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Using the Collection

Searching | Navigating | Viewing | Q&A


Searching the Texts

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation comprises a variety of primary source documents from the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the first forty-three Congresses. All these materials may be viewed online as digital facsimile page images; some also have fully or partially searchable transcribed text. Users may limit their searches to an individual title or search all the titles simultaneously via the search page. Those titles that contain searchable text enable the user to move from the current location (e.g., of a particular date section of a Journal) to other documents by a link to the same date in related entries. (See, for example, March 14, 1871, of the House Journal by clicking on the "Link to date related documents.") Searchable text is displayed first. The facsimile page image of the original may be viewed by locating the nearest "Page image" link, launching a page-turner for that item.

The following titles consist of fully machine-searchable text and, with the exception of Letters of Delegates, digital facsimile images:

A "best match" link is often an accompanying feature: When searching on a particular keyword and selecting one of the titles listed above from the hit list, a user can click on the "best match" link located in a box at the top far right and be directed to that one portion of the page where the search term is most densely located. Since the search term may occur elsewhere in the same page consider also using the "find" feature available in most Web browsers.

The following titles consist of digital facsimile images with searchable descriptive information (e.g., indexes and page headings):

In addition to the searchable indexes of these titles, all are supplemented with a browse feature. Page headings that occur throughout each volume in the Annals of Congress and Register of Debates are searchable and browsable. The browse lists for the Congressional Globe and Congressional Record are based on entries in appendix sections and pertain mainly to speeches that were omitted from the proceedings on a given day. The Statues at Large consists of browsable page headings and searchable margin notes. Topical page headings in the American State Papers are browsable and, in addition to the indexes and table of contents entries, are text-searchable. Congressional bills and resolutions include searchable information found in the headlines at the beginning of each bill/resolution, and include the bill number, dates, committee, and a short description.

Documents and reports from the U.S. Serial Set consist for the most part of digital facsimile images. The searchability of these items varies considerably, however. Some items - for example, those featured in the special presentations - consist of machine-readable text, while others have limited (e.g., index only) or no searchability. Included in the U.S. Serial Set link page are individual U.S. Serial Set documents, reports, and maps digitized in other American Memory collections. However, these items will not yield any hits through searches limited to A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, however.

The search engine also includes a sort feature. After searching on a keyword, a user may choose to sort the items in the list by date in either ascending or descending order. Key in the number of items you want sorted (500 being the upper limit) and click the SORT button.


Navigating the Texts

The search structure uses the searchable texts listed above in the first group of titles as a gateway to titles having only facsimile images. This system enables the user to locate a topic in the fully searchable Journals and then move to the fuller account of the congressional debate of the topic on that day in the Annals, Register, Globe, or Record. It is also possible that a search will return titles listed in the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention category. These titles, too, may contain a link to related date documents of that time period (e.g., a date entry from Farrand's Records may link to one or more other titles containing the same date). Titles that lack searchable text ( the second group listed above) may also appear in the hit list following a search, which will link to an index from that title and/or to a page that contains the search term.

There is a navigational feature for items that consist of full or partial text transcription. This feature breaks down an item into sections (e.g., date entries, chapters, front and back matter). It is also possible to view indexes via the "navigator" (see example by scrolling to bottom) for fully searchable text, as well as other titles (except some U.S. Serial Set items) having only partially transcribed text (e.g., indexes) with digital facsimile images (example). Although most of the indexes do not have links to the text pages (see the index to a special presentation item as an exception), they can be used as a reference guide to locate topics and the pages on which they appear.


Viewing the Text

When searchable text transcriptions are available, they (rather than the facsimile page images) appear first. Searchable text usually includes links to the corresponding page image. If the page link is not in this particular section of the text, go to either the previous section or next section. The back-to-text link in the page-turner returns to the point in the text where you clicked on the page-image link.

For information on viewing text in various formats, see American Memory Viewer Information on Documents



  1. How do I obtain a permanent URL for future reference? Using your Internet browser, view the source code for the page in question. Scroll to the bottom and copy the entire URL path that begins with "//" and paste it into your browser's location box.
  2. How do I get to a page referenced in an appendix to the Congressional Globe for a particular Congress? Because a given appendix to the Globe is usually bound in the same physical volume at the end of the debates portion of a particular session of Congress and the page numbering begins again with p. 1, the Turn to image button is not helpful. Use the "NEXT IMAGE" link to reach the page or the four-step instructions listed in the Globe browse page. If you know the topic in question (e.g., fifteenth amendment), try viewing the list of page headings - click on the letter "F," and scroll down as needed.
  3. How do I print images from page-turners? When printing images it is important to use the higher quality TIFF. You must have a plug-in capable of viewing images in TIFF format. From the page-turner, click on the image or the link to the higher quality image. Use the print feature in your TIFF application viewer to print. The ability to print a range of pages is dependent on the TIFF software you use.
  4. How can I contact you if I have a question not addressed here or an error to report? If you wish to contact us, visit the American Memory Historical Collections Help Desk page.
  5. How do I locate a page that is referenced in the index of Annals, Register, or Globe? Go to the browse page for the title in question and follow the four-step procedure highlighted in the box near the top.

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