Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Use GeoNames to find localities and features

Have you tried out GeoNames at ??

The site says:

"The geographical database is available for download free of charge under a creative commons attribution license. It contains over eight million geographical names and consists of 6.5 million unique features whereof 2.2 million populated places and 1.8 million alternate names. All features are categorized into one out of nine feature classes and further subcategorized into one out of 645 feature codes. (more statistics ...). The data is accessible free of charge through a number of webservices and a daily database export. is already serving up to over 3 million web service requests per day.

"Geonames is integrating geographical data such as names of places in various languages, elevation, population and others from various sources. All lat/long coordinates are in WGS84 (World Geodetic System 1984). Users may manually edit, correct and add new names using a user friendly wiki interface."

I tried it out of course - I typed in "Westminster" and selected "United States" in the search boxes. I got a long list of all of the Westminster towns, country clubs, mountains, hills, lakes, golf courses, strip joints, reservoirs, parks, etc. Populated places showed population, most places named showed elevations, and most places named had latitude/longitude coordinates.

I clicked on "Town of Westminster" in Massachusetts and was rewarded with a Google Earth type satellite map (with streets overlaid) and a list of 50 locations of buildings or features in the database, ordered by distance from the selected locality. You can manipulate the satellite map similar to Google Earth.

This is a really cool site. I will use this frequently to capture satellite photos of my ancestors houses and localities.

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