Researching Takoma History

Learning More about Takoma Park

Interested in learning more about Takoma Park and the surrounding area? Consider doing some of your own research. A number of online tools and sources are available to assist you.

Property history – Tracing the history of a house (or other property) provides information not only about the age of the house, but also about the families that lived there, and the evolution of subdivisions, streets, and other development. This guide and presentation will get you started. Once you’ve done some research consider adding it to the Takoma Houses project to share your insights with others.

Newspaper searches Newspapers are a great source of information about people, events, businesses, and the like. Newspaper searches for names and addresses complement property history searches, providing further insights about people and buildings. The Library of Congress Chronicling America collection is easily searchable. Newspapers archives are also available through the DC Public Library as well as Historic Takoma’s own Newspaper Collection.

Census records – The decennial federal census collects information not just about name and address, but occupation, income, marital status, national origin, and home ownership. Census information for Takoma Park is available from 1900 through 1940. These records are available through a variety of source such as Ancestry.com and the Library of Congress.

Maps – A variety of current and historical maps show the evolution of Takoma Park and the surrounding area, including streets and roads, subdivisions, and locations of houses. Current land ownership and other land use characteristics appear on the Montgomery County and District of Columbia digital atlases. Maps of Maryland subdivisions can be found in the State of Maryland plats index. The Library of Congress has digitized a number of Takoma area maps that available online, like this Baist’s Real Estate map from 1904. Historic Takoma has been collecting digital versions of historical maps and will be making them available online.

Directories – Like census records, directories are useful sources of information about names, addresses, and business. Early city directories often included occupational information as well. Sources of city directories are listed below. Historic Takoma has local directories for 1922 and 1933.

Family histories – Genealogical research is a useful tool to supplement property and house history research, as well as learning more about the people that preceded us. A variety of tools and sources are available as listed below. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com area common tools for tracing family histories, but many other sources and tools are also available.

Takoma Park Council Minutes – Minutes of the Takoma Park Town/City Council are available from the City of Takoma Park Takoma Park Archives.

Got a Question? Historic Takoma volunteers are available to help with getting you started on research and navigating the various sources and tools. If you have a question contact Historic Takoma or send a note to question@historictakoma.org

Resources

Additional sources of information about Takoma Park history as well as the regional histories of Maryland and Washington, DC are available from a number of sources, including the following.

Organizations

Historic Takoma – Historic Takoma’s archives contain a wealth of information about Takoma. For more details see About the Historic Archives and Using the Historic Archives.

Library of Congress – The Library of Congress has extensive collections of books, maps, newspapers, directories, and other materials, many of which are available online. Access to materials in the reading rooms requires obtaining a free library card. Searching for and downloading digitized materials does not. The library also provides free access to various databases such as Ancestry.com while at the library. One of the best online resources is Chronicling America, a free database of newspapers around the country including many in the Washington area.

National Archives and Records Administration – The National Archives contains the records of the federal government (including early records of the City of Washington and the District of Columbia) such as maps, reports and studies, and correspondence. Many records are searchable online. Access to non-digitized records requires obtaining a free Researchers card. The main Archives building (Archives I) in downtown Washington has most of the materials of interest. Maps and related records are available at Archives II in College Park, Maryland. The Archives also provides free access to Ancestry.com while on site. 

Montgomery County Historical Society – The Montgomery County Historical Society operates two museums in Rockville campus (the Beall-Dawson Museum and the Stonestreet Museum of 19th Century Medicine), manages a 9,500 piece collection of historic artifacts, and operates the Jane C. Sween Research Library and Special Collections as well as the Montgomery County Archives. It also provides a home for the Genealogical Society and Harper Center for Suburban Studies. Their collections are searchable online along with many exhibits. The library collection includes books, maps, periodicals, and other records. Members may use the library for free; non-members pay a modest daily fee.

The DC History Center (previously known as The Historical Society of Washington, D.C). – The Historical Society of Washington, DC is an educational and research organization that collects, interprets, and shares the history of our nation’s capital. The Society owns and operates the DC History Center, located in the historic Washington Carnegie Library building at Mount Vernon Square.  The Kiplinger Research Library is a non-circulating, special collections repository available by appointment. A variety of digital resources such as maps, directories, and newspapers are available online. Their catalog is available online as well.

Montgomery County Libraries – Free access, with a library card, to HeritageQuest® Online, containing genealogical sources such as  primary sources, local and family histories, research guides, interactive census maps, and more.

Washingtoniana Division of the DC Public Library Collections include the Evening Star Photo Collection, DC Historical Image Collection, vertical files, books, and a variety of records on microfilm: building permits, directories, newspapers tax assessment, and genealogical materials.

DC Public Libraries – With a free library card, access to digital newspapers, HeritageQuest, and Ancestry.com

Silver Spring Historical Society – The mission of the Silver Spring Historical Society is to create and promote awareness and appreciation of downtown Silver Spring’s heritage through sponsorship of educational activities and the preservation and protection of historical sites, structures, artifacts and archives. 

Maryland Historical Society – The Maryland Historical Society operates a museum and the H. Furlong Baldwin Library in downtown Baltimore and maintains an online catalog of their collections.

B&O Railroad Museum – The B&O Railroad Museum in downtown Baltimore possesses the oldest, most historic and most comprehensive American railroad collections in the world. Dating from the beginning of American railroading, the collection contains locomotives and rolling stock, historic buildings, and small objects that document the impact of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) on the growth and development of early railroading.

National Capital Trolley Museum – The National Capital Trolley museum presents the history of streetcars and trolleys in the Washington, DC area along with other regions and includes a wide variety of rolling stock.

Other Resources

Federal Census – The results from the decadal federal census include names, addresses, and other information. Access to the census is available through a variety of sources including the National Archives, Ancestry.com, and other genealogical sites.

Genealogy – Information about family histories can be found through a number of sites including Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.com, and HeritageQuest.com. Free access is available through the Library of Congress, National Archives, DC Public Library, and Montgomery Public Library.

City Directories – City directories contain alphabetical listings of residents and businesses. Many also contain street cross references. Directories are available in many libraries including Library of Congress and the Washingtonia Division of the DC Public Library. Online directories are available from various locations including:

Online Washington DC history resources (Matthew B Gilmore)

Boyd’s directory of the District of Columbia (Hathi Trust Digital Library)

Boyd’s Directory of the District of Columbia (University of Pennsylvania Library)

Land Records

Maryland Land Record Information
  • MDLandRec.net – The Maryland Judiciary, the 24 elected Court Clerks of Maryland and the Maryland State Archives have joined in partnership to provide up to date access to all verified land record instruments (such as deeds and mortgages)  in Maryland.
  • Plats.net  Plats.net a system developed by the Maryland State Archives, the Administrative Office of the Courts and Maryland Circuit Court Clerks to preserve and make accessible all plats filed with the Land Office and the Circuit Courts of Maryland.
  • SDAT – Real property assessment and tax information
District of Columbia Land Record Information
  • Real Property Search – Real property database
  • SurDocs – The District of Columbia’s Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) land records management system.
  • DC Atlas Plus – A mapping tool that contains over 340 different data layers, organized by category.
  • HistoryQuest DC, – An interactive GIS map that provides historical data on approximately 127,000 extant buildings in Washington, DC.

Guides and Finding Aids

House history research

Property History Research Presentation, March 2020 – Jim Douglas
Maryland Property History Research Guide, March 2020 – Prepared by Jim Douglas

DC On-Line Property Searches, November 2020 – Prepared by Jim Douglas