Talk to family members, friends, and neighbors. People who have lived in a place—especially those whose families have been here for a long time—are very good sources of stories about how places came to be named. They can also describe how a place has changed over time.
Even if you don’t find the answer to your question right away, you can usually learn clues that lead in helpful directions.
Have a chat with a town government official or staff member. Police officers and town workers travel the roads every day. The mayor, town clerk, and elected officials have to make decisions about streets, buildings, and signs. They know the details about how a town works and can tell you its history or give you tips on how to find out.
Take a field trip to the place. Look for signs or other information about its name. Get a feel for its important features. Try to imagine what it may have looked like long ago.
Remember to keep track of your sources. Take notes when you talk to people and list their name, address, and the date you talked to them. (For more information about how to cite different types of research, consult the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s Research and Citation Resources guide.)
Don’t be shy about verifying details in printed sources. (Sometimes you’ll find that sources don’t agree!)