Account books, diaries, journals, letters and other personal documents are a rich source of material for ethnologists, historians and others interested in studying everyday life. Separately, they provide first-hand, detailed information about individuals, communities and occupations rarely found in other historical sources, and offer an opportunity to investigate life at the level of the parish, town, workplace or family. Collectively, they show the great variety of everyday life and how its rhythms, forms and customs differed not only across time and place, but also between occupations, social groups and genders. They are particularly useful for studying the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a period that lies beyond the reach of first-hand oral reminiscences but when increasing levels of literacy meant that a wide assortment of people were recording their daily affairs.

The founder of the EERC, Professor Sandy Fenton, recognised their value for ethnological research and in 1994 launched the Sources in Local History series to promote their use more widely. This endeavour has found new purpose in the Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project, one of the objectives of which is to create a free-to-access, digital collection of fully edited and transcribed historical sources. For those published so far, click on the Sources in Local History link below.