Biographies provide useful genealogical information such as an individual’s birth date and place (including foreign birthplaces where applicable); family members; occupation and education; and social, political, and religious affiliation. They may also contain a physical description of the person, his or her previous residences, and immigration information. Biographies are the product of family knowledge or previous research compiled about early settlers and prominent citizens of the state, county, or town. Many lesser-known individuals may have biographical sketches written about them in local histories.
The Family History Library does not have a statewide biographical index or major manuscript collection for Alabama. You will find many biographies in the biographical sections of statewide, regional, and county histories.
The WPA project Index to Alabama Biography: An Index to Biographical Sketches of Individual Alabamians in State, Local, and to Some Extent National Collections was sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library in 1956. This collection may be useful for locating persons in Alabama in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The project indexes over 100 biographical and historical titles. This index is available at the Birmingham Public Library (see the "Archives and Libraries" section for the address.)
A representative biographical encyclopedia is:
- Owen, Thomas McAdory.History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. Four Volumes. Chicago, Illinois: S.J. Clarke Publishing, 1921. (Family History Library fiche 6048243-46 [set of 40].) The first two volumes have historical information about Alabama events and places. The last two volumes are biographical.
- A source for portraits is: Alabama Portraits Prior to 1870. Mobile, Alabama: Gill Printing and Stationary, 1969. (Family History Library book 976.1 D3c.) The book has portraits, in alphabetical order, with some family history information about each individual.
The Surname Search of the Family History Library Catalog will lead you to biographies and published family histories on specific surnames. Using the term "Alabama" in the Keyword Search will help limit the search to families in Alabama.
The Family History Library has many biographies and local or county histories with biographical sketches on residents. These can be found in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog, under:
ALABAMA, [COUNTY]- BIOGRAPHY
ALABAMA, [COUNTY]- HISTORY
ALABAMA, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- HISTORY