I had an interesting question a few weeks ago, about the population of Howell. The question is not as simple as it seems. First, Howell isn't incorporated (which is determined by checking both the census and the US Board on Geographic Names Information System). But not being an incorporated place doesn't in itself mean there are no population statistics for any particular geographic area. The census does population totals for areas like zip codes and precincts.
What it really comes down to is determining the boundaries of the Howell neighborhood, and then seeing if any of the geographic entities with population counts coincide with those boundaries.
So step one was consulting with the local history librarian, Sharon Olson, for hints in figuring out the neighborhood boundaries. She went straight to the website of an organization called United Neighborhoods of Evansville. The menu on the left of that page includes "member neighborhoods." There are a lot listed (check it out) and one of them is Howell. Voila, a map.
Next is figuring out if there are population figures for an area that coincides with the Howell neighborhood. Finding population data is always a bit of an adventure, although the Census Bureaus "American FactFinder" interface makes it easier than it might be. I decided to see if I could Google up a cheat sheet that would reassure me I was doing it right.
Whenever I look for tutorials, helpful hints on researching, etc., I always restrict my Google search to site:.edu. (This means that my results will exclusively be colleges and university websites -- usually, of course, their libraries.) After a minute of experimentation, my search was [neighborhoods "american factfinder" site:edu]. (I was still trying to make sure that the Census Bureau didn't use locally-defined neighborhoods as a geographic entity.)
What you'll see in that result list are some excellent examples of the type of help you can get from other libraries, just by using guides they've published online. Using the first one, I determined via American Factfinder that census tracts are the closest geographic entities to what a resident would call a neighborhood. (Actually, the "traffic analysis zone" came even closer -- a geographic entity I'd never heard of before -- but it doesn't have population totals.) The boundaries of the tract, however, aren't the boundaries of the neighborhood.
There are smaller geographic entities -- blocks (and block groups). The fun part was figuring out that I had to go into American FactFinder a different way to get the population totals by block (with the help of yet another group of cheat sheets Google found for me, after using Google to figure out I needed "detailed tables," not "quick tables").
Actually, I'd forgotten how complicated this question was. I probably shouldn't write blog posts about boring stuff like this, should I.
(Did anybody even make it to the end of the post? Heh.)