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How to use Standardized Place Names - OR NOT?


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#1 bdunn

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Posted 25 January 2019 - 02:23 PM

I have a tree with about 80,000 people and I have a LOT of places that I need to correct. I have no idea why people think Place is a blank to put all kinds of miscellaneous information, but that's another topic.

 

So I have many people who date back before 1000AD and I'm curious how you are using GeoCode and Standard Place Names. On the one hand, it will easily correct the spelling and get me a better GeoCode location. On the other hand, the United Kingdom didn't exist until fairly recently? How do you guys do that on a normal basis?

 

Same goes with Virginia Colonies and British America and all of that.

 

Thanks for any suggestions or advice here.

 



#2 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 25 January 2019 - 03:09 PM

You are likely to get a large number of well reasoned and highly conflicting opinions from very experienced users. There are variations and exceptions, but on one axis most of the opinions will be either: 1) use historically appropriate place names, or 2) use modern place names so that the places can be Geo-coded and you can tell where the events actually took place. On another axis, most of the opinions will be either: 1) use politically correct place names which include political subdivision descriptors such as County and Township, or 2) use Standard Place Names to facilitate Geo-coding and accurate data interchange. On yet another axis, most of the opinions will be either 1) use RM's Place Details for things like cemetery and hospital names and use RM's Place field only for major political subdivisions such as cities, counties, states, and countries, or 2) don't use RM's Place Details field and instead record all your place data in RM's Place field.

 

I think there are major advantages to all these approaches and also that there are significant problems with all these approaches. In addition to whatever messages may be posted in this thread, you can search these forums for many previous discussions on this topic. In the end, you will have to make your own decisions about how to handle place names in your own database.

 

Jerry

 



#3 John_of_Ross_County

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Posted 26 January 2019 - 11:22 AM

What if we had a dual listing for [A] Historic names and [B] Current names?

 

Such as County Name, Virginia now County Name, West Virginia.

 

If the event was in the historic named place, it would help to locate the current name on maps.

 

It can be done now, but it would help if it had a real database system.

 

I have one listing, "Boone C., [, now WV], VA" as an example.  If it were officially supported, the lookup could be done either by historic place or by current place.

 

County boundaries and township boundaries change making location resolution even more difficult.  Country boundaries in Europe are problems also.



#4 TomH

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Posted 26 January 2019 - 12:40 PM

Wade through this exhaustive 4-page discussion about Place names in RM: http://forums.rootsm...d/?fromsearch=1

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#5 Don Newcomb

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Posted 26 January 2019 - 02:58 PM

You can use whatever you want. I'd suggest if you use non-standard places that you invest a little time in annotating the entry and adding coordinates. I often find Wikipedia helpful for doing this.



#6 Vyger

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Posted 27 January 2019 - 05:10 AM

You can use whatever you want. I'd suggest if you use non-standard places that you invest a little time in annotating the entry and adding coordinates. I often find Wikipedia helpful for doing this.

 

I agree with Don, and I would suggest a few more fields are provided in the Place Table by Rootsmagic, they would not have to be used by many but would be useful to those who care about their personal place data set. In Ireland

 

I use Parish, Barony, County, Country as many of my places with Townlands as Place Details, this works very well for geographic groupings and working with Church records where historically the Church was the administrative body. However there are not only the modern administrative bodies for these areas but also the Poor Law Union which also became a sort of administrative district during Victorian times.

 

I have a workbook with the 65k+ Townlands and associated additional division details of Ireland which I keep open to the side for reference, I have done partial imports into Rootsmagic but can only detail the additional details in Notes at present.


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#7 KFN

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Posted 27 January 2019 - 12:00 PM

As a database designer, computer programmer and Librarian I alway tell people to work out a plan that takes into account the data you have and to think of the type of data you will have in the future, then be consistent with the values used to name a particular item. By this I mean once you name something alway use that name.

In libraries authors of books will have multiple names, so when we look up authors by name we must provide a mechanism to give alternate names and referance a common or base name. I personally think this is the best way to document place names as well since every place in the world has gone by some other name in its history.

I see that the problem with places is that no software actually supports alternate names. So as a cataloger I must take the alternate name out of the equation and define a “common name” for a place that is then used in all instances of that place. Why do I want a common name? Well as a programmer I will most likely need a report some day that tells me all of the events that occurred in a place throughout the history of that place and my families interaction with that place. For example, cities changes names and you can’t search for a city if you don’t have all of the various names memorized, cities and regions change hands as they relate to countries, counties changes their names. Churches and religious sites are known differently if their religious affliation changes or the people referring to them are of different religions.

Therefore, I believe, plan you strategy, pick a name for a place and use it every time. Either use the current name as define by some internationally excepted body, or use a common historic name from a point in time that would be common to your study. But don’t use names that are inconsistent. ALSO find a way to record the actual place name from the time of the event in alternate documents so you teach others about the history of the place and so you can do searches in other database that use a different data storage technique.

#8 bdunn

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Posted 27 January 2019 - 12:20 PM

Thanks KFN. That makes a lot of sense. Given your point, it might be best to use modern acceptable names so that it can be geolocated and that place will remain consistent, even though county checker in RM will complain about it from time to time. Or, I suppose when it complains, I can let it fix the place according to its records and then at least have a place that will, over time, match all of the others from that time period. Anything is better than the strange spellings and nonsensical information that I have found online. FamilySearch has a ton of place names that are entirely inappropriate like "Was the brother of Jim" etc.

 

Does that seem like a logical approach?



#9 KFN

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Posted 27 January 2019 - 02:07 PM

My only caveat would be to make sure that, if you use them, that you also consult with the names used by RM in its own internal database. I would definitely look at the link TomH provided, to see others comments there.

#10 Don Newcomb

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 08:05 AM

 but would be useful to those who care about their personal place data set. In Ireland

 

 

When you ask someone from Ireland where they are from, you might just get an answer that's the equivalent of "Happy Acres". When you try to look it up, you eventually figure out that it's a named place that's only a hundred acres in size, of which Ireland contains tens of thousands. It's like someone from the US naming their subdivision or apartment complex and expecting it to make sense to a foreigner. 



#11 mjashby

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 08:43 AM

And, of course, 'Ireland' might be used at times to refer to any part or all of: 

 

 - the island of Ireland (the geographic place which include both of the following);

 - the Republic of Ireland/Irish Republic (the autonomous State and full member of the European Union; but not part of the United Kingdom); and/or

 - the Province of Northern Ireland (which still remains a part of the United Kingdom, but has its own devolved parliament (when it is not suspended!)).


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#12 Vyger

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 12:34 PM

When you ask someone from Ireland where they are from, you might just get an answer that's the equivalent of "Happy Acres". When you try to look it up, you eventually figure out that it's a named place that's only a hundred acres in size, of which Ireland contains tens of thousands. It's like someone from the US naming their subdivision or apartment complex and expecting it to make sense to a foreigner. 

 

Exactly Don and very indicative for finding families and communities and continues to provide me the most important clues to family linkage, For the benefit of others the smallest mainland Townland in Ireland is only 1.25 acres whereas the largest is 6762 acres, each of those Townlands mainly belong to one Parish, each Parish to one Barony, each Barony to one County, each County to one Province and each of the four provinces making up the Island of Ireland and here’s the beauty;

 

THESE HISTORICAL DIVISIONS PRE-DATING THE NORMAN INVASION REMAIN MOSTLY UNCHANGED AND ARE STILL REFERRED TO IN LAND REGISTRY TODAY.

 

I have 90% of the 65K+ Townlands geocoded with boundary maps so when you say you are from "Happy Acres" I would want to know County and Parish, then the pin goes in the map. I genuinely feel sorry for my US colleagues as I cannot find reliable division maps over time for some of the limited US research I do. On top of that USA is such a vast country with many featureless areas, limited divisional mapping and ever changing boundaries so when I find where an ancestor actually lived I quickly stick a pin in the map and care little for how different people refer to that location, what is important to me is the location and time frame for identifying other possible matches.

 

Other Countries will have other division systems and each researcher must try and identify what is the most reliable land division system in each of those countries over time. I don't see it as the job of RM to try and force users to record the location according to any standard but it is useful that RM strives to assist users towards some sort of identifiable recording standard rather than just entering some freehand description of the place.

 

I cannot expect Rootsmagic to become the Country division expert in all Countries and also satisfy the many and varied preferences of user place notation but I do expect a much enhanced and comprehensive geocoding UI to help those who want to geocode Places and Place Details to do it with ease and embrace any available online assistance. Administrative districts merge and change, City boundaries expand to envelop distinct districts and communities and so it goes on, generally people do not move as a result of this, cemeteries are not uprooted and Churches are still in the same building so the pin in the map remains the most reliable factual indicator for me. Now if you take those little geocode numbers and send them off to a search engine or online mapping utility you will be returned with the modern perception of that location address, if you do the same in another Country you will likely get the result in a different language, if Countries merge, change their name or political subdivisions change sending those little numbers off in the future will return a different and updated result. 

 

I also believe trying to follow modern place names, administrative districts etc. for the benefit of report readers is folly, the place should be recorded as it was and not in some inaccurate form to satisfy the reader. I will find no ancestors where I live, nor will I find any mention of where I live in Church records and that is because the name of where I live only came into being in 1958 when the areas encompassing 7 villages were merged and given a NEW name. Now report readers will find that very comfortable but will generally ask for a more specific location within this borough. Now a few extra fields in the Place List would allow users to also record modern postal and administrative districts and should also allow the options to report is whatever (modern or ancient) format the report writer desires, above all else the pin in the map in the important indicator for me, names are added quality.

 

 

And, of course, 'Ireland' might be used at times to refer to any part or all of: 

 

 - the island of Ireland (the geographic place which include both of the following);

 - the Republic of Ireland/Irish Republic (the autonomous State and full member of the European Union; but not part of the United Kingdom); and/or

 - the Province of Northern Ireland (which still remains a part of the United Kingdom, but has its own devolved parliament (when it is not suspended!)).

 

mjashby, I always refer and stress the importance of the pin in the map, political, administrative and other changes through time are not important to my research. For the purposes of my research Ireland is an island of 32 Counties, 4 provinces and the further sub divisions down to Townland, the colour of the flag or what office you pay your property tax to does not help my research.

 

Your last line is a constant embarrassment to everyone who lives here but again does not affect my research ;)


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#13 mjashby

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Posted 29 January 2019 - 02:29 PM

@Vyger,

 

Yes, I agree that, from the family history research angle, it's far better to look at 'Ireland' as the whole geographic island irrespective of what administrative arrangements were in place at any particular time.  That doesn't usually impact too greatly unless it becomes apparent that family structure, migration etc. were impacted by 'political action/interventions', but that's more about considering the 'reasons why' rather than 'where' specific family events occurred.   

 

Much the same applies to England, Wales and Scotland (and probably many other countries), but it's surprising how many researchers agonise endlessly over interpreting differences between historic 'counties/localities' which have remained relatively constant for hundreds of years, versus constantly changing administrative counties and other localities which appear and disappear at the whim of national/local government and/or other public bodies. 

 

Mervyn


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#14 Vyger

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Posted 30 January 2019 - 06:21 AM

@Vyger,

 

Yes, I agree that, from the family history research angle, it's far better to look at 'Ireland' as the whole geographic island irrespective of what administrative arrangements were in place at any particular time.  That doesn't usually impact too greatly unless it becomes apparent that family structure, migration etc. were impacted by 'political action/interventions', but that's more about considering the 'reasons why' rather than 'where' specific family events occurred.   

 

Much the same applies to England, Wales and Scotland (and probably many other countries), but it's surprising how many researchers agonise endlessly over interpreting differences between historic 'counties/localities' which have remained relatively constant for hundreds of years, versus constantly changing administrative counties and other localities which appear and disappear at the whim of national/local government and/or other public bodies. 

 

Mervyn

 

It looks like you are a Mac user and therefore Rootsmagic Mapping will not work but I always prefer the pin in the map and would prefer research programs make more use of that for proximity matching rather than the endless variations of what text name is valid for that location.

 

Example: "When I stand on the family farm the river is to the west, that is where the family drew their water, the Church where the family worshiped is on the hill  and the cemetery where they were laid to rest is close by. A sister, who now goes by her married surname, is just on the other side of the river living with her husband and family, I can see her house from where I stand."

 

The problem is he is living in Ontario, Canada and his sister in Wisconsin, USA, there might be family nearby in Michigan, USA but whilst some of the family can actually see and virtually wave to each other from a text description of the Place they are worlds apart.

 

In Ireland some farms actually straddle the current border so effectively exist in two Countries so agonizing over how to note them is pointless when the geo location is clearly defined. If you are new to this topic I can inform you this most be the oldest and most contentious discussions on the forum yet anyone can see that all those pins on the map (by numerous different text names) are actually all the same location and the mathematics of geocoding are easily used in calculations.

 

I fully understand the various desires for reporting options and that is different, changing County and Country boundaries and land issues can be explained in the Place or Place Details Note field. Sufficient reporting options for such data is not yet available in Rootsmagic and many years ago I, and others, wished for the option for an appendix to contain whatever media and explanatory notes a user cares to add and feels valuable to there reporting, see below.

 

http://forums.rootsm...es/?hl=appendix


We are all limited by our visions and abilities

Whilst we can borrow from the visions of others we cannot always deliver.

 

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Excel to Gedcom conversion - simple getting started tutorials here

 

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