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Archives 101: Find Primary Sources in Special Collections & Archives: Citing Archival Sources

How to cite archival sources

Citations to primary sources held in Special Collections & Archives should indicate clearly the source of the material used so that future researchers can locate these materials readily.

The Archives of Ontario has issued a Guide to Citing Archival Records (PDF) that may be helpful.

The examples on this page are based on The Chicago Manual of Style and illustrate the elements that are important in documenting unpublished material. The library has many style manuals that will help you with proper format of citations.


Sample footnotes for archival sources

The preferred citation for records in Special Collections & Archives is:

University of Waterloo Library. Special Collections & Archives. FONDS/COLLECTION NAME. REFERENCE CODE

The first reference should include the complete information necessary to identify the document and its location. 

A citation to a letter should include the names of the sender and the recipient, followed by the date of the letter and the collection to which it belongs. It is not necessary to use the word “letter.”


  • Jacob Anthes to Martin and Catharine Anthes, 10 November 1870. University of Waterloo Library. Special Collections & Archives. Rieder and Anthes family fonds : 2010 accrual. GA200-4-28-23
  • Elizabeth Smith Shortt, diary entry, 15 June 1911. University of Waterloo Library. Special Collections & Archives. Elizabeth Smith Shortt fonds. WA10-15-1772

Subsequent references to the same collection may be abbreviated:

  • Anthes to Anthes, 1 November 1919.

Sample bibliography entries for archival sources

  • Anthes, Jacob. Correspondence. University of Waterloo Library. Rieder and Anthes family Fonds : 2010 Accrual.
  • Palmer, Dorthea. University of Waterloo Library. Dorothea Palmer Collection.
  • Shortt, Elizabeth Smith. Diary. University of Waterloo Library. Elizabeth Smith Shortt Fonds.