Skip to Main Content

Types of Primary Sources Related to the History of Religion in Canada

There are many types of primary sources that illustrate the history of religion in Canada. Here are a few examples:

Mining Secondary Sources for Primary Source Ideas

Some time spent reading secondary sources on a topic can help you identify leads for possible types and specific examples of primary sources related to your topic. 

Read secondary sources (book chapters, journal articles) on your topic closely to get ideas for primary sources.

  • Do the books and articles mention individuals or organizations who may have generated primary documents related to your topic? Make note of them, then search by name for these people/groups in the tools listed below.
  • Does the article list any specific primary documents, or types of primary documents you might look for? Make note and search in the tools described below. 


Advice on Finding Historical Primary Sources

Search Tips for Finding Primary Sources
  • Try using search terms that include types of primary documents - speeches, letters, correspondence, diaries, etc. 
  • Try Google: Add "primary sources" or "primary documents" to a Google search.
  • When searching WITHIN electronic primary source collection (for example, within any of the collections listed earlier on this page), use terminology common to the historical period you are researching, rather than the modern terms. E.g “Great War” versus "World War I," or  “Dominion Day” versus “Canada Day.” This also applies to terminology relating to racialized groups. 
  • Limit your search to relevant dates when you have the option to do.

Primary Source Collections Related to this Course

The following collections are good starting points for finding documents related to this course. For a more exhaustive list of Canadian primary source collections, visit the Primary Sources for Canadian History tab of this research guide. 

LibrarySearch: Includes many, many primary documents. Add the term sources to other relevant search terms to find primary sources available via the MRU Library. Other primary source-related terms to add to your search include correspondence, speeches, diaries and documents. See the LibrarySearch link provided here for an example of this, and adapt it to your own topic. 

Canadiana Online: Includes early government documents/legislation, Royal Commission reports, some early newspapers, religious tracts, sermons, missionary accounts, and special interest group publications of various kinds. Best for topics up to the early 20th century. Use the date limiters provide for best results. Includes many texts that are mentioned in the readings for this specific course. 

Historical newspapers: Newspapers are an accessible form of primary source for those new to this type of research. MRU provides access to numerous papers, including some dating back to the mid-19th century (Toronto Star, Globe and Mail) and earlier. Try searching for news reports events and issues related to religious organizations and figures. 

Historical Debates of the Parliament of Canada (Hansard): Includes all verbatim accounts of all debates of the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons from the first session in 1867 to 1994 (House of Commons) and 1996 (Senate). Good source for studying topics related to religion as it relates to immigration and Canadian legislation, religion as it relates to education, among many other topics.

Peel's Prairie Provinces: Documents the settlement and development of the Canadian West, with a focus on Alberta, and dating back to the earliest days of exploration in the region. A good source of political and religious tracts and pamphlets related to the prairies - includes documents from the United and Methodist churches, Mennonite groups, and missionary groups. 

University of Calgary Digital Collections - Includes useful sources on the history of  Alberta, including early newspapers, legal history and a local history book collection. For best results, limit your search to only the most relevant collections for your topic. 

New to Primary Source Research? Watch This Video

Primary Sources for History

Video Chapters
1:42 - General tips for finding primary sources
4:03 - Finding primary sources in MRU LibrarySearch
5:29 - Finding primary sources via Google
6:55 - Finding primary sources via MRU History Guide, including historical newspapers


Visit the Primary Sources tab of this guide for more advice and access to MRU's digital primary source collections. 

Finding Secondary Sources for Canadian History

LibrarySearch: This is the main search tool for finding books and journal articles at MRU. Use the drop-down menus under the search box, the right side panel options and the advanced search screen to narrow search results. See the LibrarySearch link provided for an example of this.

America History & Life: Use this database to search history-specific journals with a focus on North American history. Try the advance search screen for useful options, including limiting a search to articles discussing a specified historical period.

Google Scholar: Use the "cited by" option to find sources citing a particular article. Make sure to adjust and save your Google Scholar settings to link you to Mount Royal University, for the best access to full-text content at MRU.

Interlibrary Loan: Place an interlibrary loan request for books and journal articles you discover that are not available in full-text at MRU.

Finding biographical information

If you are studying a specific historical or religious figure, the following tools may be helpful:

Dictionary of Canadian Biography - Provides often in-depth biographical information about individuals associated with Canada's history, entries often include excellent bibliographies of related materials. 

Canadian Encyclopedia - Another good source of biographical, and other background, information. Keep searches simple and look for the recommended reading lists at the end of most entries. 

Oxford Reference Online - Provides biographical and other background information, look for results from the Oxford Companion to Canadian History in particular. Entries here also often included helpful bibliographies on the figures and topics discussed. Keep searches simple - one or two words is usually enough.

LibrarySearch - Search for biographical information across the library collections using LibrarySearch. Search for your figure by name, and use the drop-down menus under the search box to search in the subject of items being searched (look closely at the LibrarySearch link provided for an example of this). This will turn up biographies and other sources specifically discussing the name you are searching for.  


Profile Photo
Alice Swabey
Drop-in help Mondays 12-2 at the Library Service Desk. Appointments available via Google Meet or in-person. Email help is also available.