If one of you ancestors was employed by the US Government between 1816 and 1959 then you want to know about the Official Register of the United States.
The Scope of the Official Register
On April 27, 1816, Congress authorized publication of the Official Register of the United States. Produced every two years in conjunction with the sitting of each new Congress, the Official Register (initially referred to as the Biennial Register or the Blue Book) contained comprehensive listings of all civilian, military, and naval employees, officers, and agents of the federal government. The lists were arranged by department and thereunder by agency, bureau, or office. Congress also required the secretary of the navy to provide the names, force, and condition of all ships and vessels belonging to the United States, including when and where they were built. The legislation approved five hundred copies of the Register to be printed by the last day of September during each publication year. Copies of the Register were supplied to members of Congress, the President, the Vice President, and the head of each executive department. Ten extra copies went to the secretary of the senate and the clerk of the house of representatives, and another twenty-five copies to the Library of Congress. The remaining volumes were left for Congress to distribute as it saw fit.
The first issue of the Official Register was modest in size, containing 176 pages with 6,327 names. Subsequent acts of Congress, however, expanded the scope of the Register's content. An act of July 14, 1832, directed the Official Register to include the names of all government printers, a statement of monetary allowances to mail contractors from the postmaster general, as well as correct lists of all presidents, cashiers, and directors of the Bank of the United States and its branches. Other departments, agencies, and bureaus were added to the Register as they were created.
A few later congressional statutes added special stipulations to the Official Register. On March 3, 1893, Congress required the Register to include a statement of the number of officers and employees by department in the executive branch, the Government Printing Office, and the offices of the government of the District of Columbia, as well as the aggregate amount of their salaries and other compensation. A 1902 statute specifically added employees of the comptroller of the currency, including bank examiners, receivers, attorneys for receivers, and clerks.
Selected years are available online via FDsys.
GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) provides free online access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government. Through FDsys, you are able to:
Search for documents and publications — FDsys provides advanced search capabilities and the ability to refine and narrow your search for quick access to the information you need.
Browse for documents and publications — FDsys offers browsing by collection, Congressional committee, date, and Government author.
FDsys Tutorials are available online.
For example I did a search (ctrl-f) on the 1921 volume and found 9 federal employees in Fernandina. Note, I found the highlighting of the hits to be out of sync with the text, so when you see the highlighting look up the page a bit and you will find your search string.