Scout gives the background of her family history in Chapter 1. She traces her family back to Simon Finch. Simon was a "fur-trapping apothecary" who left England for America because of religious intolerance. He made a lot of money practicing medicine and was a slave owner. Simon's descendants continued to live on his land (Finch's Landing) up to and including Alexandra, Atticus's sister. Atticus moved to Maycomb to practice law and paid his brother's way through medical school.
Scout describes Maycomb as an old, slow-paced Southern town. Scout, Atticus, and Jem live on the main residential street. Scout's mother died when she was two years old. Calpurnia is their cook but also somewhat of a mother figure to Jem and Scout. Scout mentions the Radleys who live next door. Boo Radley fascinates Scout, Jem, and Dill and he will become a key character in the novel.
The events in the novel occur in the 1930s. During this time, black and white communities are segregated and racism is tolerated. Alexandra tries to teach the children a Southern pride they should have for their family history. Atticus has a problem with this but he is vague and simply tells Scout to forget what Alexandra has said.