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American Women: Resources from the General Collections

Step-by-Step Guide

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. Begin by searching the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Search for the woman  you are researching by both name and subject. For published genealogies, search under [Last name] family as a subject.

2. Use reference works like Biography and Genealogy Master Index which are available in print in the Main Reading Room and the Business Reference Services and online as a subscription database resource.

A similar print resource indexes thousands of international collective biographical volumes and includes women from the United States:

Most of the biographical volumes included in this resource are not in English.

3. Search Historical newspapers: Indexes are available in print, and citations and full text articles are available through free websites and online databases onsite at the Library of Congress:

4. Consult American Biographical Archive II—the index to a microfiche set containing the full text of more than three hundred collective biographical volumes:

5.  Consult Biographical Dictionaries and Related Works—a two-volume bibliography of more than sixteen thousand collective biographies:

Mary Church Terrell, Three-Quarter Length Portrait, Seated, Facing Front. Between 1880 and 1900. Prints & Photographs Division.

6. Use online sources, such as Internet searches and online databases accessible in Library of Congress research centers, may supply biographical data or lead to printed works in the Library's collections. Online sources are often best for current information. Search in the Library of Congress E-Resources Online Catalog to find nearly 1,000 subscription databases accessible onsite at the Library (many of these sources will also be available in your local public or university library..

7. Consult directories of relevant associations and occupations.

8. Read book reviews if the woman sought was an author.

9. Read local histories of the towns, counties, schools, churches, or organizations with which the woman was connected.

10. Use city directories, if the reader has an idea of the dates and cities in which the woman resided. 

11. Consult with librarians in Local History and Genealogy for specialized genealogical materials.

12. Look at biographical sources about other women and men in her life.

13. Consult the Subject Guide to Women of the World (by Katharine Joan Phenix) for identifying names of women by occupation (hospital founders, crafts, mothers of prominent men), industry, area of fame, or geography: