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!