Researching Former Members of Congress
The following are suggestions for starting your research on an individual Member of Congress.
Personal Papers of Members of Congress
Unlike the records produced by House committees and officers, files generated by a congressional office during a Member’s service remain the Member’s property. In 2008, the House passed House Concurrent Resolution 307, declaring that papers of Members are “crucial to the public’s understanding of the role of Congress in making the Nation’s laws,” and many Members choose to donate their papers to a repository, such as a college or university, where their records are preserved and made accessible to the public.
Records typically available in these collections document the Member’s role with regard to:
- House and party leadership
- Congressional membership organizations and caucuses
These records may include: campaign files; newspaper and magazine clippings; correspondence; invitations; bill files; briefing books; staff files; memorabilia; newsletters; personal files of the Member; photographs; political files; press files; publications; reference files; scrapbooks; speech files; district files; and voting records.
Because the records of Members are located in repositories dispersed throughout the country, the online Biographical Directory of the United States Congress is a useful tool for locating collections. On a Member’s profile page, there is a link for “Research Collections” on the navigation bar at the top of the page, which lists repositories containing primary collections of papers, as well as those with a few items related to the Member.
Repositories for Congressional Papers
- The Association of Centers for the Study of Congress is a group of repositories that promote the preservation and use of congressional personal papers and research materials.
- The Center for Legislative Archives List of Congressional Collections provides an index to repositories with collections of personal papers of Members of Congress.
Researching Former Member Genealogy
Biographical and genealogical information for former Members of Congress can be found via the following resources from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and Library of Congress (LOC).