Finding Information About People: History

Information about people can be found in books, journals, and websites. To find books, search the Subject file of the Library Catalogue under the individual's name (e.g., Diefenbaker, John), or use subject headings such as Ireland -- Biography or Prime ministers -- Canada -- Biography. Many people will not have had an entire book written about them, so be sure to check Biographical dictionaries (compilations of biographical information on numerous individuals). Some biographical dictionaries simply list essential facts about a person, while others present the facts in a narrative form. Some also include a list of bibliographical references which can be useful for finding additional biographical information.

There are many standard biographical dictionaries. The following are some biographical dictionaries which will be useful when searching for information about historical figures.

American National Biography
Successor to the Dictionary of American Biography. Includes individuals “whose significant actions occurred during his or her residence within what is now the United States or whose life or career directly influenced the course of American history.” All subjects died before 1996.
REFERENCE CT213.A68 1999

Biography Index (1946-2007)
Index to biographies of prominent people from every field. Biographies appear in articles in over 3,000 journals, as well as in books. Each issue includes an index by profession/occupation.

Canadian Who's Who (1910-2010)
Concise, comprehensive biographies of prominent Canadians from a wide variety of occupations and professions. Also available as e-books to the UPEI community through ProQuest or our library catalogue.

Current Biography Yearbook (1940-2004)
Includes biographies of persons of various nationalities, professions, and occupations, who are popular in their particular fields. Each yearbook contains a classified list by profession/occupation.

Dictionary of American Biography (DAB)
One of the best sources of biographical material about prominent American figures who died before 1981. Suppl. 8 includes a cumulative index for vols. 1-10 and suppl. 1-8. Suppl. 10 provides indexing for all the supplements. Indexing is by name, birthplace, and occupation. Succeeded by the American National Biography.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography (DCB)
A wonderful source of biographical information on noteworthy Canadians. The 15 vols. pub. to date cover 1000 to 1930. Arrangement is chronological, with death dates determining vol. assignment for a particular biography. Bibliographical notes are included, as are indexes by name, occupation, birthplace, and places of activity. There is a cumulative index by name for vol. 1-12. Also available on the Web.

Dictionary of National Biography (DNB)
"The" source for English biography. "Scope includes all noteworthy inhabitants of the British Isles and the Colonies, exclusive of living persons; also noteworthy Americans of the colonial period." Coverage extends to 1990. Updated by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Dictionary of World Biography
Each entry provides an in-depth essay on the life and career of the individual, and is supplemented by an annotated bibliography. Indexes by area of achievement and geographical location are included. Vol. 1 (The Ancient World) is also available as an e-book to the UPEI community.
REFERENCE CT104.D54 1998

Leading Ladies, Canada, 1639-1967
Biographical information organized by chapters covering the work of Canadian women in various fields. Criteria for inclusion was "pioneers in various fields, worth-while achievement, acknowledged leaders, unsung heroines, women who succeeded despite special handicaps." Useful bibliography at end of book.

Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Brief sketches on more than 5,000 noteworthy Canadians who died before 1976.

Modern English Biography (Frederic Boase)
The six vols. “contain some 30,000 short biographical sketches of persons who died between 1851-1900 who achieved any public importance.” Supplements the DNB.

New York Times Obituaries Index, 1858-1968
"...brings together, in a single alphabetical listing, all the names entered under the heading 'Deaths' in the issues of the New York Times Index from September 1858 through December 1968..." Does not contain paid obituary notices.

New York Times Obituaries Index, 1969-1978

Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing The Twentieth Century
REFERENCE CT3260.N5725 2004

Notable American Women, 1607-1950 : A Biographical Dictionary
Covers more than 1,800 women, most of whom are not included in the Dictionary of American Biography. Vol. 3 contains a classified list by occupation/field. 

Notable American Women: The Modern Period : A Biographical Dictionary
Supplements the title above. Subjects included died between 1951 and 1975. 

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
This 60-vol. set updates the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). Contains biographies of “remarkable people in any walk of life who were connected with the British Isles - excluding living people.”

Research Guide to European Historical Biography, 1450 - Present
Covers 400 prominent Europeans in various fields of endeavour. For each individual, a biographical chronology and outline of activities of historical significance is followed by an overview and evaluation of the principal primary and secondary biographical sources.
REFERENCE Z5304.C44R47 1992

St. James Guide to Biography
Bibliographical listing of biographies of individuals of both general and scholarly interest, from all fields. A critical review essay on the biographies accompanies each entry.

They Made History: A Biographical Dictionary
In the words of the author, "history covers the entire spectrum of human endeavor, incorporating all aspects of the natural and social sciences, culture, religion, and discovery and exploration that have advanced the march of civilization and broadened the human experience." Coverage is international.
REFERENCE CT103.W54 1993

Who Was Who (1897-1990)
Biographies of deceased persons selected from the volumes of Who's Who.

Who Was Who in America (1607-1981)
The historical volume (1607-1896), is a "compilation of sketches of individuals, both of the United States of America and other countries, who have made contribution to, or whose activity was in some manner related to the history of the United States, from the founding of the Jamestown Colony..." In subsequent volumes the biographies are of deceased persons selected from Who's Who in America. There is a separate Index covering all the volumes. 

Who's Who (1899-2002)
Covers prominent figures worldwide, but with special emphasis on Britain.

Who's Who in America (1899-2004)
Information on notable Americans. Includes a Professional Index. 
REFERENCE - 3rd Floor E176.W642

Who's Who in Canada (1914-2001)
An illustrated biographical record of leading Canadians from business, the professions, government, and academia. An index at the back groups people by occupation.

Who's Who in Europe, 1450-1750
"Over a thousand entries, which cover the whole of Europe and include politics, culture, religion and science."

Who's Who in History
This 5 volume set covers British history from the 50 B.C. to 1837.
REFERENCE DA28.W618 v1-5

Women in the Middle Ages : An Encyclopedia
"Contains over 300 entries offering both basic and in-depth information on individual women and on broad topics relating to the experience of women in Europe and elsewhere in the world between the second and fifteenth centuries..." .
STACKS HQ1143.W643 2004 V.1, 2 

Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia
Over 10,000 women are profiled in 17 vols. Indices by era, geography, occupation/experience, and name.
REFERENCE HQ1115.W6 1999

Created by: Betty Jeffery, B.A., M.L.S.
Instruction & Education Services Librarian
Phone: 902-566-0741
Date Created: 24-Aug-2001
Date Revised: 20-October-2014