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United States Legislative History: The Sources

Last Updated: Aug 25, 2022 5:30 PM





Sources for locating the report

Generally, the best source for determining legislative intent is the House Report, Senate Report, or Conference Report written by the Congressional Committee that studies a bill.  The House and Senate Reports often include a section-by-section analysis of the proposed legislation.  Reports are first printed and sent to Depository Libraries as individual pamphlets, chronologically numbered within each Congress, one series for House Reports and another for Senate Reports.  

CIS Microfiche Collection KF 49 C623 (Koren AV)
From the 91st Congress, Second Session (1970-2005); use CIS indexes (LAW KF 49 C62) described below to find the report and its CIS number

FDsys (GPO) 104th Congress, 1995+
THOMAS, 104th Congress, 1995+
Libraries' Catalog
Search by keyword (e.g. asbestos and senate report) 

Finding the Report in the Serial Set
House and Senate Reports are later reissued in bound volumes along with House and Senate Documents in the United States Congressional Serial Set. These volumes have been serially numbered since the 15th Congress, 1817.  Earlier Congressional publications are part of the American State Papers, which are arbitrarily numbered 01-038 and placed at the beginning of the Serial Set.  To use the Serial Set, you must translate your House or Senate Report number into a Serial Set volume number by using one of the following sources:

1st-91st Congress (1789-1969) CIS U.S. Serial Set Index Z 1223 Z9 C65 (Ref Desk)
Use Finding Lists Volume, "Numerical List of Reports and Documents"

1st-52nd Congress (1789-1893) Tables of and Annotated Index to the Congressional Series of United States Public Documents JK 1021 U56 1963 (Ref)
See "Tables" p. 15-109 and "Index" p. 111-753

1st-60th Congress (1789-1909) Checklist of U.S. Public Documents Z 1223 A113 1962 (Ref)
See specifically, pp. 5-16

53th-76th Congress (1893-1940) Documents Catalog Z 1223 A13 (Ref)
See heading "Congressional Documents Lists" especially useful from Vol. 14 on (65th Congress)

54th-59th Congress (1895- 1906) Index to the Subjects of the Documents and Reports and the Committees...  Z 1223 A14 (Lockwood Ref)

60th-72nd Congress (1907-1933) Index to the Reports and documents of the ... Congress Z 1223 A14 (Ref, Lockwood Ref - see catalog for specific holdings) 

73th-96th Congress (1933-1980) Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes Z 1223 A15 (Lockwood Ref); Z 1223 A14 (Ref) (see catalog for specific holdings)

97th Congress (1981/82) U.S. Congressional Serial Set Supplement Z 1223 A14 (Ref)

98th Congress (1983) and thereafter (104th Congress, 1995-1996 most recent) U.S. Congressional Serial Set Catalog: Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes Z 1223 A14 (Ref)

Reports on Microfiche
House and Senate Reports issued from 1970 (91st Congress) to 2006 (109th Congress) are included in the CIS Microfiche Collection in the Koren Center on the 5th Floor of the Law Library. To retrieve a particular Report you must translate your Report number into a CIS number using the "Index of Report Numbers" in the back of the CIS Index volumes at Ref Desk KF 49 C62. It is also possible to obtain the CIS number from the Proquest Congressional database.

Finding the Report Number

If you know the PUBLIC LAW NUMBER use:

  • U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (1951+) US 002.U6 (Fed Core)
  • U.S. Code Congressional Service see the "Legislative History" section (1941-1950) US 002 U6 (Fed Core)
  • U.S. Statutes at Large US 002 A2 (Fed Core)
    1963-1977 "Guide to Legislative History" see the Report No. and Committee Reporting column
    1975-date See the "Legislative History" list at the end of each Public Law
  • CIS Index (1970+) (LAW KF 49 C62 ; 2011 located in REF)
    For Pre-1984 see "Legislative Histories" section at the back of the annual Abstracts volumes
    For 1984+ see volume, Legislative Histories of U.S. Public Laws
  • Digest of Public General Bills and Resolutions (1955-60, 1967, 1970, 1975-1990) KF 18 L5
    See Part 1 "Action Taken During the Congress" Public Laws section

If you know the ORIGINAL BILL NUMBER use:

  • Index of Congressional Committee Hearings (1869-1934) KF 40 U55 1969 (Ref)
    See the column headed "Report" in the "Index of Senate Hearings by Bill Number" p. 919-957 and the "Index of House Hearings by Bill Number" p. 958-1056.
  • Cumulative Index of Congressional Committee Hearings (1935-1980) KF 40 U552 1959 (Ref)
    See the "Index by Bill Number" in each volume.
  • Congressional Record (1882+) US 004.A6
    See "History of Bills and Resolutions" in Index volume of each session.
    Since 1949, also has a "Bills Enacted Into Law" cross index by Public Law Number.
  • CCH Congressional Index (1961+) US 002.3 C76
    See "House Status Table" or "Senate Status Table"
  • CIS Index (1970+)  (LAW KF 49 C62 ; 2011 located in REF)
    In the "Index of Bill Numbers" reports are indicated by abstract numbers with a '3' before the dash (i.e. H263-5 or S193-16)
  • Digest of Public General Bill s and Resolutions (1955-60, 1967, 1970, 1975-1990) KF 18 L5
    See Part 1 "Action Taken During the Congress", Other Measures Receiving Action section.

If you know the SUBJECT use any of the sources listed above or:

  • CIS U.S. Serial Set Index (1789-1969) Z 1223 Z9 C65 1975 (Ref Desk)
    "Subject Index" volumes provide Report number and Serial Set volume numbers
  • Document Catalog (1893-1941) Z 1223 A13 (Ref)
    Entries are arranged alphabetically by subject Vol. 5 (1899-1900) on, the Serial Set volume number is given in bold face type in all entries for House and Senate Reports
  • Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications Z 1223 A18 (Ref, Koren AV - see catalog for specific holdings)
    Use "Index" or "Subject Index" volumes 

Sources for locating the congressional hearing

FDsys (GPO )  (1995+)

CIS Index  (1970-present)  (LAW KF 49 C62 ; 2011 located in REF) KF 49 C623 (Koren AV)

CIS U.S. Congressional Committee Hearings Index (1833-1969) KF 40 C56 (Ref Desk); (1869-1956) J 74 A3 (Silverman AV)

CIS Index to Unpublished U. S. Senate Committee Hearings (1823-1976) KF 40 C55 1986-2005 (Ref Desk); (1965-1978) KF 40 C563 (Silverman AV)

CIS Index to Unpublished U.S. House of Representatives Committee Hearings (1988-1997) KF 40 C55 1986-2005 (Ref Desk); (1831-33, 1839-41, 1849-51, 1861-1936) KF 27 A2 U64 1988 (Silverman AV)

Checklist of U. S. Public Documents (1789-1909) Z1223 A113 1962 (Ref)

Index of Congressional Committee Hearings (Prior to 1935) KF 40 U55 1969 (Ref)

Cumulative Index of Congressional Committee Hearings (1935-1980) KF 40 U552 1959 (Ref)

Documents Catalog (1893-1941) Z 1223 A13 (Ref)

Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications (1937-1975) Z 1223 A18 (Also Ref)
1976+ Online

Libraries' Catalog
Perform keyword search (e.g. asbestos and hearing*) 

Compiled legislative histories

The Law Library owns many legislative histories where the individual documents have been collected in printed form. These can be found on the University Libraries Online Catalog with a keyword title search: legislative history and (subject, e.g.., immigration). The following sources also may save you much time and effort:

CIS Index (1970+) KF 49 C62 curr. (Ref)
For 1984+ see Legislative Histories of U.S. Public Laws
For pre-l984 see "Legislative Histories" section at the back of each annual Abstracts volume which lists all official publications for each law; all publications are abstracted in main section of Abstracts volume.

CIS Legislative History Service (1984-2010) KF 49 C63 (Ref)
Presents full citations and abstracts for all the official publications associated with each significant public law except appropriations.

Johnson, Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories KF42.2 2012 (Ref Desk); HeinOnline
A bibliography of government documents, periodical articles, and books, 1st Congress-110th Congress (111th Congress - partial coverage). Part 1 is a list of Commercial and Government Compilations of Legislative Histories.

U.S. Federal Legislative History Collection HeinOnline


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