Home Sweet Home

Theme: Cultural & Historical

Author: Don Keen
Keen Insights
10 Willow Drive
Millville, NJ 08332
Adapted from From Whence We’ve Come, a book about the history of Cumberland County

Subject Areas
Social Studies and New Jersey/Local History

One class period


Comparing, inferring, describing, matching

Charting the Course
The names of the many small towns and villages throughout the Delaware Bay Shore of Southern New Jersey, and specifically throughout Cumberland, Salem, and Cape May counties, provide a look to the past and the connectedness of people in the region to the resources. This activity, while written specifically for Cumberland County, can be easily adapted to other counties and areas.

Town names

Correlation to NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards
Social Studies: 6.7 (1,2,5,9), 6.8 (2,3,5), 6.9 (2,5)


Students will be able to:

  1. Investigate the past and present names of towns in Cumberland County
  2. Relate and infer the reasons for specific town names



Map of Cumberland County

Copies of name cards and description cards for matching game

Making Connections

Cumberland County has a long history rich with interesting settlements, businesses and industries, and people from all over the world and from all walks of life. The film Down Jersey addresses some of the people and places that make this region so unique. Naming of places — towns, cities, and villages is often done by association and physical features of an area, as well as significant events that occurred in a particular place. This activity explores some of the town names of today and compares them to their former names. This knowledge would be especially critical if you were examining historical papers or books. As you will see, many of the towns’ names have been changed throughout history — some more than once!


Almost the entire Historic Themes and Resources book addresses the name(s) of places/towns that once were part of the region Down Jersey and played a role in developing its unique character and ambiance.

By Don Keen, author of From Whence We’ve Come.

Some of the former names refer to areas within the present boundaries of a town while others were the actual name that preceded its present name. The clues I have provided often refer to the history of the town or county, thereby becoming a teaching tool in and of themselves. It is hoped this will pique the interest of the student to want to learn more. For instance, there are references to two skirmishes in Cumberland County during the Revolutionary War. Perhaps a student would do further research to learn the specifics of these and other ways in which we contributed to the war.

There are many references to find the information contained in this lesson. One I used would be reasonably easy reading for fourth through sixth graders. It is "The Cumberland Story" and can be found for research or purchase at the W. E. Lumus Library of the Cumberland County Historical Society on Ye Greate Street in Greenwich. The clues and how they relate to each town can also be found in my book, From Whence We’ve Come.


Warm Up
Have students name the town(s) that they live in. Was that always the name of their town(s)? What is their town named after? Do they know?

The Activity

  1. Distribute the worksheet that lists the current names of Cumberland County towns.
  2. Using the Cumberland County map, have each student locate and label each of the towns (there are 22). Assign each student (or team) a town name. Based on the location of each town (and/or the name) have students write a guess about where the name originated. Each student should have his/her “own” town to guess and locate.
  3. Next, divide the class into teams of five students (depending on the size of the class). Give each team a stack of previous (historical) town name cards and a stack of description cards and place them face down on the desk. Then, the town name cards are dealt to the team members. (Each player should have five cards.) Players take turns picking a card from the deck, and trying to match it with a town name card. If they get a match, they place the pair on the desk in front of them. The player to match all five town names with their correct description/explanation wins the game.
    If the player picks a card that doesn’t match one of the town names in his/her hand, then the card is discarded, face down. When the original deck is gone through, the discarded pile becomes the new deck, and players continue playing until all names are matched with description/explanations and former names. The team to win is the one that matches all town names correctly first.
  4. Utilizing the list of current town names and the map, have students in their teams try to match the previous town names with the present names. This can also be done as a group (class) exercise.

Wrap Up
Have each team read one set of five matches that they have. The teacher checks for correct answers. Discussion as a class.


Students complete the worksheet and match all of the towns’ current names with their former names.


Each student is assigned a town to write a short report about its history. These could then be assembled into a class newspaper and shared with others in the school and community.

A classroom bulletin board/ map could be made showing the Cumberland County from the past, with the former names used in place of the current town names.

This activity could be easily adapted to either Salem or Cape May Counties, or any other.

Students choose one town and create a possible "folktale" about how it got its name.

Please download the PDF for the complete Lesson Plan.


Historic Themes and Resources — Especially Chapter Two: Urban Development, pages 9-39

From Whence We’ve Come by Don Keen contains many interesting facts and photographs about the history of Cumberland County. This activity was adapted directly from this book.

Your local library and historical society can provide much of the needed background information for this activity.

See also the activity "Where Are You? The County."