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A selection of resources to help you research the personal histories of noteworthy people.
Last Updated: Feb 21, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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How to use this guide

This guide is arranged a little bit differently from other guides. Many guides have sections for databases, books, and websites - this guide, however, is grouped by subject or group of people. Under each tab you will kind all kinds of resources - for example, if you click on the World tab, you will find books, databases, and websites about people from countries outside of the United States.

Not every section will have all sorts of resources - some may only list websites, others may only list databases and books.

General Databases

  • Credo Reference
    This is a good database for a general search. To limit your search to just biography sources, make sure you click clear all under search in these topics, and recheck the box next to Biography.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library
    To search for biographies in this database, enter the person you are searching for (make sure you selected keyword from the drop-down box), and select "Biography" under "to subject area:" (which is part of "limit results.")
  • Biography Index
    This database covers people of all fields, nationalities, and time periods. However, not everything in this database is full-text.
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index
    Searching this database will help you to find out which reference *books* have biographical entries about which people. It does not have the biographies themselves. Let me know if you need help using this database!
  • Marquis Who's Who
    This is a well-known source for biographical information. Marquis produces several different volumes, many of which focus on specific regions (ex. Who's Who in America) or specific subject areas (ex. Who's Who in Finance and Business).

Recommended Websites

  • BBC: Historic Figures
    This website contains biographies of many "movers and shakers of history." Biographies contain links to related BBC articles, interactive content, related historic figures, and other relevant websites.
  • contains over 25,000 biographies. Many of these biographies contain links to video clips or other resources.
  • Infoplease Almanac: Biography
    This website has over 30,000 biographies. You can either search these biographies, browse by category (sports personalities, U.S. presidents, etc.) or browse by ethnic group.
  • Notable Names Database
    Contains entries on over 35,000 well-known people.
  • Pronounce Names
    The Dictionary of Name Pronunciation allows you to look up the pronunciation of a name; submit the pronunciation of a name so that others can pronounce it correctly; and request pronunciation of a name that you don't know and would like to find out.
  • Wikipedia
    Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Because of this, it's a good idea to look at other resources to ensure the information is correct. Still, Wikipedia's very useful for finding information on people currently in the news.

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Lynn Sheehan
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Mary Idema Pew Lbrary and Learning Information Commons
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