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A biography is a history of a person's life. In a biography you may find an individual's birth, marriage, and death information and the names of his parents, children, or other family members. Use the information given in biographies carefully because there may be inaccuracies. There are many biographical sources for France, but typically they are about the most notable people.
Thousands of brief biographies have been gathered and published in collective biographies, sometimes called biographical encyclopedias or dictionaries. Usually these include only biographies of prominent or well-known citizens of France. Some feature biographies of specific groups of people, such as artists, military officers, or Protestant leaders.
A significant biographical dictionary follows. Its articles about individuals run from a few lines to several pages:
- Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu'à 1850-1860 (New biographical dictionary, early to 1860). Paris, France: Firmin Didot, 1853-1866. Reprint. Copenhaven: Rosenkilde et Bagger, 1963. (Family History Library book 920 N855n; not on microfilm.) Worldwide coverage.
There is also a major collection of French biographies:
- Archives biographiques françaises (French biographical archives). New York, NY, USA: K.G. Saur, 1988-1989. (Family History Library fiche 6002178.) This set of 1073 microfiche may not be circulated to family history centers. It lists 140,000 pre-1914 individuals from 180 biographical works. It includes people from Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Quebec, and many French colonies. An index to these biographies is in the following book:
- Dwyer, Helen, and Barry Dwyer. Index Biographique Français (French biographical index). Four Volumes. London, England: K.G. Saur, 1993. (Family History Library book 944 D32i; not on microfilm.) Includes 40,000 cross-references. Citations include birth and death years, occupation, biographical source, microfiche, and frame number.
The following is an important bibliography of French biography:
- Fierro, Alfred. Bibliographie analytique des biographies collectives imprimées de la France contemporaine, 1789-1985 (Bibliography of collected biographies for modern France). Genève, France: Slatkine, 1986. (Family History Library book 944 D33; not on microfilm.) This annotated bibliography cites 2,513 collected biographies. It is divided into general biographies, professional groups, and locality biographies. It also includes an author and title index.
Collective biographies at the Family History Library are generally listed in the Place section of the FamilySearch Catalog under one of the following:
FRANCE - BIOGRAPHY
FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT] - BIOGRAPHY
FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT], [TOWN] - BIOGRAPHY