The Library of Congress > American Memory
banner image
return to home page table of contents about the guide abbreviations search banner image

The General Collections



Starting Places
Biographical Sources
arrow graphicPATHFINDER: Biographical Sources
Genealogies, Local and Family Histories, City Directories
Memorial Volumes
Women's Writings
Other Sources




PATHFINDER: Biographical Sources
see caption below

Mary Church Terrell. [between 1880 and 1900]. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-54722 (b&w film copy neg)

bibliographic record

To locate sources that might help you find biographical information in the General Collections, follow the steps that are appropriate for the woman you want to know better.

1. Library of Congress Online Catalog. Search for the woman as both name and subject. For published genealogies, search under “[Last name] family” as a subject.

2. Biography and Genealogy Master Index (Detroit: Gale Research, 1980 and supplements; Z5305.U5 B57 MRR Biog, BusRR, LH&G [catalog record]; online at terminals throughout the Library). An extremely useful cumulative index to hundreds of biographical reference works and a required stop in most biographical searches. This set indexes many standard biographical sources, such as Who's Who in America, Biography Index, Notable American Women, and Dictionary of Literary Biography, and so you do not need to search these titles separately.

A similar work, IBN: Index Bio-Bibliographicus Notorum Hominum (Osnabrück: BiblioVerlag, 1973-; Z5301.L7 MRR Alc [catalog record]), indexes thousands of international collective biographical volumes and includes women from the United States. By 1999, only names beginning with the letters A-G had been indexed. Most of the biographical volumes covered are not in English.

3. Personal Name Index to “The New York Times Index,” 1851-1974 (Z5301.F28 1976 MRR Biog and other reading rooms [catalog record]) and supplement 1975-1984 (CT104.F35 1986 MRR Biog, N&CPR [catalog record]).

4. American Biographical Index (CT213.A64 1998 MicRR [catalog record]). Index to a microfiche set containing the full text of more than three hundred collective biographical volumes.

5. Biographical Dictionaries and Related Works (Z5301.S55 1986 MRR Ref Desk, SciRR, BusRR [catalog record]). A two-volume bibliography of more than sixteen thousand collective biographies.

6. Abstracts, Indexes, and Bibliographies: For Finding Citations to Periodical Articles (Humanities and Social Sciences Division, Research Guides, no. 5, 1993). Available online (<>) and in print at MRR Ref Desk.

7. Online sources, such as Internet searches, FirstSearch databases, or CD-ROM networks in various reading rooms, may supply biographical data or lead to printed works in the Library's collections. Online sources are often best for current information.

8. Directories of relevant associations and occupations.

9. Book reviews if the woman sought was an author.

10. Histories of the towns, counties, schools, churches, or organizations with which the woman was connected. (See Genealogies.)

11. City directories, if the reader has an idea of the dates and cities in which the woman resided. (See Genealogies.)

12. Librarians in the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room, for specialized genealogical materials.

13. Biographical sources about other women and men in her life.

14. Subject Guide to Women of the World (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1996; Z7963.B6 P45 1996 MRR Biog, SciRR [catalog record]). Useful index for identifying names of women by occupation (hospital founders, crafts, mothers of prominent men), industry, area of fame, geography.

red line
Home Table of Contents About the Guide Abbreviations Search
The Library of Congress> > American Memory