Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.


LibGuides for history scholars.

Identify Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Historians define Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary sources differently depending on the context surrounding their usage, their mode of creation, and their disciplinary focus. As a rule of thumb, definitions relate to how close the source is to the original event.

Some guidelines to follow when identifying sources:Radiating circles representing primary sources, secondary sources, and tertiary sources

  • Primary Sources
    • Record first-person accounts of events (diaries, interviews)
    • Present raw data or statistics from their own research
    • Share pioneering research or ideas that influence a new direction in the discipline (seminal text)
  • Secondary Sources
    • Relay second-person accounts of events (historiography)
    • Include supplementary information gathered from many other authors
    • Analyze the thoughts or research of other authors
    • May include scholarly (peer-reviewed) source materials
  • Tertiary Sources
    • Summarize first- and second- person accounts of events (encyclopedias, dictionaries)
    • Present an overview of information
    • Includes most reference texts

Research Workshops

Banner with the Genealogy of the Deceased for the Mummy Cover

(Banner with the Genealogy of the Deceased for a Mummy Cover, Thebes, Egypt)

The Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Library of Congress offer free workshops for genealogy research. Visit their sites for more information or click on the individual events listed below to sign up. Share your findings with other researchers, your professor, and your librarian.



Logo for ArchiveGridArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials; bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.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.

Library of Congress

Genealogy Records

Land Records

Surveyor General's Sketch books, Reserve and land south of Lake BathurstUse state land records to discover:

  • the history of property ownership,
  • how street names changed over time, and
  • when a family home was purchased.  

Each state has different methods for providing this type of information. To search land records outside of Maryland, search for

  • "land records",

  • "state land records", or

  • "official land records for _____County".  

Choose sites that are linked directly to a government institution or website (.gov), or search the state government homepage for contact information for the Clerk's office or records office.  

Newspaper Databases

Newspaper Stand with US Papers 14 February 1938

Special Collections and Archives at UBalt

Washington Monument BaltimoreThe Special Collections and Archives at the University of Baltimore contain collections related to Baltimore personalities, organizations, and land use.

  • Review "How to Use the Archives" before starting your research
  • Begin your search using the Collections Database
  • Request specific materials using the Request Research Assistance form
  • Browse curated Digital Collections created by our archivists

Course Resources

Other Resources for Research

Made with Padlet