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Find Biographical Sources

The UC Berkeley Libraries are rich in biographical information, in both printed and electronic form. Biographical sources may focus on a single individual, country, historical period, or on a group of people such as artists or engineers. This guide covers only the major sources. To find more, ask a librarian for research help.

Library catalogs:
OskiCat (UC Berkeley)

Melvyl (all UC campuses + worldwide)
OskiCat lists biographical books, videos, manuscripts and some other materials, in most of the UC Berkeley libraries. Melvyl covers all ten UC campuses and other libraries worldwide.

To find biographical sources in these library catalogs, search by keyword or subject keyword and include the term biography along with an individual's name or other relevant word(s). Examples:

  • emma goldman biography
  • engineers biography
  • hawaii biography

If your search gets too many items to be useful, try entering additional words to make it more specific. For example, hawaii surfers biography gets fewer items than hawaii biography. You can do this by clicking the modify button, or return to the search screen and start over.

To find other kinds of material useful in understanding a person's life, try a keyword or subject keyword search combining his/her name with words such as correspondence, diaries, or interviews. For more strategies and tips, see our guide on Finding Primary Sources.

Electronic resources
The library's online biographical sources include dictionaries and databases with information on millions of individuals.

Most of these sources are commercial products, licensed for use on this campus. To access them from an off-campus computer, you must be affiliated with UC Berkeley and set your web browser to use our proxy server.

Specialized biographical guides
Many of the library's specialized web pages recommend biographical sources for a particular subject field.

African Studies
African American Studies
Canadian Studies
City and Regional Planning
Comparative Literature
English and American Literature
Film Studies
French Studies
Gender and Women's Studies
Jewish Studies

Landscape Architecture
Legal Studies
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies
Media Studies
Medieval Studies
Middle Eastern Studies
Public Policy
Slavic and Eastern European Studies
South Asian Studies
Southeast Asian Studies
Spanish and Portuguese Studies
Theater and Performance Studies
Women's Studies: American Women

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