Historical learning should be taught in a competence-oriented way in primary school. However, there has so far been little research on children's competences in the elementary and primary areas of historical learning. The HisDeKo (Historical Thinking and Competence Development) research project, which is located at the universities of Osnabrück and Paderborn, has therefore been pursuing the empirical investigation of children's competences in historical thinking. This involved moving from considering children's traditional ways of thinking about history as historical narratives and accounts set within a chronological framework to evaluating their ability to consider the significance of sources and interpretations in reconstructing the past. In a qualitative study, 114 children have so far been individually interviewed. The evaluation procedure was developed on the basis of qualitative content analysis. Key results of this study are that the pupils know about the tradition of the past and can name different types of sources and understand that it is through sources that we find out about the past. Therefore, it appears to be appropriate to teach the methods of historical enquiry from the first grade onwards.