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Biographies

Introduction

Biographies will help you find

  • facts and information about the life and work of a person, such as
    • birth and death dates
    • childhood
    • education
    • professional life
    • social and personal activities
  • information about a country, civilization, or period of history as seen through the lives of people who lived there or then
  • answers to specific questions about a person

Biographies are works that

  • tell the history of an individual from birth to death
  • may be a short sketch
  • may be a long detailed presentation and analysis

Biographical information can be found in several forms

  • Autobiography--a narrative of a person's life by that person
  • Biography--the narrative of one person's life written by another person
  • Diary--a day-by-day account of a person's life written as it happened by that person
  • Letters--written communication between two or more people that discuss people, events, or ideas
  • Memoirs--an account of an individual's personal experiences usually written toward the end of that person's life

Biographical information may be published in

  • Books
  • Magazine or journal articles
  • Biographical Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedia articles
  • Obituaries
  • Plays and motion pictures

Some examples of sources of biographical information are

  • Current Biography - a monthly periodical which is cumulated annually
  • Biography Index-- an index to books and articles about living or dead people from all over the world.
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index-- a major index to biographical information
  • Dictionary of American Biography (DAB) - extensive biographical information about important deceased Americans. This is in print and electronic format.
  • Who's Who in America
  • Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs by Albert Speer

To find biographical information

  • do a SUBJECT search in your library's catalog on the name of the individual - for example, "Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961-Biography".
  • do a SUBJECT search in your library's catalog on your broad subject plus the subdivision - for example "Biography"; e.g. "dance-biography".
  • do a SUBJECT search in your library's catalog on "Biography" plus a time period subdivision for biographical information on people of a certain era - for example "Biography-20th century"
  • do a KEYWORD search in your library's catalog on the person's last name and "biography" - for example, "Einstein and biography"
  • do a KEYWORD search in a biographical index (print or electronic) on the name of the person you are interested in. Search under the last name followed by the first name - for example "Franklin, Benjamin"
  • do a KEYWORD search in a general interest print or electronic index. Search under the person's last name followed by the first name for magazine articles on that individual - for example "Brown, Rita Mae"

Always browse the introductory material of a biographical collection or a biographical index to learn how it is organized. The introduction will also tell you the coverage and other useful information about the index or compilation.

If you have trouble locating biographical information on someone or are not certain how to use a particular work, ASK A LIBRARIAN.