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WISER: Focus on … Biographical Information An introduction to the variety of online sources available. Elements of both historical and contemporary information will be demonstrated.

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WISER: Focus on …

Biographical Information

An introduction to the variety of online sources available.

Elements of both historical and contemporary information will be demonstrated.

Aspects such as details of life and other people’s perspectives as well as the general usefulness of biographical research will be covered.

Isabel Holowaty & Sue Bird


Biographical Information

  • Biographical facts
    • Birth/death years & places
    • Gender
    • Ethnicity
    • Education
    • Occupation
    • Family
    • Likeness

Biographical Information

  • Narrative biography
    • In-depth analysis of a person’s life, influence, achievements, etc.
    • Other people’s perspectives
    • Historical trends in assessment of a person’s life
  • Writings (i.e. bio-bibliography)

Biography : Pure & simple 1

Currently alive ?

Who’s Who, etc.:-

Know UK


Living Biography : 1

  • KnowUK

Online service developed to provide UK reference information.

  • Over 100 reference publications provide a comprehensive resource not usually available elsewhere online.

Updated more frequently than the equivalent print copy.

  • Biographies - Debrett's People of Today,

Concise DNB, Who's Who, Who was Who, etc


Biography : Pure & simple 2

Already dead?

Who was Who(KnowUK)

National biographies (Dictionary of National Biography)

World Biographical Information System

Historical Directories & registers

Obituaries & newspapers



Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

55,500 people — 63 million words — 12,500 contributors — 10,000 images — Continuously revised on-line

What is the Oxford DNB?

An illustrated collection of specially written biographies of the men and women who shaped all aspects of Britain's past, from the fourth century BC to the year 2002.

Who is in it?

Remarkable people in any walk of life who were connected with the British Isles—excluding living people. It includes not just the great and good, but people

who have left a mark for any reason, good, bad, or bizarre.


World Biographical Information System (WBIS)

  • Biographical information on people since 4th century B.C.
  • Famous people, but also those regionally/locally known, for their profession, peculiarities, etc.
  • Index to biographical data and biographies published in reference sources since 1559
  • Useful for biographical information & historical trends

WBIS cont.

  • Brief entries for 4+ million people; 3.85 digital facsim. articles; biographies of 2.38 million people
  • Covers most European countries, Turkey, Latin America, North America
  • Future countries to include biographical archives of Africa, China, Australasia, etc.

Historical directories & registers

  • Historical Directories (http:/
  • Crockford’s clerical directory (current via KnowUK)
  • Physicians and irregular practitioners in London, 1550-1640 (via IHR website)
  • Office-holders in Modern Britain (via IHR website)

Obituaries & newspapers

  • All via OxLIP
  • Times Digital Archive 1785-1985
  • Palmer's Full-Text Online / Index to The Times 1790-1905
  • Official Index to The Times, 1906-1980
  • Times Literary Supplement Centenary Archive
  • New York Times Historical Archive 1851-2003
  • Lexis-Nexis News Service
  • Westlaw Dialog News Service

Newspaper obituaries

  • Lexis-Nexis News Service
  • Oxford)

Coverage mainly from early / mid 1990’s but major titles are likely to be from late 70’s or 1980’s.


Newspaper obituaries : 2

Westlaw Dialog News Service


Other Sources

  • Biography Index (BiographyInd)
  • via OCLC (Online Computer Library Center)
  • COVERAGE: More than 2,700 English-language periodicals. More than1,800 books added each year. Includes autobiographies, bibliographies, biographies, critical studies, fiction and drama, pictorial works, poetry, juvenile literature, obituaries, journals, collections of letters, book reviews, and interviews. July 1984 to the present. Updated monthly.

Other Sources : 2

Don’t forget OLIS



  • OLIS (inc. sw=bio-bibliography)
  • Standard searches in bibliographic and abstracting databases.
  • Web of Knowledge

Web of Knowledge

  • Citation searching
  • Material published before the start of most on-line abstracting services
  • Non-English language material
  • Lesser known academic publications

Biographical Information

  • Background information on a distinguished speaker.
  • Put the players in an academic context
  • Begin to assess the total output of an important figure.