Primary Sources: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Have you ever wondered where all the information in your history book comes from? In this lesson, you'll learn what primary sources are, explore the different types and discover how they can provide us with clues to the past.

Stories from the Past

How could someone learn about your life without talking to you? They could look at pictures, read your diary or even look at your report card. When we want to learn about people, places and events from long ago, we often have to look at similar things for clues. We call these items created by people during events in the past primary sources.

Primary sources are original records of historical periods or events made by people during an event. These sources give you first-hand, or 'eye witness', information about things that happened in the past because the authors were actually there. Since they are first-hand accounts, historians, or people who study the past, can use these sources to get an idea of what people saw, heard and thought long ago.

Examples of Primary Sources

Because almost anything created during an event by someone taking part in the event can be a primary source, they come in many forms. Let's explore some examples of primary sources.

Diaries, Journals and Letters

People write about their daily life in diaries, journals and letters. Anne Frank was a teenager during World War II who wrote about her family's life during the war in her diary. The diary was later found and is a primary source about the Holocaust and World War II because Anne, a German Jew hiding from the Nazis, wrote it herself during the war.

Anne Frank at work
Anne Frank


Photographs, videos and paintings can be primary sources because they are taken or made during an event. The Wright Brothers, the first people to fly in an airplane, took a picture of the first flight ever. The photograph is a primary source of that event.

Wright Brothers
Kitty Hawk


Historical documents, like birth certificates, military records and other government documents, are primary sources because they are original records. The Constitution of the United States of America is a great example of a primary source because it was written and signed by our country's 'founding fathers'.

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