United States Congressional Serial Set

What is the Serial Set?

The Serial Set contains House and Senate reports and documents published since 1817. It is arranged by session of Congress. The popular name "Serial Set" comes from the decision in 1895 to number each published volume consecutively. These serial numbers appear on the spine of each officially published volume. Serial numbers were assigned retrospectively to the older volumes. In many libraries the earlier volumes had their assigned number hand written on the spines.

It is a rich source of primary source documents on American history. Areas of interest to researchers of the 19th and early 20th century include social, economic, political, and cultural history; explorations; international relations; geography; and genealogy. In general, the Serial Set includes committee reports related to bills and other matters, presidential communications to Congress, treaty materials, certain executive department publications, and certain non-governmental publications. The American State Papers is considered to be the predecessor to the Serial Set.

House and Senate reports submitted by Congressional committees provide insight to the legislative intent of Congress by describing the purpose and intent of a bill and rationales for its approval. When differing versions of legislation are passed by the House and Senate, a conference committee resolves the differences and issues its own report. Reports may also be written for reasons not related to specific proposed legislation, such as to summarize committee oversight or investigative functions.

House and Senate documents are issued by Congress, but historically often consisted of reprints of documents presented to Congress rather than documents originally authored by Congress. Documents may include various executive branch communications to Congress, federal agencies' annual or special reports to Congress, accounts of committee activities and committee-sponsored special studies, and miscellaneous publications such as ceremonial tributes or reports of patriotic organizations.

House and Senate reports and documents are individually numbered and bound into volumes organized by Congress and session number. Report numbers do not have any relationship to a bill number under consideration.

What Else is in the Serial Set

  • Presidential messages and documents sent to Congress such as proposed legislation, vetoes, and the Economic Report of the President.
  • House and Senate Journals from 1817 through 1952. Available Journals are listed in Finding Congressional Journals in the U.S. Serial Set PDF document.
  • Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) from 1818 through 1957. To find FRUS volumes in the Serial Set, see the Correlation List.
  • The annual Statistical Abstract of the United States from 1879 though 1976.
  • The biennial Congressional Directory from 1882 through 1933.
  • For additional information on resources, see the article An Overview of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

What is Not in the Serial Set

  • Does not normally include the text of congressional debates, bills, resolutions, hearings, and committee prints.
  • Does not include publications from support agencies of Congress such as the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Does not include presidential proclamations and executive orders.
  • The Congressional Record and its predecessors (Annals of Congress, Register of Debates, and Congressional Globe) have never been included.

Finding Information in the Serial Set

CIS (Congressional Information Service) has an index to publications in the Serial Set and assigns each item an identification number. These identifiers reflect the physical arrangement of the books in the Serial Set: Senate/House; number of report/document/etc.; Congress and session number; and Serial Set volume number. Below is an example of an identification number.

H.rp 948 (78-1) 10764

H.rp = (House or Senate; document type)

948 = (report number)

(78-1) = (Congress and session)

10764 = (Serial Set volume number)

By Subject

CIS (Congressional Information Service) U.S. Serial Set Index (1789-1969)
Documents Reference Shelves: Z 1223 .Z9 C65 1975
  • Best comprehensive print index to the Serial Set.
  • Divided into 12 date ranges, each with Subject Index and Finding Lists.
  • Subject Index lists all entries alphabetically by subject terms and names.
  • Allows for quick and easy retrieval of identification numbers.
  • For example, to find a Congressional report on the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, use the Serial Set Index volume for “1857-1879.” Locate a subject term, such as “Confederacy,” in the index.
CIS Annual (1970-1998)
Documents Reference Shelves: KF 49 .C62
  • Print publication that indexes and abstracts U.S. Congressional publications such as House and Senate reports, House and Senate documents, Senate executive reports, Senate treaty documents, hearings, committee prints, and public laws.
  • From 1970-1983, has Index and Abstracts volumes. Each Abstracts volume has a condensed "Legislative History" section which lists Congressional documents by Public Law number.
  • From 1984-1998, has Indexes, Abstracts, and separate Legislative Histories volumes.
  • Index volumes will not distinguish items that are Serial Set publications. All items instead point to a CIS abstract number.
  • Each abstract volume is divided into sections for:
    • House Committee Publications
    • Joint Committee Publications
    • Senate Committee Publications
  • Each section in an abstract volume is arranged by subject, such as Aging, Agriculture, etc. Each subject is divided into sections by publication type, such as:
    • Hearings
    • Committee prints
    • Reports
    • Documents
    • Treaties
  • Location of Serial Set Reports and Documents may be determined even though no Serial Set volume numbers are indicated.

By Report Number

To search by Congress and report number, use the sets listed below. Entries are arranged numerically by report type. The corresponding Serial Set volume number is provided. There are gaps in dates available.

Index to the Reports and Documents, 54th Congress to 72nd Congress (1896-1933)
Documents Reference Shelves: GP 3.7:
Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes of the Reports and Documents, 77th Congress to 105th Congress (1941-1998)
  • Documents Reference Shelves: GP 3.7/2:
  • Documents Reference Shelves: GP 3.34:

Specialized Guides

Guide to American Indian Documents in the Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1899
Documents Reference Shelves: KF 8201 .A1 J63

What Is Available at WTAMU

American State Papers

The American State Papers consist of volume numbers 001 to 038 of the Congressional Serial Set. Although printed retrospectively under a contract between Congress and a private publisher, this collection is considered part of the overall Serial Set and includes Congressional publications of the 1st - 14th Congresses (1789-1816). It contains executive and legislative records starting in 1789 and ending with dates between 1823 and 1838. It is arranged by topics:

  • Foreign Relations
  • Indian Affairs
  • Finances
  • Commerce and Navigation
  • Military Affairs
  • Naval Affairs
  • Post Office Department
  • Public Lands
  • Claims
  • Miscellaneous
American State Papers, 1789-1838 - Readex Online
From Readex's Archive of Americana series. Keyword searching or browse by subject, publication category, committee author, document class, or Congress.
American State Papers Online
From the Library of Congress American Memory project, A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation. May browse digital facsimile images or topical page headings. Indexes and table of contents are text-searchable.
The New American State Papers (1789-1860)
Selected primary source items on 11 topics from the original American State Papers, the Serial Set, and the Legislative Records Section of the National Archives. The 175 volumes are shelved in 11 locations in the Loan Shelves and may be checked out. To locate volumes, use the Cornette Library's online catalog and conduct a Keyword Search for "New American State Papers."
A complete set of volumes 1-38 on microcards (microtext printed on cardboard rather than microfilm). Shelved in U.S. Documents Shelves at the beginning of the Serial Set.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set

Serial Set (Volumes in Print)
The library has a number of volumes of the Serial Set in paper format with the Serial Set numbers 258 through 14,385 from the years 1833-1996. Bound volume holdings are less complete for earlier years than for later ones.
Y 1.1/2:SERIAL (Serial Set Number)
U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980
From Readex's Archive of Americana series. Keyword searching or browse by subject, publication category, committee author, document class, or Congress.
  • Has 15th Congress through the 96th Congress, Serial Set volumes 1-13,384.
  • Serial Set Maps may be searched separately. Covers the 28th Congress through the 96th Congress (1843-1980). There are over 50,000 maps available.
U.S. Serial Set (1833 - 1917)
From the Library of Congress American Memory project, A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation provides online digital facsimile page images. Coverage is from the 23rd to the 64th Congresses. Only selected items are available. Some items are not searchable or for some items only its index is searchable. May browse about 130 documents and reports; and 16 maps. If the available items are digitized in other American Memory collections, they cannot be found in searches limited to A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation.
Congress.gov (Library of Congress)
Source for federal legislative information. Contains Congressional Reports from the 104th Congress (1995-1996) to the present in full text online. Look under Committee Reports. Congressional Documents are not included.
Has free online access to official federal publications via the GPO (Government Publishing Office). May browse Congressional Documents from the 104th Congress (1995) to the present and Congressional Reports from the 104th Congress (1995) to the present. Numerical Lists of Documents and Reports (1957-2010) and Schedule of Serial Set Volumes (1987-2010) are available at GovInfo: Congressional Serial Set. May also search on the Advanced Search Page.

Find Out More

A Century of Lawmaking For a New Nation (U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates 1774-1873)
The Library of Congress has compiled historical publications of Congress from the Continental Congress thru 1873.
U.S. Congressional Serial Set - What It Is and Its History
From the Government Publishing Office, this site provides a history, definitions of types of material contained in the serial set, and how it was bound.
U.S. Congressional Serial Set Assigned Serial Numbers Not Used
List was compiled to account for missing numbers from the U.S. Congressional Serial Set (1853-1992).
An Overview of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set
From the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C., this site provides a schedule of volumes from 1970 to the present. The overview discussion below the schedule provides some history, as well as information on numbering and indexing.
Library Resources for Administrative History: Congressional Serial Set
Information on the Serial Set from the National Archives Library Information Center.
Congressional Serial Set: Hidden Treasures in American History
Online exhibition from the University of Michigan. Spotlights items related to explorations, war, social conditions, and technology. Discusses the Serial Set today.
U.S. Congressional Serial Set Inventories from University of North Texas (1817 - 1969)
May use as a starting point to browse Serial Set numbers and discover some highlighted publications such as Correspondence on Removal of Indians West of Mississippi River, 1831-33 (Senate Document 512 in volumes 244-248) or Suffrage Parade in District of Columbia, Mar. 3, 1913 (Senate Report 53 in volume 6512). No full text.
Using the Congressional Serial Set for Genealogical Research
Discusses publications in the Serial Set that are valuable for genealogical research in the 19th century.
Around the World in 80 Documents: 19th-Century Publications on Europe, Africa and Asia in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set
A Readex Report highlighting items in the Serial Set related to world history.