Finding Historic Code of Federal Regulations Sections - Part 1

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of federal agency regulations. In the course of legal research, it is sometimes necessary to see how a CFR section looked in a prior year. Many websites and databases provide access to historic editions of the CFR. The most comprehensive of these is HeinOnline, which provides PDF images of the CFR beginning with 1938. ProQuest Congressional provides HTML coverage of the CFR, also beginning with 1938. Lexis (beginning with 1981) and Westlaw (beginning with 1984) provide access to older versions of the CFR. And govinfo, the website of the GPO, provides free online access to the CFR beginning with 1997.

Today, let's explore the historic CFR on HeinOnline, ProQuest Congressional, and govinfo. Come back on Thursday, November 11, for information about tracing back the CFR on Lexis and Westlaw.

HeinOnline, a member database available to most Jenkins members, contains all volumes of the CFR beginning with its 1938 inception. Its Code of Federal Regulations collection allows users to browse and search for relevant CFR sections. The Quick Locator option is a great tool for users who know which CFR title, part, and/or section they are interested in:

Users can also use HeinOnline to browse all years of the CFR. From the HeinOnline CFR homepage, use the top "Browse By" section and select "Years":

For browsing and searching tips, with screenshots, check out HeinOnline's Code of Federal Regulations LibGuide.

Proquest Congressional, a member database available to all Jenkins members, provides HTML access to the CFR beginning with 1938. Once in ProQuest Congressional, select Regulations from the top menu:

The keyword search allows users to limit the search by department or agency as well as year. To search by keyword, make sure the "Publications" type is switched from Federal Register to Code of Federal Regulations:

For those looking for a specific citation, ProQuest Congressional also has a "Search by Regulation Citation" feature which allows the user to search a desired year or search all years:

For additional help, check out the pages for Search Forms - Regulations and Search Syntax on the ProQuest Congressional LibGuide.

govinfo, the website of the GPO and available for free, has the CFR beginning with the 1997 Annual Edition (select Titles of the CFR from 1996 are also available). If browsing govinfo, the CFR is frequently located under the "Popular" heading of the homepage. Make sure to click "annual" to access the annual editions:

Users can browse the CFR by year and title as well as search the CFR. To search the CFR, click the orange "Search" button located at the top of the screen, select "Advanced", then under "Refine by Collection" select "Code of Federal Regulations":

Search results can be further refined by using the side panel on the search results screen:

For additional information and tips, see govinfo's About the Code of Federal Regulations page.

One final tip about researching historic CFR sections: the section(s) you are interested in may have been renumbered through the years. When this happens, the research can get complicated. If you need help navigating this process, Ask us!

For a full list of resources that include historic editions of the CFR, check out the Historical CFR page of our Code of Federal Regulations research guide.

More from the blog

Illustration of people at an airport from the Aviation Consumer Protection website
Frustrated with air travel? The U.S. Department of Transportation recently launched a new Aviation Consumer Protection website to review and respond to consumer complaints, educate travelers on their rights, and make relevant rules and guidance accessible to the public. From the homepage , users...
A few months ago, we made two blog posts about finding prior versions of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) : Part 1 explored HeinOnline , ProQuest Congressional , and govinfo , and Part 2 went over access on Lexis and Westlaw. Sometimes, however, tracing back CFR sections can be tricky as the...
On Tuesday we explored finding older versions of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) on HeinOnline , ProQuest Congressional , and govinfo . Today, let's look at how to find prior versions of the CFR on Lexis and Westlaw . Lexis , available in the library, includes historic versions of the CFR...