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Biography Guide

Reference Sources

The library has many current and retrospective collections of short biographies, which may be international or country-specific in coverage, while others are subject-specific. The biographies in these collections range from one paragraph to several pages in length. The following is only a small sample.

To find additional reference materials, check UNB Libraries' online catalogue UNB WorldCat or our Reference Materials databases. See also UNB Libraries' Guide to Literary Biographies.

Key Resources

  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography [HIL-REF FC25 .D5 vols. 1-15]

    Published simultaneously in French, this reference work is recognized as Canada's definitive source on biography. The 12th volume completes the first part of the series (1000-1900) and will be complemented by a cumulative index in 1991. Current indexing is unwieldy, with a separate index for Volumes 1-4 and indexes within each of the other volumes. Indexing was expanded with Volume 11 to include a list of identifications (names grouped according to occupational or other characteristics), and a geographical index (names grouped by place of birth as well as place of career). A nominal index is also helpful. The general bibliography is the most interesting feature. Its relevance to North American historical studies has been noted by John J. McCusker in New Guides to Primary Sources in the History of Early British North America. Subsequent volumes are being planned under the editorial direction of Ramsay Cook (York Univ.) and Jean Hamelin. This is an indispensable tool for Canadian reference as well as American historical research collections. Mary Hemmings, Univ. of Calgary Law Lib., Alberta Copyright 1990 Cahners Business Information, Inc. From: Reed Elsevier Inc. Copyright Reed Business Information

  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
    The Dictionary of Canadian Biography/Dictionnaire biographique du Canada provides detailed biographies of important figures in Canadian history from the year 1000 to 1930. This free online resource is produced by Library and Archives Canada, in partnership with Universite Laval and the University of Toronto, and reproduces the full contents of the print Dictionary of Canadian Biography/Dictionnaire biographique du Canada.
    Unlimited simultaneous users.
  • Dictionary of National Biography [HIL-REF DA28 .D4 vols. 1-22]

    A reissue of the Dictionary of national biography, originally planned by George M. Smith, first issued in 66 vols. (including 3 supplementary vols.) 1885-1901. cf. Publisher's note, v. 1.

    The 22d and last volume of the reissue comprises the 3 vols. supplementary to the original edition first published in 1901, supplying, with a few accidental omissions, memoirs of persons who died while the original volumes were in course of quarterly publication. This supplement brings the record of national biography down to the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. cf. Publisher's note, v. 22.

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB)
    Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is an illustrated/fulltext reference tool providing 55,000 specially-written signed biographies of the men and women who shaped all aspects of the British past from the earliest times to the end of the year 2000. It is the product of research instituted at the University of Oxford and funded by the British Academy and by Oxford University Press. It is the achievement of 10,000 contributors and advisers staff in Oxford. The Oxford DNB aims to provide full, accurate, concise, and readable articles on noteworthy people in all walks of life. No living person is included: the Dictionary's articles are confined to people who died before 31 December 2000.
    3 simultaneous users.
  • Who's Who in Canada [HIL-REF FC25 .W467]
  • Canadian Who's Who [multiple locations (latest volume shelved in HIL-RFDSK) FC25 .C389 vols. 1-43]
  • Who's Who of Canadian Women
    see also [HIL-REF FC26 .W65 W46]
  • Who's Who in America [multiple locations HIL-REFDSK E176 .W642]
  • American National Biography [HIL-REF CT213 .A68 1999]
  • International Who's Who, The [HIL-REF CT120 .I5]
  • Who's Who [HIL-REF DA28 .W6]
  • Who's Who in the World [HIL-REF CT120 .W5]

    20th-century biographies, 1971-2010

Additional Resources

  • Who's Who in Canadian Sport [HIL-REF GV697 .A1 F47 1999]
  • Who's Who in Black Canada: Black Success and Black Excellence in Canada: A Contemporary Directory [HIL-REF FC106 .B6 W54 2002]

    Profiling individuals from business, politics, the arts, religion, and other sectors, this work contains biographical information on some 705 living African Canadians who are either "pioneers or trailblazers; those occupying senior positions; those making a difference in their communities; those being innovative and creating a niche for themselves or others." Entries provide narrative summaries of the individuals' accomplishments as well as contact information and lists of honors, publications, and role models Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR ( Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

  • African-American writers : a dictionary [HIL-REF PS153 .N5 A3444 2000]

    A survey of an important sector of American letters, African American Writers examines a multitude of black cultural leaders from the 18th to the 20th century. Brief biographies of African American authors describe their background, inspiration, literary works, and connections with other African American writers.

  • Who's Who in Twentieth-Century World Poetry [HIL-REF PN1271 .W46 2000]
  • Contemporary Authors [HIL-REF CT220 .C63]

    "A bio-bibliographical guide to current authors and their works."

  • Something About the Author [HIL-REF PN497 .S66 vols. 1-6]
  • Directory of American Scholars [HIL-REF LA2311 .D57 2002 vols. 1-6]

    "Directory of American Scholars offers one-stop access to current biographies of more than 24,000 scholars in the humanities and social sciences."

  • Current Biography Yearbook [Multiple Locations CT100 .C8 ; CT100 .C9]

    1955 - 2016 held.

  • Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music, The [HIL-REF ML105 .H38 1996]

    An incomparable guide to 5500, figures in the history of music, this volume brings together all the pertinent biographical information about composers, performers, music theorists, and instrument makers from the days of praise chants to the bop and pop of today.

  • Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Greek and Roman Women: Notable Women from Sappho to Helena [HIL-REF HQ1136 .L54 2000]

    Hailing from all corners of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, the women profiled here are notable for their own accomplishments as well as their family ties. More than 400 A-to-Z entries tell the life stories of women from all walks of life -- from poets, wives, and mistresses to rulers, slaves, and businesswomen. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

  • Biographical Dictionary of Modern World Leaders: 1900 - 1991 [HIL-REF D412.6 .B52 2004]

    Political leaders of every stripe-from the Ayatollah Khomeini to Nikita Khrushchev-can be found in this accessible A-to-Z reference, a companion to Biographical Dictionary of Modern World Leaders: 1992 to the Present. Taking a global approach and covering political leaders from the beginning of the 20th century through the end of the cold war, Biographical Dictionary of Modern World Leaders: 1900-1991 includes approximately 400 detailed narratives outlining the major events and achievements in the lives of many of the 20th century's most influential leaders. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.



  • Biographical Dictionary of Modern World Leaders: 1992 to the Present [HIL-REF D412 .B55 2003]

    This reference provides biographies of all the current and some former leaders of all 190 countries worldwide. Fredriksen, an independent scholar with a doctorate in history, assembled the biographies from books, articles, and master's theses and dissertations, as well as on-line news sources to keep the entries well up to date. The biographies include details about the country's politics, history, and geography as well as the education and career of its present or previous ruler. A list of references is provided for each entry and an A-to-Z list of entries and index by country are included for the volume. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR ( Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

  • American Men and Women of Science [HIL-REF Q141 .A47]
  • Notable Twentieth-Century Scientists [HIL-REF Q141 .N73 1995 vols. 1-4]
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index [HIL-REF CT 213 .B622]
    A consolidated index to biographical sketches in current and retrospective biographical dictionaries.


Find Books

To find books about your subject, use the Library's online catalogue UNB WorldCat below. Type the person's name, followed by the word "biography" as keywords. If you do not find anything, you can try looking for books about the person's subject area.

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Document Delivery

Books and other materials not available at UNB may be available for loan from another institution through our document delivery service. To search for materials not held by UNB Libraries, search UNB WorldCat, and change the default UNB Libraries to Libraries Worldwide. Once you have identified a title that is not locally held, select the red Request Item button and follow the screens. You can also access the document delivery request form directly.


Find Articles

When searching for journal articles, an indexing and abstracting database or print index is usually the best place to begin. Below are some recommended print indexes and databases for research in biography. For other databases, check the Articles and Research Databases page of the library website.

Key Resources

Find Internet Sites

While there is a wealth of information freely available on the internet, not all sites are created equal. Careful evaluation is a critical part of doing research on the Internet.

Below are some recommended sites:


Citing Your Sources

Accurate, properly formatted footnotes, reading lists, and bibliographies are hallmarks of good academic research. Through citing, you acknowledge the source of any ideas you mention in your writing, document your research, and provide the information your readers need to track down your sources.

Numerous citation styles exist, and each specifies what elements are required (title, author, journal name, etc.) and how the citation should be formatted. The standard citation style for your bibliography depends on the subject area in which you are writing. Consult your course syllabus or check with your instructor to be sure of using the correct citation style for your assignment.

For help with different citation styles, connect with UNB's Writing Centres.

Zotero: automatically format references in any style.


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