Finding Primary Sources

Primary sources are found in a variety of places but you have to know where to search for them. Because primary sources can be both published and not published, they can be tricky to find.

Often materials that are not published can be rare items that don't have many copies; things like diaries and letters. However, sometimes you can find primary sources that are published, like collections of letters or a person's diary published after the fact.  

Places to Look



Subject Terms


Keywords can be used in a database when you want to find items that have a word or a phrase anywhere in the item record. This can be a good way to get started, but it's important to note that the item may only mention your keyword once, so it may not be relevant to your research. Here are some keywords you may want to consider:

  • United States Civil War
  • Personal Narratives
  • Confederate or Union
  • Women
  • African Americans
  • Social Aspects
  • Campaigns
  • Southern States or Northern States
  • Slavery
  • Psychological Aspects

Subject Terms

Subject terms can be a more specific way to search. Each item that is entered into our catalog is assigned Subject Terms. These are terms that describe the focus of the resource. The one difficult thing about subject terms is figuring out what subject term is assigned to your topic. Here are a few subject terms that can get you started. (You can click on the term to search the catalog)

Primary Sources (Personal Narratives) in VRHC

Civil War Bibliography

This document lists the resources from the Civil War Era Bibliography that are available at the VC/UHV Library.

Research Consultation

If you would like to have a one-on-one research consultation about your project (including poster help), please contact me to set up an appointment. You can find my information in the box below.


Profile Photo
Jaena Manson