Congressional Masterfile Serial Set 1789 – 1969

History 336
Professor Rael
Source Report
Mike Mulholland

Congressional Masterfile Serial Set 1789 - 1969

1. The Congressional Masterfile Index is a series of databases that has congressional publications from the period from 1789 - 1969. There are five major bodies of historical U.S. Congressional publications: House and Senate legislative reports, House and Senate investigative Reports and Documents, Annual Reports and Statistical publications from Federal agencies, Selected Reports of non governmental agencies, and Journals of the House of Representatives and Senate, and Administrative Reports from both chambers of congress. Some of the documents that you might come across while searching for a particular topic are: Senate Executive Documents and Reports, U.S. Congressional Committee Hearings, Unpublished Hearings from the Committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, U.S. Congressional Committee Prints. The Congressional Masterfile Index provides, where applicable, title, committee, bill number, report number, witness, subject information and bibliographic data.

2. This Congressional Masterfile, which was thought up by Dr. John G. Ames, who was at one time in charge of the Documents Division of the Interior Department. It began with the 1st Session of the 15th Congress in 1817, and the numbers have run consecutively ever since that time. The material issued for the first 14 Congresses by both Houses of Congress was merely a series of folio documents to which no number or other distinctive symbol of identification was affixed.

3. Many different kinds of people appear in the Congressional Serial Set. Members of both houses Congress, witnesses, lawyers, military leaders, presidents, lawmakers, judges, leaders from foreign countries and anyone who might have gone before an open or closed session of congress, in reports, and committee hearings, from 1789 until 1969.

4. The congressional Serial Set is organized in such a way that it is bound into a volume for each session of congress. This practice was started with the 97th Congress in 1981. The Public Printer is also authorized to bind Documents and Reports in reserve volumes for the so-called "posterity libraries." These libraries are the Senate and House Libraries, the Library of Congress, the National Archives Library, and the Superintendent of Documents Library collection, which is now housed at the National Archives.
The volumes are arranged and bound in the manner directed by the Joint Committee on Printing. Each volume is assigned a Serial Number for identification purposes.

5. The Congressional Serial Set is easy to use. First go to the index/database icon at Here there is a list of Databases in alphabetical order. Go to Congressional Universe icon. Choose Congressional Indexes from 1789 - 1969 and there will be a list of choices. You can choose to search through the multitude of documents in these databases by using a number of different search options. Your options include Subject, Committee, Title, Witness, Bill Number, Document Number, and Bibliographic. The best bet would be to use the Subject search option because it will yield a large number of documents relating to your subject. However, if you know of a specific Witness, Bill Number, Document Number etc. then use one of those options to narrow your search. When using the Subject search option, you might have to play around with it to get the type of documents you are looking for, as the congress has many documents somewhat related to your subject, but are basically useless because they also discuss topics that have nothing to do with what you are considering. You might even have to sift through the documents by hand to get what you need. Once you find the title of document from the results of your search, click on the icon and you will have to print out a copy of the document number, session volume, session date, etc. This information will help you to locate the actual document in the stacks. Please see a reference librarian to assist you, as the stacks are closed with years before 1900.

6. The kinds of questions that these types of documents can answer are endless. All of these documents are on the occurrences of our legislative body of government. You can access the discussion that took place before a session of congress, committee hearing, or an executive report from a group of senators. These discussions have taken place between various senators, representatives, lawyers, generals, and various other lawmakers. They consider the domestic policy, and foreign policy of our nation. These types of documents are considered essential for a student who is looking to know what our legislature knew about certain events both inside and outside our nation, and about the decision making process that goes into making into law certain bills.