Examine Primary Sources

Maps and Photos

You can find surprising details about a place in the most ordinary of sources, including old maps, photos, phone books, diaries, and obituaries. Trek to your local library or historical society (or to their websites) to look for them.


Don’t forget to use your computer’s search engine to find information. Many local records have been digitized and are searchable. In the Google search engine, for example, click on the “More” menu to access digitized books under the “Books” tab.

Keep track of your sources. Write down the title of the map, photo, or book in which you find a name, date, or other key fact. List the author and page number, if applicable. (For more information about how to cite different types of sources, consult the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s MLA Formatting and Style Guide.)

It’s always a good practice to verify a fact in more than one source. (Sometimes you’ll find that sources don’t agree!)

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