ways. For example, you can identify all encounters between the French and the Huron between 1650 and 1700.

Framing Canada: A Photographic Memory

"The photographic collections at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) contain more than 22 million images. Representing the history of photography from its beginnings in the early 1840s to the present day, these photographic collections are an invaluable resource for the visual history of Canada and Canadians. Featuring photographs from various public and private collections, Framing Canada: A Photographic Memory presents a searchable database of digitized photographic images from 1843 to the mid-20th century. These images tell the fascinating and ever-changing story of how Canadians see themselves and their world."

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral Histories

Includes 2,162 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of information, so providing a unique and personal view of what it meant to immigrate to America and Canada between 1800 and 1950. Composed of contemporaneous letters and diaries, oral histories, interviews, and other personal narratives, this series provides a rich source for scholars in a wide range of disciplines.

North American Women's Letters and Diaries

Includes the immediate experiences of 1,325 women and 150,000 pages of diaries and letters.

The Reuben R. Sallows Digital Library

This resource provides centralized access to geographically dispersed collections of pictorial art created by Canadian photographic pioneer Reuben R. Sallows. More than 900 original photographs, stereoscopic cards, postcards, and carte-de-visite, provided by six partnering institutions across Southwestern Ontario, have been converted to digital format, catalogued and mounted within this digital repository.