Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Standardizing Place Names - Using FTM 2011 to Merge Place Names

In my post Standardizing Place Names in my Genealogy Database two weeks ago, I mused the pros and cons of doing it, and what the best process was. I've been through all place names in my database and removed most of the extraneous data (like "VR 424:123," or "will proved" or "young.").  I missed some but those now stand out clearly! 

Now I often have 5 to 10 (or more) different versions of names for the same place, like "Westminster, Worcester, MA," "Westminster, Worcester County, MA," "Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts," etc.  Of course, virtually none of my place names meet the standard of "Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA." 

I checked into the process of doing this in Family Tree Maker 2011, Legacy Family Tree 7.4, and RootsMagic 4.  Because I have so many place names to merge into standard place names, I thought that Family Tree Maker 2011 did the job well and fairly easily.  Here is the process I've started:

in FTM 2011, I wanted to change all of my different Westminster MA place names to the standard "Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA."  I chose the Benjamin Seaver (1791-1825) family to illustrate the process and the results.

Here is the "People" workspace screen of the Benjamin Seaver family.  Note that the place names are "Westmnster, Worcester County, MA."

I clicked on the "Places" workspace in the top menu, and scrolled down the list of over 6,000 place names to Westminster:

The Place list is on the left, the map for the highlighted place is in the middle panel, and the 106 persons and their events associated with the highlighted place name are on the right.  There are six different Westminster place names on the list.  I clicked on the "Resolve All" link at the top of the Place list to get to the screen that enables me to do the merging:

There are four columns in this menu - "Unrecognized Place Name," "Suggested Place Name," "Desc. (move unrecognized name to description field)", "Ignore (stop marking this place as unrecognized)" and "Other (search for another spelling of the place name)."

In order to standardize the Westminster place names, I clicked on five of the place names on the list:

After clicking OK, the place names for those five different names were standardized.  Here's the proof:

The entry for "Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA" has no unrecognized mark beside it in the Place name list above, and there are now 222 people associated with this place name. 

Here is the "People" workspace page for the Benjamin Seaver family.  All of the place names say "Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA."

Because I knew how to do that, it took me about 10 seconds to change those place names to the standard format. 

Now, I have one Westminster place name that I didn't change because it reads "Westminister."  I can check the "Other" column, see a list of suggested place names, and clicked on the right one.  Again, about two seconds to fix it.

I'm still in the process of standardizing my place names, and it will be some time before all of my errors are fixed and all places standardized.  I don't have to standardize every place name.  I can leave them non-standard if I want to.  I've found that there are many English parishes that are not in the FTM 2011 standard place names.  I've found that Canadian counties are not included in the standard place names.  I'm sure that I'll find many more problems, but my database is gradually being standardized and made more accurate.

What about the historical place names?  Well, I generally did not use them anyway, so I haven't lost any accuracy by doing this process.  I can add information to the description of place names to account for the historical name.

Disclosure:  I received a gratis copy of Family Tree Maker 2011 from  I purchased previous versions of Family Tree Maker myself, but also received gratis copies of some versions from (which I donated to a local genealogical society).  I try very hard to be objective in my comments about Family Tree Maker software. 


Tamura Jones said...

> the standard of "Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA."

I would never have guessed that you hail from the Union of South Africa :-)

Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

Isn't it standard practice to spell out everything? If you change all the states from initials to full names, then everything should be spelled out. Then there are no assumptions of wrong place.