Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More on Standardizing Place Names in FTM 2011

Interested readers will recall that I've been trying to standardize and geocode the place names in my ancestral database using Family Tree Maker 2011.  Previous posts on this topic include:

Standardizing Place Names in my Genealogy Database
Standardizing Place Names - Using FTM 2011 to Merge Place Names
Standardizing Place Names - Using FTM 2011 to Fix Non-standard Place Names

My goal in this work was to create place names in my database that would be acceptable to the FamilySearch Labs Standard Finder

I completed the task of standardizing over 6600 place names recently, but noted that I had quite a few place names like:

*  2115 30th Street, San Diego, San Diego, California, USA
*  Evergreen Cemetery, Leominster, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA
*  Zion Lutheran Church, Loonenburg, Greene, New York, USA

I saw Russ Worthington's post Further Place Names in a GEDCOM file - a Follow Up on the Build a BetterGEDCOM blog, and decided that I should do what he did - put the detail information into the "Description" field for the place name.  So I did that yesterday.

The resulting Family Tree Maker 2011 file of 39,561 persons now has 4,486 place names, almost all of which are standardized and geocoded.  The exceptions are that many of my Norwegian farm names, some German town names, and some English village names are not in the FTM Place Name file.  I was able to find some of them on the maps and geocode them using the stickpin. 

I thought my readers might appreciate knowing how to put the addresses and other information in the "Description" field, so here are some screen shots:

1)  In the "Places" workspace (top menu), the place names are shown in the left-hand "Places" panel, the map is shown in the middle panel, and the usage of the highlighted place is shown in the right-hand panel:

The screen shot above shows a long list of places starting with the word "Old" including a number of cemeteries.  By double-clicking on the place name, a "Change Place Name" window opens and the user can change the place name and add the description (first by clicking on the "Add description text..." box).  Here is the screen before editing the Place Name for "Old Cemetery, Townsend, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA):

After checking the "Add description text..." box, I added "Old Cemetery" to the "Description" field, and highlighted the text to be deleted in the "New Place Name" field, as shown below:

After deleting the cemetery name, the Place Name reverted to the standard town name.  How is the "Description" seen in a person's list of Facts?  Here is the "Person" screen for James Hildreth in the "People" workspace, with his Burial Fact highlighted:

In the Fact list, the "Description" is shown after the town name.  The Description field in the right-hand panel has the cemetery name in the field.

The screen below shows the Person screen for Henry Austin Carringer with a number of entries in the "Description" field for several Facts:

I also used the "Description" field to add a note about the modern name of a defunct town, noting that "town renamed Brookline in the 1790s" for Raby, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, USA.

The major problem for using the modern, standardized and geocoded, place names is that the historical names for towns, counties, states or countries is lost.  Since my database was very inconsistent and full of errors for these historical places, I chose to standardize to the modern place names, but keep defunct historical town names (mainly in New England).

One more problem:  The FamilySearch Standard Finder seems to require "United States" rather than "USA" for the country name (and some say that "USA" is a standard abbreviation for the Union of South Africa).  I experimented with using an Edit == Find and Replace and that worked, but when I looked at the Places list, the geocodes disappeared!  The places were no longer "Standard" in Family Tree Maker 2011.  Why doesn't FTM 2011 use "United States" rather than "USA?"  Perhaps because it uses Microsoft's Bing Maps?

The bottom line is that I now have an ancestral database with standardized and geocoded place names (with exceptions).  That is a big step, I think, in being able to add content to the FamilySearch FamilyTree when it becomes available to non-LDS church members.  What else do I need to do to ensure that the data will be accepted in the FSFT?

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.


Cousin Russ said...


Great article.

In Family Tree Maker Version 2011 you have the option to Include the Display and use of USA or any other county, or using your 'default' county. Its in the Tools, Option menu.

I don't know for sure, WHY USA vs United States, but my guess is what the Web Search does with

I have been successful in using Family Search as one of my Favoriate Web Search Sites, and use the Web Clip feature in Family Tree Maker to pick up the Facts that are from Family Search.


A rootdigger said...

rather than hunt alot for your email, I am just commenting. today I am informing those I see like this taken by which uses your blot in their address. I tried genea and musing and I did not see yours. I have found at least six or more so far. Do you know anyting about this. It suggests that one use the link text in your blog.
I find this disturbing. I have no domain ownership nor copyrighting. my g email is same as the blog

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks for all the details, Randy.
I'm not sure why United States couldn't be abbreviated US? Makes some of my Places names very very long to have United States after a long town name plus a long county name and finally long state name!

I'm still using my FamilyTreeMaker version 2005 - not entirely sold on the presentation and editing of my tree in version 2011.
Cheers and thanks again for a great blog. - Celia