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2020

Can you tell the difference between the following citations?

 

  • H.R. 1234
  • H1234
  • 12 Stat. 34
  • H.Doc.12-34
  • H.Res. 1234

 

Each citation maps to a different type of record -- it’s easy to get confused!

 

H.R. 1234 is a bill originating in the U.S. House of Representatives -- and it’s similar to, but different from, H.Res. 1234 which is a simple resolution. Other forms of legislation include a joint resolution (H.J.Res.) and a concurrent resolution (H.Con.Res).

 

Thousands of bills are introduced each year. Congress.gov has the full text of all bills and resolutions since 1993. If you’re looking for the text of a bill introduced prior to 1993, you can search in a subscription database, such as ProQuest Congressional, or you contact an archivist at the Center for Legislative Archives -- we hold the official records of Congress.

 

12 Stat. 34 is a citation for the Statutes at Large, which is the chronological collection of laws passed by the U.S. Congress. The first number in the citation indicates the volume number, and the second number in the citation indicates the page number. Up through 1950, the Statutes at Large volumes are available online through the Library of Congress. From 1951 on, they’re available online through GovInfo.

 

H.Doc. 12-34 is a citation for a House Document which can be found in the Serial Set. The Serial Set includes both published reports from congressional committees and documents ordered printed by the House or the Senate. The citation reads as document number 34, published by the U.S. House of Representatives in the 12th Congress.

 

The best way to access the Serial Set is through a subscription database, such as ProQuest Congressional or HeinOnline. These databases are accessible via computers at National Archives research locations, and also likely through a local academic or law library. You can find the Serial Set in print or on microfilm through a regional Federal Depository Library.

 

The final citation, H1234, is a page from the daily edition of the Congressional Record. The Congressional Record is the official record of proceedings and debate on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. It’s published daily while the Congress is in session and can be found online either through Congress.gov or GovInfo.

 

The daily edition of the Congressional Record has four distinct sections -- the ‘H’ indicates the House section and ‘1234’ the page number. In a full citation, the page number would be preceded by a volume number or date. The Congressional Record is also published in a bound edition -- which is the permanent final edition prepared at the end of each year.

 

For more information on the Congressional Record, the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C. (LLSDC) has put together a research guide on the Congressional Record and its predecessor publications. Congress.gov also has an informative page about the Congressional Record.

 

Have you come across other legislative citations you can’t figure out? The Senate website has a useful guide to legislative citations. The LLSDC has also put together a list of common abbreviations and legal citations for selected federal government documents.

 

And you can always either post a question to History Hub or email the Center for Legislative Archives at legislative.archives@nara.gov. We’re happy to help!

The records of the U.S. House of Representatives (Record Group 233) and U.S. Senate (Record Group 46), held by the Center for Legislative Archives, shed light on the history of territories of the United States. Congress played a vital role in establishing territories and passing the acts enabling territories to become states. Congress also legislated on various matters affecting territories.

 

Records include petitions from settlers of territories, copies of proposed state constitutions, and drafts of the bills proposing statehood for various territories. The records help reveal the history of westward expansion, relations with Native Americans, land disputes, issues over slavery, and other challenges to creating new governments in frontier settlements.

 

Some of the House and Senate territorial papers were included in the 28-volume collection of transcribed Federal records, The Territorial Papers of the United States, consisting of documents considered the most significant for shedding light on the administration of the territories up to 1848. These are mostly the records of the Departments of State, which oversaw territories, but also include the records of other agencies such as the Departments of War, Treasury, and the Post Office. The volumes are supplemented by microfilm publications of the records. Only a small fraction of the documentation on territories has been included.

 

Senate records most pertinent to territorial history were segregated from other committee records as part of the effort to create The Territorial Papers of the United States, an effort first undertaken by the Department of State, and later the National Archives. These records form the series Senate Territorial Papers, 1789-1873, and are arranged alphabetically by territory and then chronologically. Selected territorial papers of the Senate were also microfilmed as M200, Territorial Papers of the U.S. Senate, 1789-1873. 

 

Like the Senate Territorial Papers, House records on territories were also culled out of the regular committee records to form a discrete series, House Territorial Papers, 1810-1872. These records are also arranged alphabetically by territory and then chronologically.

 

In addition to the distinct Territorial Papers series, both the House and Senate had committees on territories. The Senate Committee on Territories, 1844-1921, and the House Committee on Territories, 1825-1946, reported legislation concerning the structure, status, and power of the Territorial governments; statehood; powers of municipalities; boundary disputes; and on matters relating to public lands and homesteading, railroads, public works, public buildings, highways, taxation, bond issues, education, Native Americans, prohibition, and wildlife.

 

The holdings of other committees, such as Public Lands, Judiciary, Post Office and Post Roads, Railroads, and many others also include records on territories, as issues affecting territories fell under various committee jurisdictions. A general overview of committee records is found in the Guide to the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives at the National Archives and the Guide to the Records of the U.S. Senate at the National Archives.  Information on legislation and petitions on territories may be gleaned from the Congressional Record and its predecessors, as well as the House and Senate Journals. For the period 1774-1875, these publications may be searched on the Library of Congress' Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation website.   

 

To inquire about the territorial records at the Center for Legislative Archives, you may email us at legislative.archives@nara.gov.

Did you know that a significant proportion of the records of Congress during the 19th century consist of private claims submitted directly to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate from individuals and groups? Most of these claims came from common citizens seeking pensions or payment of claims against the Government.

 

Private claims and other forms of private relief submitted to the House of Representatives from the 39th through the 57th Congresses (1865-1903) form the series House Accompanying Papers, which are part of Record Group 233 at the Center for Legislative Archives. These records are a rich source of information for genealogists and local historians.

 

Although many of the claims are for pensions, such as that of Andrew W. Jones, a private in the Oregon Volunteers, who requested a pension in the 52nd Congress (1891-1893) for his service in the Rogue River Indian War of 1855-1856 where he suffered a gunshot wound to the back of his neck, others concern a host of topics. 

 

During the 46th Congress (1879-1881), for example, the claims include that of:

 

  • Susan B. Anthony, seeking relief from political disabilities and requesting woman suffrage as a right of citizenship
  • the petition of the shareholders of the Central and South American Cable Company for a telegraph line connecting those areas with the U.S.
  • the memorial of the members of the Prairie Grove Presbyterian Church in Arkansas for compensation after their church was torn down for wood to make coffins for the soldiers who fell during the Civil War battle of Prairie Grove in 1862

 

The records consist of petitions, bills, resolutions, correspondence, committee reports, affidavits, and other supporting documentation of the claims.  There are even maps, photographs, letters patent, muster rolls, news clippings, and marriage certificates in some of the claim files.

 

The House Accompanying Papers files were bill files, mostly concerning private legislation, that were collected together from the various committees, and arranged in a single alphabetical sequence for each Congress. This series is the primary location of records relating to private legislation between the 39th and 57th Congress. Before this period, private claims are found in the committee papers or the petitions and memorials series of the appropriate committee. After this period, they are found in committee bill files.

 

The records are arranged by Congress and then alphabetically by person, organization, state, territory, or subject.

 

For many of the Congresses, particularly the early ones, the Center for Legislative Archives holds folder title lists of the claims. Claims may also be located using the House Journal and the Congressional Record -- but with the caveat that not all claims referenced in those publications are still extant in the records. Researchers need to know the name of the claimant and the Congress(es) in which the claim was submitted to the House in order for the Center's archivists to locate the original records. For assistance, please email us at legislative.archives@nara.gov.

 

For more information, check out: "A Final Appeal to Capitol Hill: The U.S. House's Accompanying Papers File, 1865–1903", Archivist John Deeben's 2007 Prologue Magazine article. Also helpful are this NARA information paper and the Guide to House Records. You might also want to watch this Know Your Records presentation on House Accompanying Papers on NARA's YouTube channel.