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Finding Historic Code of Federal Regulations Sections - Part 3

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 section number(s) may have changed through the years. Let's explore some things to look for that may help if you find yourself in this situation.

For this example, we'll take a look at the current 36 CFR Part 12: National Cemeteries and try to see if we can trace it back to the CFR's inception in 1938. We will be focusing on the source notes found in the CFR and also looking at the Federal Register (FR). For consistency, links in this blog will go to the CFR and FR on HeinOnline, a member database available to most Jenkins members. For additional ways to access the CFR and FR, see our Code of Federal Regulations and Federal Register research guides.

Let's start in the 2020 Code of Federal Regulations - 36 CFR Part 12: National Cemeteries has a source note listed below it's table of contents:

From this, we know to look at 51 FR 8979, Mar. 14, 1986. However, when looking at an entire part of the CFR, it is important to take a look at the end of each section to see if there are any additional source notes that may be of interest. For example, the end of 36 CFR 12.3 lists not only the FR citation from 1986, but also 79 FR 33436, June 11, 2011.

With this information, we can pull up the Federal Register citations to see if they provide us with any additional information about the prior history of 36 CFR Part 12.

Starting in reverse chronological order, 79 FR 33436 has the textual change to 36 CFR 12.3, however, that page does not yield any historical context.

79 FR 33436 is actually the middle of the Final Rule from the National Parks Service. Navigating to the beginning the Rule (79 FR 33434) and reading the additional information, including supplementary information, background, and consideration of comments, may provide insight into the regulation change. Additionally, the supplementary information includes the Federal Register citation for when the proposed rule was published: 78 FR 53383, Aug. 29, 2013. Proposed rules can sometimes provide additional context, which may be helpful for those researching the historical significance of the rule.

Let's now take a look at our second FR citation: 51 FR 8979. Again, it is the middle of the Final Rule from the National Parks Service and contains the textual changes. Navigating to the beginning of the Rule (51 FR 8976) offers additional background information as well as a section-by-section analysis.

The background information offers historical information about the formation of the National Cemetery Service, including its previous iterations in the Veterans Administration, the War Department, and the Department of the Army. This information may be useful as we continue to trace back the history of National Cemeteries.

The section-by-section analysis offers another important detail: before this final rule, National Cemeteries were also located in Title 36, Part 12.

With this information, we know to pull up 36 CFR Part 12 from 1985 and repeat the process again.

In the CFR from 1985, there is a source note below the table of contents and some sections of the Part include additional FR citations:

The source notes after §§ 12.2 - 12.8 indicate that these sections have been "redesignated". Navigating to the FR reference, 48 FR 30291, June 30, 1983, we see that former §§ 12.2, 12.3, 12.4, and 12.6 were removed and the remaining sections were renumbered:

Again, this FR citation brings you to the middle of the Final Rule from the National Parks Service with the textual changes to Part 12. Navigating to the beginning of the Rule (48 FR 30252) provides additional information, including the FR citation for the proposed rule (47 FR 11598, Mar. 17, 1982).

The other FR citation found below the table of contents of 36 CFR Part 12 from 1985 indicates an even greater renumbering, a redesignation from Part 55 to Part 12 (36 FR 154, Jan. 6, 1971):

From this information, we know to look at 36 CFR Part 55 in the 1970 CFR for National Cemeteries:

If you continue working backward by using the CFR source notes and the Federal Register contextual information, you will eventually wind up at 36 CFR Part 5 in the 1938 edition:

Have additional questions about researching historic CFR sections? Ask us!

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