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Historical Government Documents

STEP 1: Identify documents of interest based on topic of research

Either open the link below or go to the reference section to retrieve this book:

1.Search the index by subject, agency, author, or speaker of interest (the index starts on page 1245).  For this example, I am interested in researching Congress' consideration of the Wyandotte Constitution.  So I would go to the subject index to search for Kansas and look for entries related to admission into the Union.

Poore's Index


2. Go to the page(s) listed and look for entries relevant to your topic.  For this example, I see the entry titled "Report on Admission of Kansas" on page 767.

Poore's Index entries


3. If the abstract looks promising, take note of the information provided, including: the title, author, date of publication, and location/series.  For this example, I wrote down the following:

        Title: Report on Admission of Kansas
        Author: Representative G. A. Grow
        Date of publication: March 29, 1860
        Location/Series: House Reports, No. 255, 36th Congr., 1st sess., Vol. II

STEP 2: Determine where the material is published

Since many of the documents provided in the Descriptive Catalogue of Government Publications are published in the American State Papers (through 1816) or the U.S. Serial Set (1817 to the present) you should open the URL below or retrieve the following book from the reference shelves:

1. Go to the Congressional Tables (beginning on page 3) and find the congress and session of your document.  In our example, we go to the 36th congress, 1st session.

2. Find the series associated with your document.  In our example, we look for House Reports

3. Find the volume number associated with your document (where applicable).  In our example, we look for volume 2.  

Checklist table

4. Record the serial set number.  In our case, we write down 1068.

For items that do not provide congressional information, please talk with a librarian.

STEP 3: Find the full text document

While the library does not have physical volumes of the American State Papers or the US Serial Set, a number of digitized copies are available, including:

For guidance on using the HathiTrust, see below:

1. After opening the HathiTrust link for the US Serial Set, click Control + F to search for the appropriate volume and open the full view link.  In our example, we searched for 1068.

Hathi Trust record page


2. Conduct a "search in this text" for a portion of the title of the document you wish to view.  In our example, we typed in Kansas.

Hathi Trust search within document


3. Open the entry that looks relevant.  

Hathi Trust search page


4.  Now you can view the document.

Hathi Trust Report View


Please ask a librarian for further assistance if you can not find the document for which you are looking.   Even if a digital copy is not available, the library can place an interlibrary loan request on your behalf.