Biographical Resources

Where can I search for biographical information on someone who was born or was integral to various aspects of the UK?

The most obvious biographical database for UK biographical information is the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. However, there are others that covers part or all of this remit. See below for a list of useful databases available.

Where can I search for biographical information on someone who was born or was integral to various aspects of a particular country other than the UK?

Many countries have a national biographical database that holds information on all major figures who helped in the development of that particular country. Some are listed below; click on them to see more information about that particular biographical resource.

How do I search for biographical information on people of a particular profession?

Most of the electronic biographical resources allow you to search for people of a particular profession. You can usually also limit your search by a variety of other specifications such as birth and death dates, gender, religious affiliation etc.

The resources below are particularly useful in searching by profession. If you click on the name of a resource, you will find information about that particular resource, look under the subheading 'What Search facilities are there and how do I use them?' to find particular information about searching for biographical information by profession.

Note that the standard search facility to search by profession is the 'Advanced Search', but some resources may differ. Click on a database to find more information about that database.

How do I find biographical information on people involved with a particular group or theme?

Searching for non-professional groups or themes is a more difficult search than searching for a profession for instance. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is particularly good at providing information on a number of subjects that may be of interest, such as lists of English and British monarchies and claimants to the thrones, holders of the Victoria Cross, art, technology, religious and political societies. It also holds a number of feature essays on a variety of subjects. 

The American National Biography provides excellent information on people involved with certain groups or themes in the section 'Research Ideas'. Unfortunately, it does not cover a huge number of different topics. 

Remember that this list is not exhaustive, many other databases might recognise the group or theme you are searching for. Try simply entering them in a normal or advanced search. Click on a database to find more information about each database. You may find the section on search facilities helpful.

How do I find biographical information on people from a particular subject area?

There are a few databases that search within one discipline that are very useful for finding biographical information on someone related to that subject.

The two major discipline specific databases are Grove Art Online and Grove Music Online that cover all aspects of their field, and those relating to that field (such as famous choreographers, and set designers can be found in Grove Music Online). However, databases such as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography will allow you to limit your search in order to retrieve a results list of subject specific biographies.

Furthermore, CREDO Reference and KnowUK (the database that gives you access to Who's Who and Who was Who) will allow you to choose what subjects, and what publications within those subjects you wish to search in. It is worth pointing out that the latter two databases are not specific to biography and will contain publications that do not specifically hold biographical information. Click on a database below to find out more information.

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