Biographical information, a frequent request in public libraries, is contained in print sources devoted exclusively to the area called biographical dictionaries or directories, or simply biographical sources. Biographical data is also found in general and subject encyclopedias and in periodical articles. This section focuses on general biographical sources. Specialized biographical works are listed with subject fields—authors with literature, artists with art, etc. Genealogical sources, a closely related area, also are covered in this section.

Reference books devoted exclusively to biography vary in the amount of information they contain. Some are termed data-type in that they include only the most basic facts about the person’s life—dates, field of endeavor, major accomplishments, etc. Others feature either short or more substantial essays that treat the person’s accomplishments in more detail. Biographical works for subject fields (art, literature, etc.) often contain critical or evaluation comments as well as biographical information.

TexShare includes numerous databases that provide biographical information—general and subject encyclopedias, periodical articles, etc.—making it an important source for this type data. The Internet, another important source of biographical data, includes authors’ Web sites and many other types of databases that treat individuals and their accomplishments.

Biographical Dictionaries

B1. The Biographical Dictionary. (

This database gives basic information about notable men and women from ancient times to the present. In addition to searching by name, the user can search by birth year, death year, position held, profession, literary and artistic works, achievements, and keywords.

B2. Biography & Genealogy Master Index. Available through TexShare.

The index provides bibliographic information for biographical data contained in 1,500 publications, covering people of all times, geographical locations, and fields of study—authors, scientists, sports professionals, actors, etc.

B3. (

Some 25,000 notables, past and present and from all parts of the world, are included in this source. Those included range from media personalities to political and historical figures. Sketches vary in length from 150 to some 1600 words, depending on significance and information available.

B4. The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography. John S. Bowman, ed.

Cambridge University Press, 1995. 941p. (5)

Some 9,000 persons, living and dead, are profiled in this useful work. Persons from all periods of American history and all fields of endeavor are treated mainly in brief articles. Entries for very prominent individuals are longer and more detailed. Indexing is by occupation and by names mentioned within articles.

B5. Merriam-Webster’s Biographical Dictionary. Rev. ed. Merriam-Webster, 1995. 1,184p. (3)

This is an important ready-reference source for obtaining basic data about important people throughout history. Brief entries cover some 34,000 persons, from all countries and all times. Emphasis, however, is on British and American figures. Entries vary from a few sentences to a page or more and provide pronunciation, dates, and the person’s chief contributions.

Note: For libraries able to afford the annual cost, Current Biography (H.W. Wilson, 1940 to date. Annual [8]) is a useful acquisition providing lengthy articles on currently important persons, approximately 200 each year—politicians, diplomats, scientists, writers, musicians, professional athletes, motion picture and television personalities, and other notables. The work also appears as a monthly periodical (8/yr.) and is available on CD-ROM.


Listed below are databases containing genealogical material and a how-to-do-it guide to research in genealogy. Print sources for finding ancestors are numerous and many are expensive. Most small libraries obtain them as gifts from local genealogical societies.

B6. (

The site offers information from few city directories, over 4,000 cemetery records, surname sources, census records, ships’ lists, and ethnic links.

B7. Family Search. (

This major source for genealogical research, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, contains over 300 million names and includes links to related research sites. One of its features is an interactive email service in which searchers can exchange questions and findings about family names.

B8. HeritageQuest Online. Available through TexShare.

This continually expanding database includes research material for tracing lineage on 25,000 family and local histories. Census records for the years 1790. 1800, 1810, and 1870 are searchable online.

B9. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. 3rd ed.Val D. Greenwood, ed. Genealogical Publishing (1001 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Maryland 21202), 2001. 608p. (3)

A first purchase for the genealogical collection, this definitive guide is in two parts. The first section explains the basic principles of genealogical research. The second section treats specific types of records—legal documents and censuses, and church, burial, cemetery and military records. The latest edition includes information concerning the use of personal computers and genealogical software. Genealogical Research on the Web by Diane K. Kovacs (Neal Schuman, 2002. [5]), serves as an excellent supplement to this work.

Note: The 1930 census, opened April 1, 2002, along with earlier censuses, is available in microfilm format at the 13 regional offices of the National Archives and Records Administration, one of which is located at 501 W. Felix Street, Fort Worth, TX. Records are available at no cost to the viewer. Phone 817-334-5525 for the times records are available. A copy of the 1930 census also is available from the Genealogy division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, located at 1201 Brazos, Austin, Texas. Beginning October 1, 2006, the Genealogy Collection will be open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and will be closed Saturdays and Sundays. Information about the newly opened 1930 records is available on the Internet at

Price Guide: (1) Under $15 (2) $16-$25 (3) $26-$35 (4) $36-$45 (5) $46-$55

(6) $56-$65 (7) $66-$75 (8) $76-$85 (9) $86-$95 (10) Over $96

Page last modified: March 2, 2011