Published works on your topic can offer many clues to finding primary source material for your project. In addition to listing potential collections of primary source documents, they can be helpful guides for finding individuals or important events relating to your topic.
Be sure to check Works Cited and Bibliographies which accompany published books and articles for leads to additional sources.
Your background research may reveal the names of close friends or associates of the person you are writing about. Personal letters and/or journals by these individuals can provide another perspective on your topic. In cases where no collections or archives on your topic exist, writings by these associates may be the closest you can get to a primary source.
Preliminary research will identify people, places, and events which have a bearing on your project. These sources may include biographies, books and articles on the history of the time period you are studying, and other subject matter which will acquaint you with your topic and place it in historical, political, and social context.
This research may include secondary sources (another author's research and opinions based on original historical documents) or tertiary sources (based on secondary sources without examining original historical documents).
General History Databases
The following databases are good, general databases to start your initial history survey for your topic. For a list of all history databases, please see Research Databases in History.
Here are some databases which contain biographical information: