Northern Ireland Lives

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of people who’ve shaped British history, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century. The Oxford DNB currently includes the life stories of over 60,000 men and women who died in or before 2016.


George Best

Of these 60,000 people, more than 2,000 have close ties to Northern Ireland—through families, education, work or residence.


Here you’ll find some famous (and some less familiar) individuals, including the footballer George Best (above), the car maker John DeLorean, Arnold Thornely, architect of the Parliament Buildings at Stormont, poet Seamus Heaney, and controversial religious and political figure and later First Minister Ian Paisley (below).

Sam Bell Marjorie Mowlam William Drummond John DeLorean


Sir Arnold Thornely Sir Charles Brett  William Nicolson Seamus Heaney

Alexander Higgins D'Arcy Wentworth Cahir Healy Ian Paisley

Cahal Brendan Daly Louis MacNiece Mary McCracken (Arthur) Joyce Cary


1. Who's who in Northern Irish history?

As well as looking for people by name, you can also search by place, for example:

(NB: You'll need to be logged into your library's subscription for these searches.)

2. Local and family history in the Oxford DNB

The Oxford DNB includes the life stories of more than 60,000 men and women. Online you can search for where they were born, baptized, lived, died or were buried, by date range or location.

  • The advanced search ‘life event’ feature can be used to find people near you—be they men and women baptised in Edinburgh (189), those born in Whitby (28), or those buried in Exeter (133). Used in this way the ODNB is an excellent resource for school projects or family history.
  • Text searching across the Oxford DNB’s 68 million words, you can also make links between people and places: for example, we’ve 102 references to “Clapham Common”, 27 to the “River Trent”, and 51 to “Snowdonia”.

3. Who else would you like to meet?

  • the Oxford DNB online is freely available via public libraries across the UK. Libraries offer ‘remote access’ allowing members to log-on to the complete dictionary, for free, from home (or any other computer) twenty-four hours a day.
  • as well as 60,000 life stories, the ODNB offers a free, twice monthly biography podcast, with over 250 life stories now available.
  • you can also sign up for a Life of the Day: a topical biography delivered to your inbox.
  • or follow us on Twitter @ODNB for people in the news.

> Read the Oxford DNB, free and at home, using your library's subscription

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