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Reference Guide: Biographical Resources

This guide serves as the home page for all things Reference at Lewis Library. Meet your reference librarians, learn about reference services available to you, and check out suggested resources and guides all from this page!


If you're looking for biographical information about a person, this guide may help.

If you don’t see what you want, ask a librarian.  We have reference books with information on:


Baseball players




Film directors









Olympic medalists



Religious martyrs


Tennis players

U.S. senators



Xosa singers

Young-adult writers


…and many more!

Biographical Resources

The first step to finding sources with biographical information on a person is to know his/her dates, nationality, and profession.  Are you researching a 13th-century German philosopher or a 20th-century Japanese artist?  If you’ve been given a name and don’t know anything else, do one of the following:

  • Check a general encyclopedia such as the Encyclopedia of World Biography (REF CT 103 .E56 1997, 30 volumes) or The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia (REF CT 103 .C26 1998)
  • Use a reference database such as Credo Reference or Oxford Reference Online; these won’t provide much detail but should give you the basic facts
  • Ask a librarian 

 For women, try the Gale Virtual Reference Library database, which includes the 17-volume Women in World History.

 If you’re looking for biographical information on an author, we recommend Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online (DLB).  This database provides searchable PDFs for all authors in the 381 (as of February 2018) volumes of the print edition.

If  you don’t find an author in DLB, try Contemporary Authors (REF Z 1224 .C6) or, for children’s authors, Something About the Author (REF PN 451 .S6) 

For scientists, we have the 25-volume Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography (2008 edition) as an e-book; you can also access it through the Gale Virtual Reference Library database.

The following is just a sample of other reference books that may be useful, depending on the person you’re researching (time period, nationality, field, ethnicity, etc.):

American National Biography (REF E 176 .D58, for Americans who died before 2005)

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (REF DA 28 .D577 2004, for people important in British history)

Women in World History (REF HQ 1115 .W600 1999; also online in the Gale Virtual Reference Library)

Current Biography (REF CT 100 .C8; 1940-2014; there’s an index for 1940-2005 and another for 2001-2010)

African American National Biography (REF E 185.96 .A446 2008)

Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos & Latinas in the United States (REF E 184 .S755 O97 2005)

Notable American Women (REF CT 3260 .N57; also online in Credo Reference)

European Historical Biography, 1450-Present (REF CT 214 .R47 1992)

Dictionary of African Biography (REF CT1920 .D52 2012)

Dictionary of Jewish Biography (REF DS 115 .C577 2005)

The Presidents:  A Reference History  (REF E 176.1 ,P918 2002)

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (REF ML 100 .N488 2000)

American Men & Women of Science (REF Q 141 .A51 2003)

Dictionary of American Nursing Biography (REF RT 34 .D53 1988)

Biographical Dictionary of American Educators (REF LA 3211 .B54)

British Writers (REF PR 85 .B688) and American Writers (REF PS 129 .A55)

Other reference books that may help include:

Encyclopedia of Philosophy (REF B 51 .E533 2006)

Encyclopedia of Religion (REF BL 31 .E466 2005, also online in the Gale Virtual Reference Library)

Dictionary of the Middle Ages (REF D 114 .D5 1982)

Encyclopedia of the Renaissance (REF CB 361 .E52 1999)

In many cases, electronic resources will be useful.  For contemporary people you can’t find in reference books, you may want to try Academic Search Complete or a newspaper database such as News & Newspapers or  Access World News.  See the Reference librarian for tips on using these.

If you want a book-length biography of a person, do a “Subject” search in the online catalog.

Please don’t hesitate to ask a librarian for assistance.  If we have information in our library, we'll help you find it.  If not, we can order something from another library.

Reference & ILL Librarian

Kelly Ansley's picture
Kelly Ansley
Frank & Laura Lewis Library
LaGrange College
601 Broad Street
LaGrange, GA 30240
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