How to Find U. S. Congressional Serial Set Documents

What is it? Why use it? How to find it.


Williams Libraries is a Congressionally-designated depository for U.S. Government documents. Public access to the government documents collection is guaranteed by Title 44 United States Code.


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What IS the "Serial Set"?

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set is important historical material for legal and academic research, particularly for the compilation of legislative histories needed to determine legislative intent in interpreting federal statutes. The Serial Set is a series of bound volumes of documents "ordered to be printed" by the Clerks of the House and Senate. Numbered consecutively beginning with the 15th Congress (1817), the series includes House and Senate documents, congressional committee reports, presidential and other executive publications, treaty materials, and selected reports of nongovernmental organizations. Learn more about the Serial Set.

The Serial Numbering System was devised by Dr. John Griffith Ames, (Williams Class of 1858) who was at one time in charge of the Documents Division of the Interior Department.

Documents before 1817 may be found in the American State Papers.

What is IN the Serial Set?

REPORTS  (Senate & House):
Reports of Congressional Committees concern proposed legislation and/or contain findings on matters under investigation.

Reports of the Committee on Foreign Relations relating to Treaties between the United States and foreign nations which have been submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification, or are reports of various Senate Committees regarding nomination of individuals.

Contain the text of a Treaty as it is submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification by the President of the United States. Beginning with the 97th Congress in 1981, Executive (Lettered) Documents became known as Treaty Documents, and they are now numbered instead of lettered alphabetically.

Contain the text of a Treaty as it is submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification by the President of the United States. Numbered consecutively from the 1st Session through the 2nd Session of a Congress. Prior to the 97th Congress known as Executive (Lettered) Documents, and identified by letters of the alphabet.

DOCUMENTS (Senate & House)
Contain various other materials ordered printed by both Houses of Congress. Documents can include reports of Executive Departments and Agencies, some of which are submitted in accordance with Federal law, then later are ordered printed as Documents. 

Senate Executive Reports, Senate Executive (Lettered) Documents, and Senate Treaty Documents pertain to the U.S. Senate only, since all Treaties must be ratified by the Senate and all nominations must be confirmed by the Senate. All of the above numbered Documents and Reports begin with No. 1 at the beginning of the Congress and they are numbered consecutively from the 1st Session through the 2d Session of a Congress.