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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Vernacular Language Resources for East European and Eurasian Research: Biographical Sources

Where to start?

When you are looking for biographical information consider:

  • What do you already know.
  • What do you need to know.

How much detail do you want?  Just dates of birth and death? Full biographical information with references?  Do you need as much bibliography, including archival references as possible?

Where was the person born?  What nationality was the individual? What was their field/profession?  When did the person live? Did they publish?

These two questions will help define the sources that will be useful.  To know where they were born will help you find the regional search engine and identify the languages that might be useful for your search. It will also guide you to the appropriate biographical materials.  If the individual was extremely famous, a general encyclopedia may answer your question.  However, the encyclopedias of the area will include more information and many will also have bibliographies with each entry.

Encyclopedic Sources

The lists in these files are taken from Saar's biograhpical archival materials. (See center box)  They will give you an idea of the type of sources and material you can expect to find in the microfiche.

General Biographical Sources

If you only need dates, you may find a search engine such as Google useful. Wikipedia can be helpful but you do have to be wary of the information as it is not reviewed. 

You can also identify regional search engines with tools such as Search Engine Colossus.  Library catalogs are also a quick source for this information if the person published.  If the individual is obscure you may need to turn to much more obscure sources.  The first rule, don't "reinvent the wheel". 

If you need a significant amount of information, perhaps a bibliography of works by and/or about the individual you will need a biographical resource such as a subject encyclopedia.  There are any number of such sources and identifying the one you need can take time.  It often helps to start with a more general biographical index. 

The  "World Biographical Information System" is such a source.  This online index provides references to articles in a source we own on microfiche.  Using the source is a multi-step project.  You begin by searching the online index to see if the person of interest is included. If you choose to do a biographical search you can tailor your search by a number of indexes:

World Biographical Index Search

A search for the occupation "jurist" and the biographical archives of our region yielded 13,727 matches.  Each match will provide you with basic biographical information and references to more extensive information on the microfiche.

References from WBIS

The materials referenced here are all availble on a set of microfiche.  The full text of each entry is easily scanned and downloaded.  In our library the fiche are located in the Slavic Library for our region.  If you need to sources outside our region the fiche is located in the Main Reference Room of the library on the second floor, Room 200.

Subject Guide

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Slavic Reference Service
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International & Area Studies Library
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