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Entering County Names

Counties Data model

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#1 Bill_in_PA

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 04:14 PM

RootsMagic, like many family tree programs, seems to rely on a flawed model of place name structures for the US: municipality, county, state, coutry. I'm new to RootsMagic, but not new to genealogy software.

 

RM does have the flexibility to add to the hierarchy, such as village, township, county, state, country.

 

But what I'm struggling with is the assumption that every municipality is in one, and only one, county.

 

As most of you know, in states such as New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, etc., it's very common for a county line to bisect a municipality. Edgerton, WI is party in Dane Co., and partly in  Rock Co. Bethlehem, PA is partly in Northampton Co. and partly in Lehigh Co. New York City is divided into 5 counties.

 

Obits etc. usually don't mention county, just municipality and if the state isn't mentined explicitly, usually it can be deduced.

 

So what do you enter?

a) Just use a placeholder -- "Edgerton,, Wisconsin, United States"?

B) Enter both -- "Edgerton, Dane/Rock, Wisconsin, United States"?

c) Arbitrarily pick the one that seems to have the larger percentage of the area -- "Bethlehem, Northampton, Pennylvania, United States"? or

d) Am I missing something obvious?

 

And what do you do with states such as Virginia, that have independent municipalities such as Chesapeake, Manassas, etc. that are not poltical subdivisions of any county? Use a comma as placeholder? Enter "none" or "independent"?

 

How do RootsMagic "old hands" handle this?

 

Thanks for sharing your perspectives. Lots of you must have encountered the problem.



#2 Renee Zamora

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 05:25 PM

I've used option A on your list until I know for sure which county it is in.


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#3 Laura

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 07:05 PM

A.  RootsMagic's Gazetteer gives:
Edgerton, Rock, Wisconsin, United States

If I didn't know which county, I would enter it as:
Edgerton, Dane or Rock County. Wisconsin, United States

I use the Gazetteer's format for cities that are not political divisions of any county:
Chesapeake (city), Virginia, United States
Manassas (city), Virginia, United States
 



#4 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 08:13 PM

RootsMagic, like many family tree programs, seems to rely on a flawed model of place name structures for the US: municipality, county, state, coutry..

.

.

How do RootsMagic "old hands" handle this?

 

For your specific example, I would enter it as Edgerton, Wisconsin. And often that is the final answer because the nature of place names and their sources is often such that the likelihood of ever determining the county is nil. Edgerton,, Wisconsin with a double comma is awful. Edgerton, Dane or Rock County, Wisconson is accurate from a technical point of view, but adding the county names does not actually add any new information and I think it reads terribly. And I think it's pretty terrible that RM's Gazetteer does not alert you to the possibility of two counties. The unwary RM user might easily use the Gazetteer to convert Edgerton, Wisconsin into Edgerton, Rock County, Wisconsin, and your equally unwary reader might then assume that the event did indeed take place in Rock County even though you have no evidence to support such a conclusion.

 

I omit "United States" for locations in the United States of America except in the very rare case where there might be some confusion. For example, I don't think that Atlanta, Georgia or Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia is very likely to be confused with the country of Georgia in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Except in the rarest of occasions, I think including the United States of America in place names is pedantic, overbearing, dull, nit-picking, boring, fussy, overly punctilious, and basically just awful.

 

I always include County (or Parish for Louisiana) as a part of the place name when the county is known. The first reason is that that's the way real people speak of county names. I live in Knox County, Tennessee. I would never say that I live in Knox, Tennessee nor would anybody else who lives here. We have Knox County schools, not Knox schools. We have the Knox County Sheriffs Department, not the Knox Sheriffs Department. Etc.The second reason is that without the word County there are numerous cases where the name of a county is also the name of a different political subdivision, and without the inclusion of the word County in the place name it can be totally ambiguous to which political subdivision the place name is referring.

 

This comes back to your initial comment about family tree programs relying on a flawed model of place name structures for the U.S.A. My personal belief is that the model is even more flawed for place name structures outside of the U.S.A. But to a certain extent, this is not the fault of the family tree programs. Rather, it's the fault of the flawed model. But the problem is that there really isn't an unflawed model. That leaves the family tree programs in the terrible position either of supporting an extremely flawed model or of supporting no model whatsoever.

 

RM supports an extremely flawed model, but that doesn't mean you have to use the flawed model. You can enter place names any way you wish. Just turn County Check off and use the Gazetteer as an extremely useful but very fallible research tool.

 

I'm not sure how to rectify the situation. For sure, a new place name model is needed. But whether such a model should ever come into existence or not, the one thing I think that all family tree  programs could do that would best address the problem would be to separate the storage of place names from the way place names are displayed. That is, family tree programs could support storing place names in a highly structured way where various political subdivisions (including unknown ones such as your unknown county) are clearly identified. Having stored  place names in this highly structured way, family tree programs could then support place name templates that the user could use to specify how various place names should be displayed. Of course, for this to happen the whole genealogy world would have to agree on the standard (including Family Search FamilyTree would have to support and use the standard), GEDCOM or some GEDCOM successor would have to support the standard, and all family tree programs and web sites would have to support the standard. So such a standard is not going to happen.

 

I can't end without making a final comment about how badly flawed is the model of place name structures. As I said, I don't usually include "United States" in place names. But if I did, I would include "United States of America" which is the correct and official name of my country. Many countries of the world have "United States" as a part of their place name. For example, the official name of our neighbor to the south when translated from Spanish into English is United States of Mexico.

 

Jerry



#5 Lethdun

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 09:01 PM

Thank you, Jerry, for a well thought out and written post. You have expressed my thoughts for me. The non-use of the word "county" has been a real thorn in my side and I absolutely refuse not to use it.

 

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#6 Bill_in_PA

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 11:05 PM

My apolgies for the Typo in the subject line. I couldn't figure out how to correct it. My keyboard doesn't always register that a key was depressed.

 

Thanks for all the comments.

 

Before importing my tree into RM I had always left the country blank if it was the USA (more than 90% of the places are domestic). And I had always included the word 'County' or 'Co.' because I thought it reduced confusion. One of the place names that occurs a number of times in my data is the borough of Tioga, in Tioga township, in Tioga coounty, Pennsylvania. And I used the postal abreviations for states and provinces because I think of my tree as being created primariy fo my own use and convenience -- not for ease of someone else merging my GEDCOM with theirs.

 

Now that I'm using RM and it wants to remove the county designation and add country, I felt a need to "get with the program" and become a "true blue" RM user and change my data. And because I have about 19,000 individuals, that's a heck of a lot of place names to change.

 

I'm glad to see the diversity of opinion and that there doesn't have to be a one size fits all answer.

 

You've given me some very thoughtful replies and I think I can work out what's best for me.

 

Thank you all very much.



#7 Bill_in_PA

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 11:10 PM

PS.. I've now turned off the automatic county checker when entering data.



#8 Stewartrb

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 11:12 PM

I never use United States of America as my final jurisdiction.  (I will use England, Germany, Netherlands, as appropriate.)

 

I always append "County" to my counties.  (Or "shire" if appropriate.)

 

I'll sometimes skip the county if it's blazing obvious what city I'm talking about.  London, England.  New York, New York.  (In the case of a city spanning multiple counties, I'd probably just skip the county part.)

 

I never use a comma placeholder for missing data.  (Even if the GedCom standard says "The jurisdictions are separated by commas, and any jurisdiction's name that is missing is still accounted for by a comma.")



#9 John_of_Ross_County

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Posted 11 November 2015 - 11:32 PM

I agree with Jerry on most of his comments.  However, I abbreviate "County" to "C." to keep the text string length shorter.  I also abbreviate "Township" to "T." to keep the text string length shorter.  And I use the two digit Post Office code for states for the same reason.

 

At least for Ross County, Ohio, the County website provides many details.

1] The Auditor's site indexed either by property owners name or property adress provides the following:

  A] City/village name or the word "unincorporated"

  B] Township name

  C] School district name

  D] Owner's address, tjis may be different from the property address

 

2] The Board of Elections site indexed either by voters name or mailing adress provides the following:

  A] Congressional District

  B] State of Ohio Senate District

  C] State of Ohio House District

  D] Township

  E] Name of County Board of Education

  F] School District

  G] Vocational School District

  H] Court of Appeals Circuit

  I]   State Board of Education District

 

All of these details presume that you know the county.  Other counties and other states may differ.

 

Delorme Street Atlas 2008 has a nice county location feature.  As an example, key in "Ross County, OH" and the map shows the outline of Ross County in green.

 

A cousin has a Columbus, OH address.  Most of Columbus is in Franklin County, OH.  However, the cousin's address is actually  in Delaware County.  By sweepng the cursor around the address, you can roughly tell where the Columbus city limits stop.

 

This feature might help Bill_in_PA to determine which county is the correct one.



#10 Don Newcomb

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 06:40 AM

There can be all sorts of bizarreness in place names. Over the last thousand or so years, England has been reorganized many times. For many years, the south side of London Bridge was in Surrey; it's currently in Metropolitan London. Parts of London were actually legally in Lancashire. Towns were moved from one county to another, or rather, the county line was moved.

 

In the US large counties got split into smaller ones.

 

Keeping track of cemeteries can be a job in itself. They would sometimes have several names: the official one and the one everyone, including the papers, used. Sometimes, several cemeteries would be referred to by a collective moniker. So, you don't know which one was meant.

 

Yeah, place names are a pain in the rear.  



#11 John_of_Ross_County

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 09:12 AM

I should have added the note that your Post Office address does not define where you live.  In Ross County, Ohio, Chillicothe is the county seat.  Until the mid 1970's, an address of 123 Main Street, Chillicothe, Ohio would have been guaranteed to be within city limits and an address of Rural Route #1 would have been outside the city limits.  Then the Post Office assigned sequential box numbers for the county starting with Box 1 at the initial delivery for the Rural Route.  That caused a problem as new houses were built resulting with address of Box 100A between Box 100 and Box 101 as an example.  For both Post Office, fire and ambulance access, rural roads were given actual street addresses graduated to 1/1000 of a mile from the western or southern end of the road.  At this point, it is not possible to tell whether a given address in the Chillicothe ZIP code is within the city or is in a rural area until you locate it on a map.

 

Columbus, Ohio, addresses cover a number of incorporated suburbs in Franklin County, Ohio, and are delimited by ZIP codes.  There are a number of unincorporated pockets of townships in Franklin County that are surrounded by either Columbus and/or incorporated suburbs.  As noted in my previous note, Columbus extends into Delaware County.

 

Beware of using current day maps or Internet lookups to define locations shown in the 1940 and earlier census records.  City limits expand.

 

Delorme Street Atlas 2008 has a nice ZIP code location feature. As an example, key in 45601 and the map shows the outline of of this ZIP code in green.

 

To Bill_in_PA, If you know the street address of an event in a large city that is in multiple counties, you may be able to use mapping software to determine which county is the correct one.



#12 Vyger

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 11:40 AM

I research worldwide and never assume 'everybody knows that' because the place is close to where I live, nor do I add my own custom abbreviations that may or may not be understood by others. Really the Standardized Place Name is the one that needs to be correct and when transferring to a non RM user this is lost. That field should always contain the Country regardless of the users preference for free entry (Place) and personally I would also say it should not contain the word  'County' in other words the Standardized Place Name should subscribe to a standard.

 

Users also have the luxury within RM to enter an Abbreviated Place Name and use that on reports then Geocoding, Notes and Media. My programmed solution to place naming is 4 parts for Standard, 3 for Place and 2 for Abbreviated which I can then vary if and when needed.

 

So in the case of the split County why not have both entries in the Place list with the differing Standardized Place Name, explanation Notes or Media if warranted but please do not mess with the field you might eventually send to me someday and have me scratching my head trying to understand your code. :D

 

One of the main problems within RM for me is the Gazetteer, I find it the weakest reference between the main 3 programs and without the ability to append my own verified Place details for Ireland it is of little use. I live within this townland, the borders have remained tha same for many centuries, in fact I can see the fence which marks the western boundary from where I sit. Rootsmagic Gazetteer does not recognize the townland of Jordanstown, nor would I really expect it to, but Legacy Family Tree does recognize it. Rootsmagic Gazetteer also does not recognize Carnmoney which presently contains Jordanstown whereas Legacy Family Tree does. RM does not even recognize the 17th century market town of Portadown, Armagh which now has over 22,000 inhabitants and a big part of my wifes family research!

 

So the Gazetteer is the problem and whilst one can see why the facility to edit this core information would never be introduced I do not see why enabling it to use a side file like how a custom spellcheck list works is not allowed. With more specialized local knowledge I, for one, could easily build my own complimentary file with numerous places pertinent to Ireland and I am sure users in other countries could do the same. I could never really expect Rootsmagic to do that for me at the same level of detail even with ever growing online reference material.

 

 

For the record and benefit of this thread the two administrative bodies which are invariably within old Irish records are the Parish and the Poor Law Union so I embody both within my Place notation for the purposes of searches. I note townlands as Place Details and these could swap from one Parish to another through time but thankfully the townland never really changes its boundaries. Also through time Parishes have merge and split, I note these changes in the notes section of either the Place or Place Detail, or maybe both whatever works best.


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#13 Renee Zamora

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 12:32 PM

My apolgies for the Typo in the subject line. I couldn't figure out how to correct it. My keyboard doesn't always register that a key was depressed.

 

Forum thread title was corrected.


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#14 Vyger

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 12:56 PM

.......I'm new to RootsMagic, but not new to genealogy software.

 

.......How do RootsMagic "old hands" handle this?

 

Thanks for sharing your perspectives. Lots of you must have encountered the problem.

 

Posted a few years ago, stlll applicable today, but might give you some idea how I tend to work, I'm not sayins it's right, just another perspective ;)

 

https://youtu.be/7pVkbNmw_qI


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#15 zhangrau

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 06:18 PM

I'm don't think my opinions on Place Names are any more important that those expressed above, but I've decided to record and share them.

1. I don't use Place Details. I have many cemeteries, hospitals, and other substantial places as the first element of a place name sequence. 
2. For cities straddling county lines, I try to record the predominant county (if I know) or whichever county is recorded in the RM Place Finder or other references (dictionary, gazetteer, web, etc.)
3. For cities/towns that I cannot determine a county, I use "_____ County" because I think that using double commas is not as clear. My method also causes those indeterminate places to cluster together in the index, indicating clearly where more research might be productive.
4. I always use Township, County, Parish, etc., fully spelled out.
5. I use 2 and 3 letter abbreviations of states and provinces in the USA, Canada, and Australia.
6. I include regions of countries in Canada, the UK, France, and some others.
7. I abbreviate United States of America as USA, and United Kingdom as UK. All other countries are fully spelled out.
8. I include continents for everywhere except North America.

9. I share my database contents via Publisher books (rarely by GEDCOM), and I have comments in the Preface about my place naming scheme. I also include a page showing my use of 2 and 3 letter state abbreviations.

 

As you can imagine, some of my complete place names get pretty long, but I haven't noticed any problems with truncation within RM nor when dragging and dropping between RM databases.
 
When I run a full descendants report of my most-distant male-surname ancestor, the report runs over 10,000 pages, including sources, bibliography and indices. Using the system above, the Place Index groups everything into a geographic organization that I find useful and understandable.

But, hey, I'm just a sample size of one, and I'm clearly not following anybody else's "standard."



#16 Laura

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Posted 13 November 2015 - 06:11 AM

Count me in too. I follow my standard. Other users can make their own choices.

If I was going to put information from my database online, I would use their standard and type the information in on their site. I am not going to stop entering County or Parrish or Township or leave out cemetery names, church names, etc. out of my place names to suit someone else's standard in RM.

If a user considers the place name entered in the Standardized place name box as the important place name, then, perhaps that is the place name to enter into the Place name box.

If RM ever reverts to baving a separate entry box for each part of a place as it used to be in Family Origins where I cannot enter the place as a whole in one entry box, I will be looking for a new program. I will not deal with those limitations and extra work to enter places again.

#17 Vyger

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Posted 13 November 2015 - 06:25 AM

If a user considers the place name entered in the Standardized place name box as the important place name, then, perhaps that is the place name to enter into the Place name box.

 

I was thinking some more on this and users will always use their own system of entering the Place field to suit their own needs. However the Standardized Place Name by it's very nature should be the long handed internationally recognized entry so should there not be an option to use this entry (where it exists) when exporting to gedcom or sharing with online services?

 

We all know how these variations in entry styles ultimately lead to duplication or at least a lot of clean up work so such a change might help reduce place variations online or via gedcom share.


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#18 Laura

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Posted 13 November 2015 - 08:23 AM

Vyger, even online databases use different standards for their sites.

For instance, some allow ,, for a place holder for missing parts of the place and some do not.

So just whose Standardized place names are we to follow? It is it to be mine, yours, RM Gazetteer, FamilySearch Family Trees, Ancestry.com, Geni, etc.

I use RM Gazetteer standardized place names to show where a place name is geocoded to especially if the place name is a historical place.

But, I don't want the Standardized place name automatically exported in a gedcom at the expense of leaving out the Place name.

If Bruce did add the ability to export just the Standardized place name in a gedcom, it shoud be an option on the Export gedcom screen.


I am going to be extremely unhappy if I don't have a choice or have to go back and enter all my Place names in the Standardized place name so they will be exported. And, I would be looking for another program.


All a user has to do is enter the Place name as any standard that user deems a standard to use whether it is their own standard or some other person or companies standard.

Any other parts of a Place name that doesn't fit into the user's version of a standard entered into the Place name can be entered into the Place detail which is very unlikely to be imported into another program even if RM Specifics is checked on the Export gedcom screen.

I am not impressed by anyone's standard that only incudes City, County, State, Country.

For example, if a cemetery is known and not in the place name, I have to go looking for the cemetery the person is buried in. In my homentown, there are two cemeteries in town and several in the county. In large towns, there many cemeteries. Not all those cemeteries have full lists or current lists of burials online. I might have to visit every cemetery in a town or county to find a burial.

I also dislike a.standard that doesn't allow the entry of Counfy, Parish, Township to explain what political division that part of the place refers to.

I have instances where there is a city in one county and another county with the same name as the city. xxxxx, State Is not going to tell me if they lived in the city of that name or the county of that name.

The problem is not putting County, etc. in a place name or cemeteries in the place name.

The problem are place name standards that doesn't allow it or even insist on it.

#19 Laura

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Posted 13 November 2015 - 09:35 AM

Something to think about when using abreviations.

I used to use the two letter postal code for states.

Then I found where I had made a typo I didn't catch at the time.

I had typed MA instead of MS.

That was the day I double checked all my place names and typed all the states and everything else with the full name. No abreviations.

#20 Lethdun

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Posted 13 November 2015 - 10:37 AM

Right on, Laura, for your last two posts! Use county (political divisions), full names, and place names. Heck, I thought, until recent years, that was the standard.


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