Biographical and Genealogical Information

This guide describes the biographical information available from Andover-Harvard Theological Library and online through the Harvard Library. It is written for Harvard Library users and non-Harvard users interested in the types of information we can provide.

The biographical sources mentioned here are only a small number of those available. For more information, contact a research librarian by email, by telephone, at 617.496.AHTL (2485), or in person.

Use the "Printer-friendly version" at the bottom of this page to print all pages of this guide.

This guide was originally written by Clifford Wunderlich and Renata Kalnins in January 2005. It was last updated March 11, 2005.

The Place to Start

Searching Biography and Genealogy Master Index Online enables you to quickly determine which (of more than 1,000) publications you need to consult for accurate and accessible biographical information. No matter what famous person you're looking for, you should find the citation here; the total number of biographical sketches indexed now exceeds 13 million.

You can use Biography and Genealogy Master Index Online to:

You may access Biography and Genealogy Master Index Online if you have a valid Harvard ID and PIN number or you are in a Harvard library. If you are not a Harvard Library patron, check for its availability in your local library. Biography and Genealogy Master Index Online is also available in many public and academic libraries.


Current Biography

Biography in Context includes the full texts of hundreds of periodicals and many reference works, such as the Directory of American Scholars (latest edition), and Religious Leaders of America (1999). Many of the reference books used in Biography in Context are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index Online.

Current Biography Illustrated includes biographies of living persons (and, for those who have since died, their obituaries) published in its printed version since 1940. It is strong on popular culture and political figures. Occupational searches are available. Photographs are included for many of the subjects. Current Biography Illustrated is indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index Online.

The International Who's Who outlines the lives and achievements of more than 60,000 of the most distinguished men and women from almost every country in the world.

You may access these resources if you have a valid Harvard ID and PIN number or if you are in a Harvard library. If you are not a Harvard Library patron, check for the availability of these reference sources in your local library.


American Biography

Four important multivolume reference sources on American (U.S.) biography that are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index Online, are in  the collections of the Andover-Harvard Theological Library (call numbers noted), several other Harvard libraries, and in many public and academic libraries:

American National Biography (1999), Dictionary of American Biography (1928-1936, plus supplements), and Notable American Women cite published and archival resources; their entries are written by named scholars and researchers.

If you have a valid Harvard ID and PIN number or you are in a Harvard library, you may access American National Biography Online; entries from the Dictionary of American Biography are online in Biography in Context.

You may also want to search The African American Biographical Database (AABD), which brings together in one resource the biographies of thousands of African Americans, 1790-1950. These biographical sketches have been assembled from the series Black Biographical Dictionaries and from other biographical dictionaries and sources.

If you are not a Harvard Library patron, check for the availability of these reference sources in your local library.

For more information, contact a research librarian.

American Religious Biography

In addition to the resources mentioned elsewhere in this guide, consider using the following resources to find biographical sketches of individuals playing a role in the religious life in the United States.

The biographical sources mentioned below are only a small number of those available. For more information, contact a research librarian.

General

Dictionary of American Religious Biography [Ref. BL72 .B68 1993]

Religious Leaders of America: A Biographical Guide to Founders and Leaders of Religious Bodies, Churches, and Spiritual Groups in North America [Ref. BL72.M458 1999]

Specialized

African American Lives [Ref. E185.96.A446 2004]

African American Religious Leaders [Ref. BL72.A27 2003]

Biographical Dictionary of American Cult and Sect Leaders [Ref. BL2525.M447 1986]

Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions [Ref. BV3700.B56 1998]

Biographical Directory of Negro Ministers [Ref. BR563.N4 W5 1975]

Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia [Ref. E185.86.B542 1993]

Dictionary of American Catholic Biography [Ref BX4670.D45 1984]

Encyclopedia of American Women and Religion [Ref BL2525.B45 1998]

Dictionary of Christianity in America [Ref. BR515.D53 1990]

Encyclopedia of Religion in the South [Ref. BR535.E52 1984]

Encyclopedia of Religion in American Politics [Ref. BL2525.E52 1999]

Encyclopedia of American Religion and Politics [Ref. BL2525.D58 2003]

International Dictionary of Pentecostal Charismatic Movements [Ref. BR1644.D53 2002]

Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook [Ref. BM750.S395 1996]

Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook [Ref. BM750.N33 1988]

Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook [Ref. BM750.R39 1993]

The Religious Right: A Reference Handbook [Ref. BR526.U88 2001]

Twentieth-Century Shapers of American Popular Religion [Ref. BL 2525.T84 1989]

Biography by Religious Tradition or Denomination

Biographical dictionaries, such as Dictionary of Catholic Biography, and subject encyclopedias, such as Encyclopaedia Judaica, limited to one religious tradition can be used to find biographical sketches.

Library of Congress call number ranges for each religious tradition can be used to find subject dictionaries/encyclopedias, and the specific call number ranges allocated to biography can help locate biographical dictionaries for that religious tradition in the reference collection. 

Below are some examples of useful subject and biographical dictionaries as well as some Library of Congress call number ranges that can be used to find additional resources.

Subject Encyclopedias

Judaism

Library of Congress subclass BM
Subject encyclopedia: Encyclopaedia Judaica [Ref. folio DS102.8.E496 1972a]
Biography BM 750-755

Islam

Library of Congress subclass BP
Subject encyclopedia: The Encyclopaedia of Islam [Ref. DS37.E523] (Note: This is an example of a subject encyclopedia that is not classified using the BP Islam classification, but DS History, Asia instead)
Biography BP 70-80

Buddhism

Library of Congress subclass BQ
Subject encyclopedia: Encyclopedia of Buddhism [Ref. BQ128 .E62 2004]
Biography BQ 840-999

Christianity

Library of Congress subclass BR
Subject encyclopedia: Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [Ref. BR95 .O8 1997]
Biography BR 1690-1725

Biographical Dictionaries

Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexicon [Ref. BR1700.2.B38]
Dictionary of Catholic Biography [Ref. BX4651.2 .D4 1961]
Twentieth Century Dictionary of Christian Biography [Ref. BR1700.2 .T9 1995]
The Blackwell Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1730-1860 [Ref. BR1640 .B53 1995]

Library of Congress call number ranges for Christian denominations can be used to find biographical dictionaries by religious tradition.

Catholic Church: Biography BX 4650-4705

Protestantism: Biography BX 4800-9999

Church of England: Biography BX 5197-5199

Baptists: Biography BX 6493-6495

Other denominations and denomination groups follow the Baptists in alphabetical order in BX.

The biographical sources mentioned here are only a small number of those available. For more information, contact a research librarian.


 

Christian Theologians

Below are some books in the Andover-Harvard Theological Library that include biographical sketches of Christian theologians:

Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians  BR95 .B575 2000]
A Handbook of Christian Theologians [Ref. BT28 .H33 1984]
A New Handbook of Christian Theologians [Ref. BT28 .N48 1996]
Twentieth Century Dictionary of Christian Biography [Ref. BR1700.2 .T9 1995]
Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation [Ref. BS500 .D5 1999]
Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters [Ref. BS501.A1 H57 1998]
Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought [Ref. BR95 .B58 1993]
Handbook of Evangelical Theologians [Ref. BR1640 .H363 1993]
Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [Ref. BR95 .O8 1997]
Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexicon [Ref. BR1700.2 .B38]
International Biographical Dictionary of Religion [Ref. BL72 .I57 1994]
Who's Who in Theology and Science [Ref. BL240.2 .W514 1996]

Faculty of Harvard Divinity School

Note: The Andover-Harvard Theological Library is not the best source of information about current, recently retired, or recently deceased faculty. Information on current and emeritus faculty is available on the Harvard Divinity School website. Additional information may be available from the school's Office of Communications.

In general, the library can supply information about faculty hired prior to 1950 and those whose Harvard careers ended before 1990.

Many of these faculty members have entries in the important reference sources for American Biography and/or American Religious Biography.

Many of these faculty members also have printed biographies and/or autobiographies. Browse HOLLIS Classic under subject, with last name first for the author and title of books about them. If you are not a Harvard library patron, search your own catalog for these works about them. If the book is not available locally, consider an interlibrary loan request.

Many of these faculty members have extensive published works. If you are a Harvard library patron, these writings are most likely available in Harvard libraries.

Manuscript and archival resources about faculty members vary. For example, there are only a few resources available about George Foot Moore, but there is a large collection about his brother, Edward Caldwell Moore. Responsibility for Harvard Divinity faculty is shared by this library and the Harvard University Archives; some material is in the Houghton Library. You will need to search HOLLIS Classic (browse under a name as subject) for archival collections. For information about collections in this library, see the list of personal papers on our website and contact the curator of manuscripts and archives. For information about collections in the University Archives, see their policies and contact information. For information about collections in the Houghton, see the Houghton Library.

For more information, contact a research librarian.

Borrowing from the Library through Interlibrary Loan

All requests must come from a cooperating library. No requests from individuals will be considered. However, we will work with you to identify a cooperating library in your area.

Many of the monographs circulate and are available for loan. Noncirculating pamphlets can usually be copied, as can articles in periodicals. The decision to copy noncirculating monographs is left to the discretion of Andover-Harvard Theological Library. All copyright restrictions must be observed.

Fees are waived only for loans of Unitarian Universalist materials as well as for copies of noncirculating Unitarian Universalist items. There is a charge for copy requests over 100 pages.

We will loan up to four reels of microfilm per request. Microfilm copies can also be purchased. Please contact the interlibrary loan department for an estimate.

Please submit requests via OCLC or with an ALA ILL form. We discourage telephone requests, although they may be accepted in emergencies.

For more information about interlibrary loan, consult the access services staff (617.495.5788) or email interlibrary loan.

For information about copying materials from the Manuscripts and Archives Department, see its reproduction policies.

Graduates and Others Enrolled at Harvard Divinity School

In general, the library is the repository for historical information on the Harvard Divinity School. For information on living alumni, contact the Office of Development and External Relations.

The library will supply brief biographical information on students enrolled (both graduates and non-graduates) at Harvard Divinity School through the academic year 1919-20 from the General Catalogue of the Divinity School of Harvard University, 1920 (Cambridge: Published by the University, 1920 [Ref. BV4070.H44 1920]). Henry Wilder Foote was the editor of the 1920 edition. The editions of 1898, 1901, 1905, and 1910 were edited by the Rev. Robert Swain Morison. The edition of 1915 was edited by the Rev. Edward Hale. Note: Because this work was not updated after 1920, information on those in classes closer to the 1919-20 academic year are often incomplete. See sample entries.

In addition, very brief information about graduates only through the class of 1929 is found in the 1930 edition of: Harvard University, Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates. See a sample entry.

For this information, contact a research librarian

Some of these students have entries in the important reference sources for American Biography and/or American Religious Biography.

Some of these Harvard Divinity School students have printed biographies and/or autobiographies. Browse HOLLIS Classic under subject with last name first for the author and title of books about them. If you are not a Harvard library patron, search your own catalog for these works about them. If the book is not available locally, consider an interlibrary loan request. 

If we do not find someone in a Harvard listing, we can look in the equivalents to our General Catalogue for those listed as attending Andover Theological Seminary (1808-1927), Meadville Theological School (1844-1944), Newton Theological Institution and Andover Newton Theological School (1826-1943), Pacific Unitarian (now Starr King) School for the Ministry (1904-1929), Princeton Theological Seminary (1815-1996), and Union Theological Seminary (New York, 1836-1970), and can direct your inquiry to those institutions.

Note: Andover-Harvard Library is not the repository for Harvard Divinity School student records and files. These are kept at the University Archives. Note their policies and contact information. 


Sample Entries

Sample entries from the General Catalogue of the Divinity School of Harvard University, 1920. Cambridge: Published by the University, 1920. 

Ephraim Peabody. Grad.

b. Wilton, N.H., Mar. 22, 1807. A.B. Bowdoin Coll., Me., 1827; S.T.D., Bowdoin Coll., 1848. Meadville, Pa., May 1830-July 1831; Ord. Cincinnati, O., May 20, 1832-1836; New Bedford, May 24, 1838-Nov. 24, 1845; Boston (King's Chapel), Jan. 11, 1846-Nov. 28, 1856. d. Boston, Nov. 28, 1856.

See: "Sermons by Rev. Ephraim Peabody, D.D., Minister of King's Chapel. Boston, with a Memoir," Boston, 1857; "Heralds of a Liberal Faith," Vol. III, pp. 297-303, Boston, 1910. See also: "A New England Romance, the Story of Ephraim and Mary Jane Peabody, Told by their sons," 1920.

Benjamin Augustus Thacher. [Attended] 1 [year ending in 1898].
b. Machias, Me., Mar. 7, 1873. A.B., Yale Univ., Conn., 1897; A.M., Yale Univ., 1907. Res. Cape Giradeau, Mo. Teacher, Portland, Ore.

Sample entry from Harvard University, Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates.

S.T.M. [Harvard] 1925
Arlie Henry Krussell, A.B. Ohio Wesleyan Univ. 1921; S.T.B. Boston Univ. 1924.

Sample entry from The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England by Frederick Lewis Weiss (1936)

JOSIAH GOODHUE, A.B.,1 b. Stratham, N.H., 1729, son of Dea. Samuel and Abigail (Bartlett) Goodhue;2  H.C., 1755, A.B.;3 Ord. Dunstable, June 8, 1757; sett. Dunstable, 1757-1774; dism. Sept. 28, 1774; inst. Putney, Vt., Oct. 17, 1776; sett. Putney, Vt., 1776-1797;4 d. Putney, Vt., Nov. 16, 1797.

  1. The name is followed by the highest educational degree (usually A.B., A.M., or D.D.).

  2. Place and date of birth (or baptism) are followed by parents' names (mother's maiden name indicated in parentheses).  "Dea." in this example indicates that Goodhue's father was a "deacon," one of the two (the other being "ruling elder") lay offices traditional in congregational churches.

  3. 85% of the colonial clergy of New England graduated or attended college.  The following abbreviations are used in the listing of educational history (college attended and degree):

    • H.C. = Harvard College (57% of the college trained clergy graduated or attended Harvard)

    • Y.C. = Yale College (26% of the college trained clergy graduated or attended Yale)

    • Camb. = Cambridge University  (6% of the college trained clergy graduated or attended Cambridge)

    • Dart. = Dartmouth College

    • Other colleges listed are Princeton (also called the College of New Jersey, 3%), Oxford University (2.5%), Edinburgh, Brown, Glasgow, Dublin, Pennsylvania, Aberdeen, Columbia (also called King's College), and Geneva.

  4. In the history of ministerial settlement:

    • Ord. = ordained - a congregational minister is typically ordained in his first church

    • inst. = installed - a congregational minister is typically installed when he becomes the minister in churches beyond the first

    • name of the church is given by city only unless there is more than one church in that city; church is assumed to be "Congregational" unless otherwise indicated

    • if the city name is given without a state, it is Massachusetts

    • years of settlement, followed by reason for leaving (dismissal - usually a consensual process, etc.)

 

Colonial Clergy

Because of the extensive research by and publications of Frederick Lewis Weiss for the Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy, brief biographical information about clergy ordained in the original 13 colonies prior to July 4, 1776, is easily available.

See sample entries.

Those clergy who were graduates of Harvard College have biographical sketches in the series Sibley's Harvard Graduates (latest volume through 1774) [Ref. LD2139.S5], and clergy who were graduates of Yale College have biographical sketches in the series Yale Biographies and Annals (last volume through 1815) [Ref. LD6323.D5].

Many of these clergy have entries in the important reference sources for American Biography and/or American Religious Biography.

Some of these clergy also have printed biographies and/or autobiographies. Browse HOLLIS Classic under subject with last name first for the author and title of books about them. If you are not a Harvard library patron, search your own catalog for these works about them. If the book is not available locally, consider an interlibrary loan request.

For more information, contact a research librarian

Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist Clergy

Biographical information on Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist clergy and laypeople may be found on the following websites:

In addition to these websites and denominational history sources, there are a number of standard reference works listed in the library's research guide The Unitarian Universalist Tradition: A Basic Research and Reading List that may contain information.

While most of the material that follows deals with North American clergy, there are other sources we can consult about clergy throughout the world. For more information, contact a research librarian.

Many of these clergy have entries in the important reference sources for American Biography.

Some of these ministers also have printed biographies and/or autobiographies. Browse HOLLIS Catalog under subject with last name first for the author and title of books about them. If you are not a Harvard library patron, search your own catalog for these works about them. If the book is not available locally, consider an interlibrary loan request.

Obituary files: The library has card files that give citations for obituaries printed in denominational publications. The Universalist file is a rich resource with citations to the Universalist Register, the Leader, General Convention Minutes, etc. The Unitarian file is far from complete. Contact a research librarian for information about obituaries. Reference staff may be able to search for obituaries that are not indexed in this file, if the exact death date is known.

Manuscripts and Archives files: The library has several collections of files on clergy. The first two listed here are general collections with at least one folder for the person named. The contents of these folders vary greatly; some include biographical information, sermons, correspondence, photographs, etc., while others may contain a single newspaper clipping. Some individuals have folders in both collections.

Collection bMS 900 was started by the Universalist Historical Society Library. It was chiefly a collection of files for deceased Universalist ministers, but in time included living ministers and, after the 1961 merger with the Unitarians, it included Unitarian ministers; lay leaders are also represented.

Collection bMS 1446 began as a personnel file for the American Unitarian Association and has personnel and/or informational files concerning Unitarian Universalist ministers who are either deceased or who have left the Unitarian Universalist denomination. The collection also includes some files for individuals who were not ordained but who were important to the Unitarian Universalist movement.

Personal papers: This is a list of the library's collections of clergy and other persons. The contents may include sermons, correspondence, writings, etc. Often "biographical files" are found near the end of large collections.

Universalist Publishing House Records: Boxes 26-30 of Collection bMS 369 include a large number of photographs of individuals and groups.

Office of Public Information, Unitarian Universalist Association, Records, Biographical files, 1961-1975: Collection bMS 1257 has biographical information and photographs of well-known Unitarian Universalists and other public figures; there is very little "original" material in this collection.

For information about these Manuscripts and Archives collections, contact the curator of manuscripts and archives.

Directories and Yearbooks: When no information is available through these sources listed above, a search of the directories and yearbooks may be necessary. The amount and nature of the information these publications contain varies. There is no alphabetical list of Unitarian clergy before 1854 and none of Universalist clergy before 1872, so ministers must be identified by their state of residence.

In addition to paper copies in the "S.C.R." collection, these are available on microfilm: Unitarian titles on Mflm. Period. 2028; and Universalist titles on Mflm. Period. 4601 and, beginning with 1937/38, Mflm. Unit. 50. If you are not able to consult these resources locally, consider an interlibrary loan request or contact a research librarian.

Church Records and Genealogy Resources

The library has printed, microfilmed, and manuscript records from churches (primarily Unitarian, Universalist, and Congregational). Printed records include the 1902 book The Manifesto Church: Records of the Church in Brattle Square, Boston. Microfilmed records include the 1716-1847 records of the Second Church in Marblehead. Archival collections range from very large (for example, Arlington Street Church), to only a single record book (for example, Universalist Church, Princeton, Ohio). The way to find these records is to search  HOLLIS Classic; see Searching  HOLLIS Classic for Information on Local Congregations for help.

In addition to searching the HOLLIS Catalog for manuscript records, the listing of Unitarian Universalist Congregational Records (including the various Miscellaneous Collections and the Congregational Resource Files) in the Manuscripts and Archives Department should be consulted to determine what types of records are available for a particular church. For information about these manuscripts and archives collections, see How to Use the Manuscripts and Archives Collections.

If you have a valid Harvard ID and PIN number or you are in a Harvard library, you may search for records not at Harvard in WorldCat, Archive Finder, and Google Scholar (or its free equivalent). Print resources that can help in finding records include:

If you are not a Harvard library patron, check for the availability of these reference sources in your local library. 

While registers of births, deaths, and marriages are the most helpful to genealogists, there may be lists of members, lists of pew renters, parish records, society records, treasurer's records, Sunday school records, and scrapbooks that may contain information. Printed pamphlets and books called handbooks or manuals frequently have membership lists that may include addresses. Church newsletters and regional newspapers may also be useful. For more information about such sources, contact a research librarian. 


Searching HOLLIS Classic for Information on Local Congregations

Search for printed (book and pamphlet) and archival records and histories in HOLLIS Classic. The "expanded search"  (link in center of the second line of the main page) is an easy way to search for these. Enter words in two or three of the boxes. These words might include:

  • the name of the city where the congregation is located
  • unitarian* or universalis* (the asterisk will locate words beginning with these letters but having different endings, such as "Unitarian," "Unitarians," "Unitarianism," "Universalist," "Universalists," "Universalism")

If you get too many hits or too many incorrect hits, add into the third box one of the following:

  • a word or two-word phrase from the name of the congregation (for example, First, All Souls, Messiah). If the congregation has had different names during its history, try previous names if a current name does not work
  • the name of the state or province spelled out in full. If the full name does not yield results, try its old-style abbreviations (for example, Mass., Calif.)

If you get too many hits and are looking for:

  • congregational histories, change the default search boxes from "Anywhere" to "Subject words"
  • congregational records, change the default search boxes from "Anywhere" to "Subject words"
  • sermons, put sermon* in the third box