University of Oregon

Finding Biographical Information

Before starting to research a person, think about the following questions.

  • How much information do you want to find about the person? If you want extensive information about an individual, try a book-length biography. Search our catalog for these. But if you are looking for basic information, the reference books and web sites listed below can provide that.
  • How famous is the person? Information on famous people is usually easy to find. Less well-known people may require digging into local newspapers or other local resources.
  • Is the person living or dead? If the person is dead and you are looking for an obituary, consult our guide to finding obituaries and vital information.


The following is a select list of resources for finding biographical information in major reference sources and on the web. This guide covers a range of print and electronic biographical sources, with particular emphasis on biographical resources for historical figures, and women and minorities in the United States. This guide does not attempt to cover the many biographical sources specific to each country. If your research is related to genealogy, consult our Genealogy guide.  Talk to a reference librarian about your specific biographical questions for specific recommendations.

First Places to Start

Book-length Biographies
Extensive biographies can be found through the library catalog.

Standard Biography Reference Works

  • Who's Who in America (Knight reference desk E 663 .W56)
  • Who's Who in the World (Knight reference desk CT 120. W5)
  • American National Biography (Knight REF CT 213 .A 68)
  • Dictionary of American Biography (Knight REF E 176 .D58)
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Knight REF DA 28 .O95) for the British Isles
  • Dictionnaire de Biographie Francaise (Knight REF CT 143 .D5)
  • Neue Deutsche Biographie (Knight REF DD 85 .N47)

American Ethnic Groups

  • Oxford African American Studies Center
  • Native American biographical dictionaries; see Knight REF E 89
  • Latina/o American biographical dictionaries; see Knight REF E 184 .S75
  • Asian American biographical dictionaries; see Knight REF E 184 .06


  • Who's Who of American Women (Knight Reference desk E 175. W647)
  • Notable American Women (Knight REF CT 3260.A473)
  • Women in World History, 17 volumes (Knight REF HQ 1115.W6)
  • Distinguished Women of Past and Present
  • Notable Black American Women (Knight REF E 185.96 .N68)
  • Black Women in America (Knight REF E 185.86 .B542)
  • Native American Women (Knight REF E 98.W8 B38)
  • Latinas in the United States (Knight REF E 184.S75 N68)
  • Jewish Women in America (Knight REF E 184.J5 J578)


Latest revision June 2014
Created by pfrantz on Jun 18, 2012 Last updated Aug 24, 2015
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