Genealogy: Government Documents
Government documents are an often overlooked source of information for genealogical research. Some documents, like registers of employees or military personnel and indexes to patents and trademarks, provide information on identifiable individuals. Others offer a wealth of statistical information. Still others give historical accounts perhaps on branches of the military or historic sites and buildings.
Government Documents, on the second floor of Cornette Library, collects the publications of both the federal and Texas state governments. The items shown below are not a comprehensive listing of documents of interest for your research. You may wish to browse the collection or consult Andriot's Guide to U.S. Government Publications to find additional documents. Many of the older documents are fragile and should be used with care. If you need assistance, please ask at the Government Documents Desk.
Documents Finding Aids
Both print and electronic finding aids are available to help you find government documents. Should you need assistance using these, please check with the Government Documents staff. You may also wish to browse the shelves in search of an intriguing title.
Keep in mind that the federal government is not static. With the growth in land area, population, and American involvement throughout the world, the government expanded and changed. Because federal documents are shelved with the department, bureau, agency, or office that published them, tracking information over time can be challenging. For example, the U.S. Army resided in the Department of War from 1789 to 1947 when it became part of the National Military Establishment. Two years later the newly created Department of Defense absorbed the military branches. This means that publications relating to the U.S. Army are shelved under the Department of War, the National Military Establishment, and the Department of Defense. Each document has a number called a Superintendent of Documents number that designates its place on the shelf.
- Comprehensive Index to the Publications of the United States Government (1881-1940)
Government Documents Reference
- Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications (1913/14-)
Government Documents Reference
- Cumulative Subject Index to the Monthly Catalog of United States Government Documents (1900-1971)
Government Documents Reference
- Andriot, Donna (Ed.). Guide to U.S. Government Publications
Government Documents Desk
- GPO Monthly Catalog
electronic version; 1976-present - WTAMU only
- Cornette Library's online catalog - primarily federal government documents published after 1994
Department of Agriculture
Since its creation in 1862, The Department of Agriculture has conducted research and distributed information to the American public. Many of its publications are helpful for researching agricultural practices, crops grown, weather, and other agriculture-related topics. The list below includes major publications of the Department. Consult Andriot's Guide to U.S. Government Publications for the SuDoc numbers for publications from agencies like the Bureau of Animal Industry, Forest Service, Bureau of Plant Industry, Weather Bureau, Office of Farm Management and Farm Economics, Bureau of Home Economics, Soil Conservation Service, Farm Security Administration, and Rural Electrification Administration within the Department of Agriculture.
- Annual Reports (beginning with 1862)
- Century of Service: The First 100 Years of the United States Department of Agriculture
- Department Circulars on various topics
- Farmers' Bulletins
- Yearbook of Agriculture
- An Historical Survey of American Agriculture: The Farmer's Changing World: A Brief Chronology of American Agricultural History.
- Statistical Bulletins
- Fluctuations in Crops and Weather 1866-1948 (Statistical Bulletin No. 101)
- Agricultural Statistics
Department of Commerce
When it was established in 1903, the Department of Commerce and Labor assumed the functions of some agencies in the Treasury Department, the State Department, and the Department of the Interior. Among them were lighthouses, the Coast and Geodetic Survey, steamboat inspection, navigation, standards, fisheries, census, statistics, and immigration. The Department split into two separate departments in 1913 creating the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor.
Bureau of the Census (1903-1972, 1975-)
Following its establishment in 1902 as the United States Census Office within the Department of the Interior, this Office was transferred to the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903 and renamed the Bureau of the Census. For earlier publications refer to the Census Office publications under the Department of the Interior.
Bureau of the Census publications are rich in statistical information. The federal government gathers statistics on many topics and analyzes, compiles, and publishes these statistics. You'll find statistical data on agriculture, manufacturing, telephones, telegraphs, municipal elections, fire alarms, police patrol signaling systems, the insane and feeble-minded, marriage and divorce, mines and quarries, mortality, births, religious bodies, working women, and wealth, debt, and taxation. Browse the stacks for documents numbered C3 or ask for assistance at the Government Documents Desk. Some specific documents are listed below. Government documents relating to the decennial censuses do not list individuals persons' names but rather provide statistical information.
- Census of Benevolent Institutions, 1910
C 3 B43
- Statistical Directory of State Institutions for the Defective, Dependent, Delinquent Classes
- Indian Population in the United States and Alaska, 1910
- Negro Population, 1790-1915
- Negroes in the United States, 1920-32
- Index to Occupations, 1915
- Alphabetical Index of Occupations by Industries and Social-Economic Groups, 1937
- Officers and Employees of the Department of Commerce and Labor, 1908
- Paupers in Almshouses, 1910
- A Century of Population Growth from the First Census of the United States to the Twelfth, 1790-1900
- Population of States and Counties of the United States, 1790-1990
- Official Register of the United States: Persons in the Civil, Military, and Naval Services (1907-1932, irregular)
- Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910
C 3.15; C3.16
- Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920
- Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930
- Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940
Bureau of Navigation (1903-1932) and Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (1936-1942)
The Bureau of Navigation transferred from the Treasury Department in 1903. It joined the Steamboat Inspection Service in 1932 to become the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection which was renamed the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation in 1936.
- List of Merchant Vessels of the U.S. (beginning with 1907)
C 11.5; C 25.11:; C 25.15:
Patent and Trademark Office
Originally part of the Department of the Interior, the Patent Office transferred to the Department of Commerce in 1925. It was renamed the Patent and Trademark Office in 1975.
- Index of Patents Issued from the United States Patent Office, 1927-1996
- Index of Trademarks Issued from the United States Patent Office, 1927-1997
Department of Defense
The Department of Defense was established in 1949. Earlier military-related documents are shelved with the National Military Establishment, the Department of the Navy for sea forces, and the Department of War for land forces.
Department of the Air Force
Earlier records for the Department of the Air Force are shelved with the National Military Establishment (1947-1949).
- Air Force Chaplains
- The U.S. Air Force Reference Series
- The U.S. Air Service in World War I
- The Army Air Forces in World War II
Department of the Army
The Department of the Army joined the Department of Defense in 1949. Earlier documents are shelved with the Department of War from 1789 to 1947 and the National Military Establishment from 1947 to 1949.
Army Medical Department
The Department was created in 1950. Earlier records are shelved with the Department of War (1818-1947) and the National Military Establishment (1947-1947).
- World War II Series
Center of Military History
Previously the Historical Division under the National Military Establishment (1947-1949), the Center transferred to the Department of the Army in 1949. Its name changed to the Office of the Chief of Military History in 1950 and to the Center of Military History in 1974.
- United States Army in World War II
Corps of Engineers
The Corps of Engineers, previously the Engineer Department in the Department of War (1802-1947) and the National Military Establishment (1947-1949), transferred to the Department of Defense in 1949.
- Histories of various Corps of Engineers districts
- Kane, Sharyn & Keeton, Richard. In Those Days: African-American Life Near the Savannah River.
The Quartermaster Corps, the Army's supply corps, became a part of the Department in 1949. Earlier records are shelved with the Department of War Quartermaster's Department (1812-1912) and the National Military Establishment (1947-1949) under the Quartermaster General of the Army.
- Quartermaster Support of the Army: A History of the Corps, 1775-1939
D 106.83 Q2
- QMC Historical Studies
Department of the Navy
From 1789 to 1798, the Secretary for the Department of War headed naval affairs. In 1798 the Department of the Navy was established. It was incorporated into National Military Establishment in 1947 and transferred into the Department of Defense in 1949.
- Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861-65
D 207.2: C49
- Naval Documents of the American Revolution
- The Naval War of 1812
D 207.10/2: H621
- Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
Earlier documents for the Marine Corps are shelved with the Department of the Navy (1798-1947) and the National Military Establishment (1947-1949).
- Marines in the Revolution
- Marines in the Spanish-American War, 1895-1899
- History of the US Marine Corps Operations in World War II
Department of Education
The Department was formed in 1979. Earlier documents pertaining to education are shelved under the Bureau of Education and the Office of Education in the Department of the Interior from 1869 to 1939, the Federal Security Agency from 1939 to 1952, and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare from 1953 to 1969.
- Early American Textbooks, 1775-1900
Department of the Interior
At its inception in 1849, the Department took responsibility for the General Land Office, the Office of Indian Affairs, the Pension Office, and the Patent Office. Public buildings, the penitentiary of Washington, D.C., the United Census, and mining also came under its purview.
- Annual Reports (beginning with 1889)
- Official Register of the United States Containing a List of the Officers and Employees in the Civil, Military, and Naval Services, Together with a List of Vessels Belonging to the United States (volume 2. The Post Office Department and the Postal Service)
- Kappler's Indian Affairs Laws and Treaties (vols. VI and VII)
- Statistical View of the United States...Being a Compendium of the Seventh Census, 1850
- Eight Census of the United States, 1860
- Ninth Census of the United States, 1870
- Tenth Census of the United States, 1880
- Eleventh Census of the United States, 1890
- Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900
Bureau of Indian Affairs (1849-)
- A Report of the Department of the Interior: Indian Affairs, 1900
Bureau of Land Management (1946-)
- A History of the Rectangular Survey Systems
- Surveys and Surveyors of the Public Domain, 1785-1975
Bureau of Pensions (1849-1930)
- Decisions of the Department of the Interior: Appealed Pension and Bounty-Land Claims, 1908-1912
- Decisions of the Department of the Interior: Appealed Pension and Retirement Claims, 1924-1930
General Land Office (1849-1946)
- Annual Reports (1875, 1911, 1913)
- Decisions of the Department of the Interior and the Government Land Office in Cases Relating to Public Lands (beginning with 1906)
National Park Service (1916-)
The NPS was created in 1916. NPS documents include information on National Parks, historic and archeological sites on the National Register of Historic Places, historic resource and cultural landscape studies, and bibliographies on special topics. The SuDoc numbers for National Park Service publications begin with I 29.
Office of Education (1869-1939)
- Annual Reports (beginning with 1870/71)
- Bulletins (beginning with 1907)
- Circulars of Information (beginning with 1880)
United States Geological Survey(1879-)
- Twenty-first Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey to the Secretary of the Interior, 1899-1900, Part VII - Texas
- Maps Can Help You Trace Your Family Tree: How to Use Maps in Genealogy.
Department of Justice
The Department of Justice came into being in 1870. Prior to its inception, the Attorney General was a member of the President's Cabinet.
- Register of the Department of Justice (beginning with 1908)
Attorney General's Office
- Annual Reports (beginning with 1884)
- Federal Anti-Trust Decisions (beginning with 1890)
Department of Labor
An act of March 4, 1913 created the Department, separating actions related to labor from the Department of Commerce and Labor.
- Annual Reports (1886, 1903, 1913-)
- Commissioner of Labor Annual Reports (beginning with 1887)
Bureau of Labor Statistics (1913-)
Separated from the Department of the Interior in 1913, the Bureau publishes data on employment and manpower, productivity, wages, industrial relations, prices, costs, and standards of living.
Bureau of Immigration (1913-1933)
Transferred from the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1913 to the new Department of Labor, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (C 7) was split into two bureaus (L 3 and L 6). The two bureaus consolidated into the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1933.
- Annual Reports (beginning with 1913)
- Immigration Laws and Regulations (beginning with 1917)
Department of the Navy
The Department saw its beginning in 1798. For the previous 9 years, the Secretary for the Department of War oversaw naval affairs. In 1947 the Department became part of the National Military Establishment, and two years later it came under the Department of Defense.
- Annual Report
- Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps (1908, 1911, 1923-1945)
- Compilation of Court-Martial Orders for the Years 1916-1937
- Uniform Regulations United States Navy Together with Uniform Regulations Common to Both Navy and Marine Corps, 1913
- Officers of the Navy and Marine Corps in the District of Columbia (1936, 1938-1942)
- Navy Directory: Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps (1937-1941)
- State Summary of War Casualties (1946)
Bureau of Medicine & Surgery (1842-1947)
- Report on the Medico-Military Aspects of the European War from Observations Taken Behind the Allied Armies in France (1915)
- Handy Book for the Hospital Corps, U.S. Navy (1917)
- Medical Department of the U.S. Navy with the Army and Marine Corps in France in World War I
Bureau of Naval Personnel (1942-1947)
- Officers and Enlisted Men of the United States Navy Who Lost Their Lives During the World War, from April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918
N 17.2: W89
Marine Corps (1798-1947)
- Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Marine Corps Reserve (1931, 1933, 1941)
Naval Records and Library Office (1915-1947)
- Official Records of Union and Confederate Navies in the War of Rebellion
Naval Reserve Force Division (1915-1947)
- Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of Naval Reserve Force (1921, 1929-1931, 1935, 1939, 1941, 1943-1944)
Office of Naval Operations (1915-1947)
- United States Navy at War, 1941-1945
Department of State
The State Department was established in 1789.
- Messages and Documents of the Department of State (1868-1869, 1872-1873, 1880-1881)
- Foreign Relations of the United States
- Register of the Department of State (beginning with 1929)
- Foreign Service List (beginning with 1929)
- Territorial Papers of the United States
S 1.36: (see also General Services Administration - National Archives and Records Service)
- Biographical Register (1954, 1957-1973)
Department of the Treasury
The Department was established in 1789.
- Annual Report (1857, 1876, 1885-1886, 1907)
Coast Guard (1915-1917, 1919-1941, 1947-1966)
- Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers and Cadets and Ships and Stations of the Coast Guard (beginning with 1929)
Department of War
The Department of War came into being in 1789 at the end of the Revolutionary War. It became the Department of the Army with establishment of the National Military Establishment in 1947. Two years later it became one of the military departments in the newly established Department of Defense.
- Annual Report (1874, 1899, 1908-1941)
- America's Munitions, 1917-1918
- Officers of the Army Stationed in or Near the District of Columbia (beginning with 1931)
Adjutant General's Department (1913-1947)
- Army List and Directory (1929-1941)
- Official Army Register (1920-1947)
Engineer Department (Corps of Engineers) (1802-1947)
- Annual Report (beginning with 1910)
- Explorations and Surveys for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean
Medical Department (1818-1947)
- The Medical Department of the U.S. Army in the World War
- Official National Guard Register (1930-1931, 1936, 1939, 1943)
War Records Office (1878-1899)
- War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Board on Geographic Names
- First Report of the United States Board on Geographic Names (1890-1891)
- Fifth Report of the United States Board on Geographic Names (1890-1920)
- Sixth Report of the United States Board on Geographic Names (1890-1932)
Fish & Fisheries Commission
First established as the United States Fish Commission in 1871, the United States Fish & Fisheries Commission came into being in 1880. It was transferred to the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903 when it became the Bureau of Fisheries (C 6).
- Annual Reports (beginning with 1877)
- Bulletins (beginning with 1899)
- The Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States, 1887
General Services Administration
GSA was established in 1949.
National Archives and Records Service (1949-1985)
In 1985 NARS became the National Archives and Records Administration.
- Guide to Cartographic Records in the National Archives
- Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians
GS 4.6/28 Am3
- Index, Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789
- Index, The Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789
- Territorial Papers of the United States
GS 4.13:24 (see also Department of State)
- Guide to Federal Archives Relating to the Civil War
- Guide to the Archives of the Government of the Confederate States of America
Library of Congress
The long history of the nation's library began in 1800.
- Records of the Virginia Company
- Family Ties in England, Scotland, Wales, & Ireland
LC 1.2: F 21
- Genealogical Research at the Library of Congress
LC 1.2: G 28/999
- Generations Past: A Selected List of Sources for Afro-American Genealogical Research
- Revolutionary America, 1763-1789: A Bibliography
- Letters of Delegates to Congress
- Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789
- Genealogies Cataloged by the Library of Congress Since 1986
National Archives & Records Administration
Since its creation in 1934, the National Archives has been the repository of the nation's archival records. In July 1949 the National Archives was transferred to the General Services Administration, and was renamed the National Archives and Records Service later that year. Its name changed again in 1985 to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
- Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States
AE 1.108: G 94
- Citing Records in the National Archives of the United States
- Cartographic and Architectural Branch
- Fast Facts About the 1920 Census
- Research in the Land Entry Files of the General Land Office (Record Group 49)
- Using the Census Soundex
- Records Relating to Personal Participation in World War II: "The American Soldier" Surveys
- World War II Records in the Cartographic and Architectural Branch of the National Archives
- Records Relating to Personal Participation in World War II: American Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees
- Records Relating to Personal Participation in World War II: Military Awards and Decorations
- Presidential Libraries Holdings Relating to Prisoners of War and Missing in Action
- Records of Military Agencies Relating to African Americans for the Post-World War I Period to the Korean War
- Black Family Research: Records of Post-Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives
National Military Establishment
Adjutant General's Office
- Official Army and Air Force Register (1948)
- Official Army Register (1949)
- Annual Report
- Engineers of the Southwest Pacific
- Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War (1917-19) Zone of the Interior
M 103.2:W89 v3/pt.1
- United States Army in the World War, 1917-1919
Bureau of Naval Personnel
- United States Navy Chaplains, 1778-1945
- Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps (January 1, 1949)
- Annual Register of the United States Naval Academy (1947-1948, 1948-1949)
Post Office Department
- Annual Report (beginning with 1890)
- U.S. Official Postal Guide (beginning with 1914)
- Street Directory of the Principal Cities of the United States 1908
In 1829 Englishman James Smithson bequeathed his fortune to found the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian was established by Congress in 1846.
- Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collection (covers biology, geology, anthropology, and other scientific fields)
American Historical Association(1889-)
- Annual Report (beginning with 1890)
SI 4.1:date v1
- Writings on American History
SI 4.1:date v2
Bureau of American Ethnology
- Annual Report (beginning with 1879)