Sunday, February 08, 2009

ZIP Codes and A Bit of History Too

Did you know that the letters ZIP refer to the Zone Improvement Plan? Or that the character on postal advertisements is known as Mr. Zip? You can learn a lot of things by visiting the post office web site. For those of you who are building your Ready Reference toolkit here is one more goody that you can use.

Most folks know that there are ZIP code books published by the United States Post Office. Two large and heavy books. The only problem with the books is that ZIP codes can be changed or modified. Or a city is renamed. Or the city name "disappears."

There is an better way if you have access to the Internet. The ZIP Code finder is very helpful.

USPS Zip Code LocatorYou can find the ZIP code for a specific address or a city:



If you know the ZIP code you can find the city name:

Finding A City In A Zip Code
This is where the history part comes in. Many cities have multiple names for the same geographic area. Some are historical or regional. City names change over time, so that the name the patron uses might not be the actual city name.

For example:

Manhattan vs New York
The legal city name is New York. People who live in that area or who have written about that specific area may call it Manhattan. The Post Office would like you to address mail as New York, NY but you might have a patron approach you to find the zip code for Manhattan. By using the City or ZIP Code search you can obtain the correct information.

Now it doesn't always mean you can't use the historical or regional. In the Los Angeles area we are aware of the city of Eagle Rock. The Post Office considers it an acceptable city name:

Eagle Rock ZipIn this case it is ok to use either the legal name, Los Angeles or the historical/regional name, Eagle Rock for this section of town.

Other Uses for USPS.com ZIP Code Finder

This could be helpful for genealogical searches. A patron may have a document that states a person was born in a certain area of town. They can't find it on a modern map. You can use the ZIP Code search to help you find out the historical name and the contemporary name of a location. You also might want to cross check with a gazetteer as well.

There are certain schools, hospitals and businesses that are so large they have their own specialized zip code. 00401 belongs to the Reader's Digest Association in Pleasantville, New York.

So if you want to build up you pecks continue using the books. If you need to know right now then you should visit www.usps.com

4 comments:

Jarod.Kaynes said...

I wanted to recommend a different site that is more focused on Demographics and Statistics.

The other website is http://www.datazips.com/. It has a separate page for Demographics and is organized very well. It has statistics for every zip code and city. Additionally, for every city it has the listed zip codes, area code, time zone, county it is in, population by ethnicity, growth rank, elevation, land area, median age, female population, male population, and so much more.

The most unique feature of the site allows you to search for a city or zip code base on nearly any statistic item called "Limiters." Some examples of these limiters can be Median Age, Average Housing Value, Ethnicity, Total Population, Growth Rank, and about 30 more. This site has it all when it comes to Statistics.

Evelyn said...

I actually wouldn't recommend this site, DataZips.Com as it has way too many advertisements on this site.

A good place to get deomographics and statistics online would be at the Census Bureau website:
http://www.census.gov/.

Jarod.Kaynes said...

I took a look at http://www. census.gov/ and it was too cluttered to find anything. I really like how easy it is to search for it on DataZips.com... Also, http://www.census.gov/ doesn't let you search for a city like DataZips does. You can find any city you want using the Advanced Search

This is the most unique feature of the site allows you to search for a city or zip code based on nearly any statistic item called "Limiters." Some examples of these limters can be Median Age, Average Housing Value, Ethnicity, Total Population, Growth Rank, and about 30 more. Let's say that you are moving to another town, but you want to live with 250 miles of a certain zip code, you would like it to be in the mountains, and you would the Average House Value to be lower than $500,000. With the Advanced Search feature it allows you to do this simply by adding a few limiters. It is as easy as clicking your mouse. This site has it all when it comes to demographics. There is population information regarding African Americans, American Indians, Asians, Caucasians, Hawaiians, and Hispanics. Other detailed demographic information includes zip codes, area code, time zone, county it is in, population by ethnicity, growth rank, elevation, land area, median age, female population, male population, latitude, longitude, growth rank, growth increase number, and growth increase percentage. With the Advanced Search you can use the listed criteria, or "Limiters", to choose a specific city. This data can be used to find a particular city for research or for many other reasons. The data is out there, and Datazips has taken the time to bring it to you in an organized fashion.

Gena said...

Hi Jarod.

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you prefer DataZips so be it. I think you've plugged them enough for one day.

You have given me an idea for an upcoming post. In fact two of them. One is understanding and evaluating a web site.

This is an advertising based site. The goal is not to provide information but to surround it with Google ads.

As I said, I'm willing to give you limited benefit of doubt but if my suspicious nature were running full blast I'd say that you had more than a passing interest in DZ.

I'd also point out that the information that DZ draws from is the U.S. Post office and other government agencies. There is no law to keep them from doing that. Information produced by the U.S. government for the benefit of the citizens is in public domain.

Transparency is what is lacking. There is no indication of ownership, there is no indication of where or when the date the information was obtained nor is there alternative contact information.

Oh, yeah and they ask for donations too?

I'm going to pay for something I can obtain free that I've already paid for via my tax dollars. then I'm going to donate money to an advertising based web site?

Yeah, Ok. Sure. (Not!)

So in conclusion if it walks like a duck but has chicken feather in the mouth check out the ears.

But in the spirit of each one teach one I will check out Census.gov and see if there are search techniques to make it easier to obtain demographic and statistical information.