Guide for Finding Author Biographies
This library guide will cover the topic of searching for author biographies, with an emphasis on historians. While both online and print resources will be discussed, it should be emphasized that most author biographies will be found in print material. However, locating some author biographies, especially little known historians, can be challenging. Therefore, this guide will cover both standard biographical resources and nontraditional sources.
Biography and Genealogy Master Index
Gale's Biography and Genealogy Master Index is a primary online tool for identifying sources of biographies, including famous persons, literary authors, historians, and others. Actually, this online index is the cumulative, electronic version of Gale's Biography and Genealogy Master Index in print, which is available behind the reference desk at the NSU's Tahlequah Library (Ready Ref. CT 214 .B57).
Several approaches can be taken when using the online version of Biography and Genealogy Master Index. A simple and effective approach is to use the default basic search screen, as seen below:
Both the online and print versions of Biography and Genealogy Master Index provide citations only. These citations point to where the biographies can be found, primarily in print. The NSU Library owns many of the print resources listed in the Index. Most of the print biographical resources owned by the NSU Library are found in the reference collection, but some may be found in the circulating collection. The NSU Library catalog can be consulted to find out if the NSU Library owns an item which is cited in Gale's Index. If the Library does not own a particular item, a request for a free copy of the biography being sought can be placed with the Interlibrary Loan Department.
Below is an example of a search run in the Biography and Genealogy Master Index online, using the famous Civil War historian Bruce Catton as the subject of the search. As can be seen below, if a searcher is not certain how the name may be indexed in the database, the name can be entered into the search box with the "Name contains" option selected. However, for this illustration let's assume that the commonly used, full name is known. Place a bullet next to the search box labeled "Start of Last Name" and type catton bruce. Since the "Start of Last Name" selection has been made, the author's last name should be entered first. Also, since the database will accept the entry with or without capitalization, the name is entered in all lower case. Next, click "search".
Below is the result of the search on Bruce Catton. Probably all of the selections except William Bruce Catton (1926- ) will lead to biographical citations dealing with this famous Civil War historian.
To illustrate what the citations will look like, let's choose the largest set of 39 entries. Below is a partial listing of the set of 39 biographical citations. As can be seen, the listed items are citations only, and contain no full text. However, as is many times the case, the NSU Library owns all of the publications shown in the below partial list.
While hundreds of resources are covered by the online and print versions of Biography and Genealogy Master Index, Gale's Index does not cover all possible biographical resources. Below is a selected list of additional print indexes which may be useful in locating the biographies of historians (especially Americans, Canadians and Britons):
- Biography Index (Ref. Index CT 220 .B5) - This is an index to biographical material appearing in books and magazines. While many of the older volumes of Biography Index are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index, the most recent issues may not be in Gale's Index.
- Contemporary Authors Cumulative Index (Ref. PN 451 .C58 Index) - Actually, this publication not only indexes Contemporary Authors, it serves as a cumulative index to more than 100 biographical resources.
- Personal Name Index to the New York Times Index (Ref. Index AI 21 .N451) - This series serves as an index to biographical information on a large number of famous persons and authors appearing in New York Times articles.
Selected Full Text Print Biographical Resources
When it comes to searching for the biographies of historians, one of the most commonly requested reference titles in the NSU Library is the Directory of American Scholars (Ref. LA 2311 .C32). Thousands of biographies are included in this publication, including historians, geographers, archaeologists and other scholars in the United States. Additional sources of biographies can be found in the below list, which is only a small representation of the many print biographical resources available at the NSU Library. These titles contain the biographies of many well known scholars and historians.
- Current Biography and Current Biography Yearbook (Ref. CT 100 .C8)
- Who Was Who (Ref. DA 28 .W65) - Primarily covers the U.K.
- Who's Who (Ref. DA 28 .W6) - Primarily covers the U.K.
- Who's Who in America (Ref. E 663 .W56)
- Who's Who of American Women (Ref. CT 3260 .W5)
Suggestions for Locating the Biographies of "Difficult to Find" Authors and Historians
Finding biographical information on some authors and historians can be very challenging, especially if they are new authors or have published very little. However, below are suggested resources which may help find some biographical information about these types of authors.
- Search WorldCat in an attempt to determine something more about their field of study, by identifying any additional books which they may have published.
- Search Dissertation Abstracts in an attempt to discover where an author obtained his/her graduate degree or doctorate, and to discover more about their field of study by reading an abstract of their dissertation.
- Search America: History & Life in an attempt to learn more about their research interests, by searching for any journal articles that they may have published on North American history.
- Search their name in an internet search engine, in an effort to learn where they may be teaching, or where they may have taught in the past. Also, sometimes living authors and historians own personal web pages where they list information about themselves, and sometimes the higher education institution where they teach will provide information about an author on the institution's web site.
- Finally, visit with a librarian. Many times a librarian can help locate difficult to find author information.
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Last Updated: April 10, 2006