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I have the following list which is built up of associations, that is,

z = {<|{"a", "b"} -> 1, {"c", "d"} -> 2, {"e", "f"} -> 
    3|>, <|{"g", "h"} -> 4, {"i", "j"} -> 5|>, <|{"k", "l"} -> 
    6, {"m", "n"} -> 7, {"o", "p"} -> 8, {"q", "r"} -> 
    9|>, <|{"s", "t"} -> 10|>}

I am trying to to pick the first elements in each association such that it gives:

 {<|{"a", "b"} -> 1|>, <|{"g", "h"} -> 4|>, <|{"k", "l"} -> 
 6|>, <|{"s", "t"} -> 10|>}

to do that I do,

Map[First, z]

but this only returns the values, how can one fix this?

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You can use the fact that Part ([[…]]) preserves the keys when you supply a list of indices to extract:

z[[All, {1}]]
(* {<|{"a", "b"} -> 1|>, <|{"g", "h"} -> 4|>, <|{"k", "l"} -> 
   6|>, <|{"s", "t"} -> 10|>} *)

(* without the list *)
z[[All, 1]]
(* {1, 4, 6, 10} *)

Alternatively you could use Take:

Map[Take[#, 1] &, z]
(* {<|{"a", "b"} -> 1|>, <|{"g", "h"} -> 4|>, <|{"k", "l"} -> 
   6|>, <|{"s", "t"} -> 10|>} *)

Other possibilites:

Map[#[[{1}]] &, z]
(* {<|{"a", "b"} -> 1|>, <|{"g", "h"} -> 4|>, <|{"k", "l"} -> 
   6|>, <|{"s", "t"} -> 10|>} *)

z[[All, ;; 1]]
(* {<|{"a", "b"} -> 1|>, <|{"g", "h"} -> 4|>, <|{"k", "l"} -> 
   6|>, <|{"s", "t"} -> 10|>} *)

In essence, anything that could in principle return multiple elements will preserve the keys (or, more generally, will preserve that level of the nested expression)

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For completeness sake, a few more:

Extract[z, {All, {1}}]
(* {<|{"a", "b"} -> 1|>, <|{"g", "h"} -> 4|>, <|{"k", "l"} -> 
   6|>, <|{"s", "t"} -> 10|>} *)

Cases[z, KeyValuePattern[{x_ -> y_}] :> x -> y]
(*{{"a", "b"} -> 1, {"g", "h"} -> 4, {"k", "l"} -> 6, {"s", "t"} -> 10}*)
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