What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are materials that represent original or firsthand information that usually has not been altered.  This material can take different forms depending on the discipline you are working in.  See specific guides for information about primary sources in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences.


What are Primary Sources?

Finding Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Oral histories reflect the content of Archives and Special Collections. The audio recordings—almost exclusively audio cassette tapes recorded in the 1970s and 1980s—include both college history and local history interviewees.  Local history subjects include industry, public schools, churches, politics and remembrances of residing notables, such as Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. In addition, a collection of Safe Haven oral histories have been digitized. 

To locate oral history tapes search the Library Catalog for the series “Oral History Tapes.”  Then modify your results by subject or person.

Our most complete collection of Oswego’s newspapers is on microfilm in Penfield Library’s Microform Collection on the second floor.  The newspapers date from 1819 to present and are kept in chronological order under the various titles, all of which start with “Oswego”.

Many local and regional newspapers have been digitized and are available via NYS Historic Newspapers  

Penfield’s Regional News Databases – Current and Historic list is a good place to find out what area newspapers are available electronically or on microfilm and what volumes are indexed.  https://libraryguides.oswego.edu/content.php?pid=176518&sid=1486380

Journal articles on local history can be found in the research database America: History and Life or via the United States History Research Guide https://libraryguides.oswego.edu/historyUS

The Oswego County Historical Society Publication Index (1937-1977) is another reference tool that offers citations to the locally published history journal.  The Oswego County Historical Society journal can be found on the third floor in the Circulating Collection under the call number F127 .O91 O9.  Digitized copies of the Oswego County Historical Society publications are available from New York Heritage Digital Collections.

The Oswego County Census, which lists county statistical information from each decade from 1790 to present, is on microfilm.    Name indexes of family surnames listed in the censuses can be found in bound volumes.

Special Collections has a selection of city directories and telephone books.  The incomplete series dates from 1859 to 2011.  Digitized copies of the city directories are available via New York Heritage Digital Collections. 

Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York. 1853-1887.  
Reference F122 D66 Special Collections F122 D66

The Papers of Sir William Johnson.
Circulating Collection E195 J62 and Special Collections E195 J62 1921

Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York.  1777-1795, 1801-1804. 
Circulating Collection E263 N6 N56 and Special Collections E263 N6 N56