HeinOnline's Tip of the Week: How to find a Public Law Prior to the 57th Congress

Searching, Statutes at Large, Tips and Tricks
HeinOnline Blogger

Are you looking for a public law prior to the 57th Congress in the U.S. Statutes at Large? If so, you’ll find this tip helpful in locating and searching for the public law in HeinOnline. First, it’s important to understand that public laws up through the 56th Congress were assigned and arranged by chapter numbers, whereas beginning with the 57th Congress public laws were arranged by public law number. Therefore, in order to search for a public law from the 1st-56th Congress, you must use the following format: Chapter #, Congress #, and/or Session #. Let’s take a look at an example.

Let’s search for Chapter 64, “An Act: To regulate navigation on the Great Lakes and their connecting and tributary waters”, from the 53 Congress, Session 3 on February 8, 1895. To get started, open the U.S. Statutes at Large library and click on the Search tab, then click on Advanced Search.

To search by public law number, enter “Chapter 64, 53 Congress” into the first search box on the Field Search screen.   “Chapter 64, 53 Congress” must be in quotation marks.  Select Public Law Number from the drop down menu, select U.S. Statutes at Large from the title listing, and check only Articles from the list of section types. Then click search.

This will return two results that display two different public laws from two different sessions of Congress.

To narrow your results to a specific public law, you will want to include the session number in your search query. Let’s modify our search to include the session number. Click on Modify Your Search. Add “Session 3”  in quotation marks to the second search box and
select Title from the drop down menu.  The session number is not part of the official “public law number”, therefore, you have to look for it in the title or popular name of the public law.

This search returns one result, which is an exact match to the public law we are looking for.

Hint: You can also conduct the search above by using the Title field versus the Public Law Number field. To search for the public law using the title field, enter “Chapter 64, 53 Congress, Session 3” into the search box, select Title from the drop down menu and click on phrase. This will return exactly 1 result. Or you can enter it into the Advanced Search as title:”Chapter 64, 53 Congress, Session 3″.

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