HeinOnline's Tip of the Week: How to Search in the Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories Database

Tips and Tricks, U.S. Federal Legislative History

The U.S. Federal Legislative History library in HeinOnline is made up of three parts. The first part of the collection includes more than 1000 full-text compiled Legislative Histories. For details on searching a full-text compiled legislative history, take a look at How to Find a Specific Document within a Compiled Federal Legislative History.

The second part of the collection is a database in which the sources of several legislative histories have been compiled and presented. The Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories Database is derived from the loose-leaf publication Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories: A Bibliography of Government Documents, Periodical Articles, and Books by Nancy P. Johnson, Law Librarian and Professor of Law Georgia State University College of Law. The sources for these compilations include congressional documents, legal periodicals, treatises and loose-leaf services. This post will focus on the database, and how to search for sources of a compiled legislative history within the database.

First, to open the search options for the Sources of Compiled Legislative History Database, open the U.S. Federal Legislative History collection in HeinOnline. Click on Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories Database.  You will see an option to “Search Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories Database, click on this.


This search option gives you the ability to search for a compiled legislative history by Bill Number, Congress, Related Document Author/Creator, Related Document Date, Related Document Title, Popular Name of the Public Law, Public Law Number, or by the Title of the Public Law.

To illustrate how the search options work, we are going to search for the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995. The public law number is 104-39, the bill number is S. 227. Given this information, let’s try a few different search examples:

First, search for “Digital Performance Right” in the Popular Name of the Public Law field by inputting the following into the search query:

This gives us one result that is a match to public law number 104-39.

Now, let’s say all we know is the public law number. Insert 104-39 into the first search box, select Public Law Number from the drop down menu and click search. This will also give us the same result.

If we know the Bill Number we could search for it using the Bill Number field. For example, enter S. 227 into the first search box and select Bill Number from the drop down menu as shown below:


This gives us the same result as the aforementioned examples.

Now that we have an understanding of the search fields available, let’s look at how our search result is displayed and what is included. When you click through a search result, the display will include a list of bill references and documents that are related to the legislative history. It begins with the Public Law Number, followed by the coordinating Bill Number, and subsequently the citation to the Statute. The citation to the Statute will link you directly to that page in the U.S. Statutes at Large, where you can view the public law as it was passed by Congress.

Following these initial references, you will then find one or more titles of other documents that are related to the legislative history. In our example, there are 10 relevant law journal articles and one full-text compiled legislative history that are related to the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recording Acts of 1995. All 10 Law Journal articles are available in HeinOnline. If a journal article is available in HeinOnline, the reference (or journal citation) will appear as a link.

The third listing” indicates that there is a full-text legislative history available for this public law. If the full-text is available in HeinOnline, this will appear as a link.

The Sources of Compiled Federal Legislative Histories Database is a useful resource for locating a full-text compiled legislative history when it’s available and/or finding supporting documents and bill references for a legislative history. Use the database as your starting point, link to relevant documents and determine if a compiled full-text version is available.

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