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Genealogy: Records & Resources

A guide to useful records and various resources available at the BPL and beyond.


A biography can not only give you more insight into the life of an ancestor, but can also provide more information about their relatives, friends, neighbors, and other associate. Some resources will provide brief entries with only basic information about a person; others will have longer entries with more in-depth information. This section will provide a brief overview of biographical resources available at the BPL and beyond.

TIP: Check the bibliography in a book or at the end of an entry for the resources used by the author, these can be good guides for further sources of information.


NOTE: The BPL is not responsible for the content at any of the websites linked to below. These links are provided for informational purposes only, and the websites have no affiliation with the BPL.

The BPL holds many biographies as well as family histories that could contain biographical information.

If you’re looking for a biography of an individual, try doing a subject search for their name. Some examples are listed below:

Junius Brutus Booth
Hugh Duffy
Deborah Sampson

For family histories, try a subject search for the family’s last name plus the word “family.” Some examples are listed below:

Adams family
Putnam family
Wheeler family

TIP: Family histories may contain entries for individuals that include brief biographies. If there isn’t a book just about the person you are researching, try searching for their family as well.

TIP: Keep in mind that some family names are common, so you may have to look through a lot of results to get the right family.

Archives can often hold collections of family or personal papers that offer insight into an ancestor’s life and may provide biographical details about them or their family members. Listed below are just a few archives that hold collections that might have useful biographical information.

NOTE: Access to items held by an archive may currently be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Resources at the BPL

A collective biography contains multiple brief narratives about different people, usually focused on a specific region, occupation, or other characteristic. Below are links to booklists of collective biographies held by the BPL.

The databases linked to below all contain various resources that include biographical information, including family histories, encyclopedias, journal articles, and more.

A biographical dictionary is an encyclopedia-style book containing short entries that focus solely on biographical information about the people included in it. They often have a specific focus such as a place, occupation, or other characteristic.

A genealogical dictionary is an encyclopedia-style book containing information about families, usually for a specific place or region. Below are links to a few genealogical dictionaries held by the BPL, some of which have also been digitized.

The BPL’s Rare Books & Manuscripts collections contain numerous documents that may contain biographical information including books, letters, manuscripts, and family papers. More information is available on the BPL’s website at the links below.

Important Note: Rare Books is currently closed for renovations, and will re-open sometime in 2022. Please contact Rare Books via email at with any questions about the collection.