Fall 2015, Vol. 47, No. 3
Discovering Your Neighborhood
By M. Marie Maxwell
Many people use the United States census to discover their family roots, but these same tools can be used to discover a neighborhood’s background.
Just as you may be intrigued to discover that your great-grandfather was a miner, you may get that same thrill of discovery to find out that your house, your street, and maybe your block was home to immigrant factory workers. You share blood with your ancestors; you share a place with your neighbors from the past.
There is nothing out of the ordinary about the Truxton Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C. As far as I know, no famous people lived there. It houses no embassies, nor has it been the location of any notable historical event. It is special only because I live there and wondered what kind of neighborhood this was and who lived here.
To answer these questions, I went to the census.
M. Marie Maxwell is an archives specialist in NARA’s Research Services Division, Textual Processing, in Washington, D.C. She has shared her knowledge of neighborhood history to community groups, at conferences, and on the Web. She received her M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and her M.L.S. with a specialty in archives from the University of Maryland–College Park.