Studying Alexandria's History

Resources and focus areas for studying Alexandria history.

Page updated on Mar 7, 2020 at 4:13 PM

Studying Alexandria's History

The following are some general resources for learning about Alexandria History, on the Historic Alexandria website and elsewhere on the internet. See more specialized resources below, under Topic Areas.

Focus Areas for Historical Research

These are a few areas of focus of historical research. In many instances, research and historic preservation go hand-in-hand.


The African American Community

The Alexandria Waterfront

Historic Cemeteries

Alexandria During the Civil War

Time Periods


Early Alexandria: The Colonial and Federal Periods 

Alexandria in the 20th Century and Beyond

How to Research your Family or Property

Historic Alexandria provides a list of resources for Conducting your own Historic Research on your property, genealogy, or local history. The Alexandria Library, Local History division is the best place to start your research. For certain records, the knowledgeable research librarians may refer you to the Archives and Records Center, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, or to one of the Historic Alexandria Museums.

Alexandria Archaeology Bibliography

Alexandria Archaeology Bibliography is a complete listing of publications and site reports produced by or for the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. Many full documents are available online. All site reports can be found at the Alexandria Library, Local History/Special Collections, or by appointment at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum.

First Person Accounts

  • Oral Histories: The Alexandria Legacies Program. Read transcriptions of more than 80 interviews conducted with long-time City residents. Oral Histories are indexed by name, neighborhood and subject. Subjects include The African American Community, Education, Immigration, Living Legends of Alexandria, Historic Preservation, Civic Leaders, etc.
  • Antebellum Reminiscences of Alexandria, Virginia. Extracted from the Memoirs of Mary Louisa Slacum Benham. The reminiscences describe her life in Alexandria in the first half of the 19th Century. Transcribed and extracted from her memoirs, thought to be written in the 1880s. A variety of topics are discussed, including the Potomac River, rural scenes, Christ Church, dancing school, the Alexandria Theater, Mount Vernon, African Americans, food and furnishings.
  • Diaries of Julia Wilbur, March 1860 to July 1866. Transcribed by Alexandria Archaeology, 2013-2014, from the originals in the Quaker Collection, Haverford College, PA. Julia Wilbur, a relief worker from Rochester, NY, came to Alexandria during the Civil War. She kept a detailed diary from the 1840s through her death in 1895. Alexandria Archaeology's transcriptions focus on the period right before, during, and after the War.
  • Alexandria During the Civil War: First Person Accounts. These accounts include dramatic excerpts from the diaries of relief worker Julia Wilbur and of a secessionist housewife who fled Alexandria as Union troops arrived; a letter from a head nurse at one of the many hospitals; the writings of an English journalist and an American war correspondent; and selections from  The Local News, Alexandria’s wartime newspaper. Additional accounts are provided from patients and staff at Alexandria's Union Hospitals.
  • Alexandria's Occupation in the War of 1812. Read quotes about Alexandria's occupation by British troops, and reminiscences published in a local newspaper in 1861.
  • Travelers Accounts of the Historic Alexandria Waterfront. Travelers Accounts, written between 1624 and 1900, have been compiled by Alexandria Archaeology as part of a study of the Alexandria Waterfront. The writings are organized by decade. 

Historic Sites 

Many of Alexandria's most significant sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also learn about Alexandria's Historic Districts, Civil War sites, and a few additional significant sites. See a selection of self-guided tour of Alexandria's historic sites.

Journals and Newsletters

Read articles from the Alexandria Chronicle and the Historic Alexandria Quarterly, and from The Alexandria Times' Out of the Attic column.

  • The Alexandria Chronicle: The Alexandria Chronicle has been published by the Alexandria Historical Society since 1993. Issues from 2006 to present are available on the Society’s website. Paper copies of earlier issues of the Chronicle, and of the Alexandria History magazine (1978-2002), can be found at the Alexandria Library, Local History/Special Collections.
  • The Alexandria Gazette Packet: Artifact Stories:  “Alexandria Artifact Stories” were published as a regular feature in the weekly newspaper from 1994 until 1997. The goal of the series was to take a small piece of a cultural heritage and examine it in a wider context to understand and appreciate its significance.
  • The Alexandria Times: Out of the Attic: This column continues to be published weekly, and is presented here in a searchable database.
  • Historic Alexandria Quarterly: Historic Alexandria Quarterly is a scholarly publication produced by the Office of Historic Alexandria from 1996 to 2004.  


Search for "Alexandria" to view videos of the C-Span City Tours. The series of seven videos on Alexandria history originally aired March 16-18, 2013, exploring the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery, Lee-Fendall House, and the Civil War.