Government Documents Guide
A primary source is a document that gives evidence of historical events or conditions, created at the time being studied, by someone with firsthand knowledge.
Government documents can provide a wealth of primary resources. Government publications document the history of the United States, the formation of the Union, wars and other events through congressional debate, administrative reports, laws and regulations, policies, annual reports, court cases, and the positions of political parties. Government publications offer current documentation on governmental activities and agencies as well as historical documentation.
This guide is arranged by decade. Select from the form below:
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- Air Force History Index
- This site contains organizational records, unit histories, special studies, oral histories and personal papers concerning the history of the United States Air Force.
- American Presidency Project
- Includes messages, public papers, state of the union addresses, news conferences, proclamations, signing statements, executive orders, presidential debates, administrative policy and more.
- Avalon Project – Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy
- Contains documents from 4000 BCE to the present. Of particular interest are the American Constitution, Bilateral Treaties, 1778-1999, a chronology of American history from 1492 to present, Confederate States of America, Congressional Resolutions, the Federalist Papers, Journals of the Continental Congress, Presidential Papers and Inaugural Addresses, US Statutes concerning Native Americans and slavery, and diplomacy documents on relations with many foreign countries.
- AMDOCS: Documents for the Study of American History
- This collection covers the year 800 to present with maps, charters, agreements, speeches, constitutions, presidential messages, battle reports, proclamations, treaties and more documenting the history of the United States
- American Memory Collection
- American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.
- Catalog of Government Publications, 1976-present
- The CGP is the finding tool for federal publications that includes descriptive records for historical and current publications and provides direct links to those that are available online (look for URL in last column). Users can search by authoring agency, title, subject, and general key word, or click on "Advanced Search" for more options. More than 500,000 records are contained in the CGP and it is updated daily. Not all documents are full text.
- Catalog of Government Publications, historical
- The primary catalog for electronic and print publications from the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the U.S. government. The CGP contains descriptive records for historical and current publications and provides direct links to those that are available online. Preceded by the Document Catalog (1893-1940), the 1909 Checklist (1789-1909), Ames Index (1881-1893), and Poore (1774-1881).
Internet Archive 1895-1970 Internet Archive Print (Monthly Catalog) 1895-2004 MU ELLIS DOCS REFERENCE Z1223 .A18
- GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys) provides public access to Government information submitted by Congress and Federal agencies and preserved as technology changes.
- Foreign Relations of the United States, 1861-current
- This series is the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions that have been declassified and edited for publication. The series is produced by the State Department's Office of the Historian.
- The Government Printing Office's Federal Digital System (FDsys) provides links to documents in the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of the Federal Government.
- Hathi Trust
- HathiTrust makes the digitized collections of some of the nation’s great research libraries available for all. HathiTrust preserves and provides access to more than 6 million volumes, over 1 million of which are in the public domain. HathiTrust offers full-text search across all items in the repository (including public domain and in copyright works).
- Historical Text Archive
- The HTA publishes high quality articles, books, essays, documents, historical photos, and links, screened for content, for a broad range of historical subjects. There are some government documents in the Articles and Links areas
- Internet Archive
- The internet archive contains archived versions of web sites and a wide range of items, from books to videos and audio. Many government documents have been included in this archive. It is recommended that you select "Text - American Libraries" from the drop down box. Once a search is complete, you can limit the results by choosing "USGovernmentDocuments" as the collection.
- Lexis Nexis Congressional database
- Lexis Nexis Congressional indexes to congressional publications (1789-date), an extensive bill tracking service (1989-date), legislative histories (1969-date), floor votes (1989-date), public laws (1989-date), treaties with Indian tribes (1778-1874), treaties with foreign countries (1776-1949). In addition, full-text is available for the Congressional Record (1985-present), the Federal Register (1980-present), the Statutes at Large (1789-present), Congressional Research Service reports (1916-present) and Committee Prints (1830-present). This database also includes biographical, financial and voting information on current members of Congress.
- Ourdocuments.gov – 100 Milestone Documents
- To help us think, talk and teach about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in our democracy, we invite you to explore 100 milestone documents of American history. These documents reflect our diversity and our unity, our past and our future, and mostly our commitment as a nation to continue to strive to "form a more perfect union."
- Patent and Trademark Office
- The patent and trademark office provide search capability for United States and international patents.
- Supreme Court Opinions, 1790-current
- LexisNexis Academic provides supreme court opinions
- THOMAS was launched in January of 1995, at the inception of the 104th Congress. The leadership of the 104th Congress directed the Library of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. Since that time THOMAS has expanded the scope of its offerings to include the features and content listed below.
- U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980
- Commonly referred to as the Serial Set, it contains the House and Senate Documents and the House and Senate Reports bound by session of Congress. In general, it includes: committee reports related to bills and other matters, presidential communications to Congress, treaty materials, certain executive department publications, and certain non-governmental publications. GPO provides access from 1987 to present. Readex Serial Set covers 1817-1980. We have print copies from 1817-present MERLIN.
- U.S. Congressional Serial Set Maps, 1400s-1970s
- This collection includes high quality images of about 52,000 maps of all kinds, dating from the 1400s to the 1970s. The collection ranges from global maps to maps of building interiors; from interoceanic canals to city sidewalks. It covers an incredibly diverse range of topics. It includes but goes far beyond the typical political and land use maps, maps of military conflicts, trails, roads and waterways. There are maps on almost every conceivable topic in history, including alien labor, underwater tunnels, nightclubs, asteroids, shipwrecks, medical care, women’s rights, nearly every tribe of American Indian, and much more. These maps are part of the full Digital U.S. Congressional Serial Set database, but this special map module was created to facilitate access by geography, subject and date.
- U.S. Statutes at Large
- Provides full-text access to the laws of the United States from 1789 to the present. Includes public laws, private laws, concurrent resolutions, presidential proclamations, treaties with foreign nations (through 1849) and all treaties with Native American tribes.