Skip to main content

Compiling a Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide

Unpublished Congressional Hearings

In this section, we will show you how to locate unpublished congressional hearings, which can often pose more of a challenge to researchers new to the area. Congressional hearings have not always been consistently published. In fact, the transcription of congressional committee hearings was not required until the passage of the Legislative Reorganization Act in 1946. Further, despite the requirement for transcription, the retention and publication of these transcripts is not guaranteed.* As such, it is not out of the ordinary for a congressional committee or subcommittee to have not officially published a hearing. Many of these “unpublished” hearings have since been made publicly available from sources including the National Archives, the Congressional Information Service (CIS), Congressional Quarterly, and ProQuest, among many others.  Please read on to determine how to start your unpublished congressional hearing research.

* For more information about the history of congressional committee hearing transcription, retention, and publication, please see the introductions to the CIS Unpublished U.S. House of Representatives Committee Hearings and CIS Unpublished U.S. Senate Committee Hearings (catalog links listed below).

Subscription Resources

The subscription resources marked with a padlock  are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress.  If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Free Online Resources

Print Resources

Researchers can also access hearings through print-based resources.  Although these resources lack the ease of keyword searching, researchers can use bill number, subject, and other indexes to find the hearings they need.

Specifically, in this case, CIS has multiple indexes to help locate a hearing of interest. The subjects and organizations index includes subjects, laws discussed, the committee holding the hearing, and organizations discussed or represented at the hearing. The personal name index includes individuals who testify at the hearing and individuals who are discussed at the hearing. The supplementary index provides access to hearings by title and by bill number.

Next Steps

Finally, for hearings and congressional committee documents that are at least 20 (for the Senate) or 30 (for the House) years old External, and cannot be found in any of the resources above, a researcher’s best option is likely to contact the National Archives and Records Administration‘s (NARA) Center for Legislative Archives “holds the historically valuable records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, including the official Committee records…[and] applies the rules of access for congressional records as determined by the House and the Senate.” For more information regarding what is available at the Center for Legislative Archives, visit its “Getting Started With Your Research” page.