(Advanced) Searching the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Oxford DNBWarning! searching our online resource the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) can be addictive as, to quote the popular phrase, “all human life is here”.

Most people use this dictionary to search for a specific individual. However you may not be aware that using the advanced search options and selecting other search criteria will create lists of names of the great, the good and also it must be said, the not so good.

To use the advance search facility click on one of the “More Search Options” displayed beneath the main search box.

Curiosity led me to check how many people with Hammersmith and Fulham connections are listed. The answer is currently 761. However this figure is misleading as a casual check of a few entries revealed than the connection was often limited either to their unfortunate death in one of the borough’s hospitals or attendance at one of the borough’s schools.

A screenshot of the ONB homepage

A screenshot of the DNB homepage

I whittled down the 341 Fulham entries to 16 by selecting the “Law and Crime” category from the drop-down list of occupations found in the “Fields of Interest” search category.

Amongst the list of lawyers and judges, I found George Henry Chatham. Born in Fulham he became one of the most successful art and jewellery thieves targeting wealthy individuals and also several successful thefts of items from the Victoria and Albert Museum. You may wonder why he is included. As I mentioned above, the DNB does not only include the great and the good. To quote its website

“The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century”.

Thus, a recent entry to the DNB is Jimmy Savile. Whilst discussing his influence in broadcasting, the entry does not play down his unsavoury character and the on-going enquiry.

Finally it is also worth investigating the “Themes” tab to display the large number of collective biographies brought together under such topics as Climbers of Everest, British monarchs, First World War poets and significant military and political leaders involved in that conflict. Other lists include founder members of institutions and noteworthy groups.

I hope you enjoy perusing this fascinating online resource, free to all library members – and remember: it’s seriously addictive!

[Francis Serjeant, Triborough Reference Team]

This entry was posted in Dictionary of National Biography, Online Resources, Reference and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to (Advanced) Searching the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

  1. Pingback: Who Lived Where? The London Blue Plaque Scheme | LBHF Libraries

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