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HIS 496 - History Seminar

Using Government Documents in Historical Research

Documents produced by the government are a rich source of information for the history researcher. This page provides links to finding tools for state and federal documents -- including census information -- and explains what are federal depository libraries.

Don't know how to research government documents? See the Government Documents page on Dr. William Cronon's Learning Historical Research website for some good hints for locating these types of sources. To make the best use of your time you should know:

  • what government processes create documents, and which is most relevant to your topic
  • where government publications are stored; for example, federal documents are found in depository libraries (like this library)
  • how the documents are shelved in a library - if they are physical items - which is not necessarily browsable by topic

Census Information Online

Here are some sites that provide census data for the US:

Census Information in Print

Finding documents produced by the government

Governmental branches and agencies produce prodigious amounts of information and data. These resources are available to the public and may be found in print and, more recently, in digital format. Use our Government Documents research guide for more information.

Federal Documents

Nebraska State Documents

Perkins as Federal Depository Library

The Federal Depository Library Program was established by Congress to ensure that the American public has access to its government’s information. The Government Printing Office administers the FDLP on behalf of the participating libraries and the public. Information products from the Federal Government are disseminated to these nationwide libraries that, in turn, ensure the American public has free access to the materials, both in print and online.

Perkins Library was designated a federal documents depository in 1944. The library currently receives -- in electronic format -- approximately 20% of the documents made available through the program. Documents can be searched and accessed through the online catalog while some print documents are located throughout the General Collection on the lower floor of the library.