Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Standardized Historical and Current Place Names - Post 2: Two Potential RootsMagic Solutions

I wrote Standardized Historical and Current Place Names - Post 1 yesterday, defining the quandary that many researchers have that use genealogy software or online family trees who want to include historical place names in their family trees.

RootsMagic 7 users can add "Place Details" to Events, or "Place Notes" to a Place in the "Place List," that indicate a historical place name.  I see these two options:

Option 1 -- Adding information to the standard place names to reflect historical place names

 For example, here is my "Edit Person" screen for Moses Smith (1732-1806), who was born in Medfield, Massachusetts.  The current place name for the Birth Fact is "Medfield, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States."

In the "Place Details" field I entered:

"(then in Suffolk County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British America)"

On the "Place List (use Lists > Place List), for Medfield, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States, I clicked on the "edit" button, clicked the GeoCode button and the program defined the latitude and longitude of Medfield, and defined the standard place name:

I then clicked on the "Place Note" button on the "Edit Place" screen and added this text:

"Medfield was in Suffolk County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America  from 1649 to 1776, and in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States from 1776 to 1793, and in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States from 1793 to the current time."

That provides information about the jurisdictions from 1649 to the present time.

Adding information to one "Place Detail" is relatively easy, but I will have to do it for hundreds of place names for the persons and Facts in my database with Medfield before 1776.  And then there are over 8,800 place names in my RootsMagic database.  Another major problem with adding a "Place Detail" as above is that it will print out the Place Detail in a report, which may be confusing.  I don't think I will do this in the near future.

Option 2 -- Adding historical place names to the Facts and Place List

A second option for RootsMagic users is to add the Historical Place Name in the Fact field.  I created an "Alternate Birth" Fact for Moses just to see what could be done.  Here is the entry:

On the screen above, I added an Alternate Birth Fact for Moses, with the birth place as:

 "Medfield, Suffolk, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America."  

That enters the place name into the "Place List" (use Lists > Place List).  I clicked on the "Edit button on the "Place List" screen, and added the standardized place name so that the map would show up when I click on the "Online map" button.

In order to make the Online Map show the proper location, I had to copy and paste the latitude and longitude into the appropriate fields (as shown on the screen above).

After clicking "OK" on the screen above, I clicked on the "Online Map" button and the map that appeared was for Medfield, Massachusetts:

 Option 2 is a lot of work.  I may need several historical place names for each current place, and I have over 8,800 place names on my "Place List."  I don't think I will do much of this in the near future.


Perhaps my readers have another idea for how to add or replace standardized current place names with historical place names.

I did this in RootsMagic, but not everybody uses RootsMagic.  What do users of Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Maker, Family Tree Builder, Reunion, Ancestry Member Trees, MyHeritage trees, and other software programs or online trees do to input historical place names, and use the online maps?

I have an idea on what could be done by the software companies and online trees, and will describe it in another post.


Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver

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Lois Willis said...

I face the same dilemma in my tree. In my tree, I tend to use a combination of current place names, and historic place names.

For example, in Australia, rather than having two sets of locations, one prior to 1901 when Australia was a group of colonies, to after 1901, when the colonies became states, I find it easier just to use the current format: town, state, country. However, when it comes to the names of towns, I use the name at the time of the event.

For overseas locations, I tend to use whatever was used in the record(s) I looked at.

To further complicate this, I include Place Details (i.e. street address, hospital, cemetery) within my place name. This is because I use TNG (The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding) for my website, and I like to be able to plot the cemetery, hospital or street address in the google maps.

I use Legacy Family Tree as my desktop genealogy database, and this has the option to add notes to the locations, so that I could use the current name in location, and add in the notes field details of the location's historic place name, but it would be a time-consuming process to update all of my existing locations.

Unknown said...

Hi, Russ. Long-time Family Tree Maker user here with my take on the issue.

First of all, I stopped worrying about FTM's standardized place names long ago simply because they leave out the word "County," "Parish," or whatever. Personally, I want the full name -- especially when someone writes something like "San Mateo, CA" (do they mean San Mateo the city, and they left out the county, or do they mean San Mateo County?).

Second, I want to know what the jurisdiction was at the time of the event. I figure if someone is tracing documents then they should be smart enough to figure out where they need to look now (and that would be in a citation for any documents, anyway). Otherwise, it's an opportunity for them to learn some history, like when I recently learned for the first time in my 55 years that at one time Vermont was an independent republic!

Nothing in FTM requires the use of standardized names. There is a tool to correct incorrect or inconsistent place names, and I use that from time to time simply because I've changed my formatting over the years. I don't, though, use the names in their database.

One line of my family is Belgian which, of course, means that at one time (in my case) they were French. Another line came to this continent in the pre-Revolution period, so I also get to deal with the names of the colonies and all. I'm no stranger to the place name issue! I simply choose to do it my way, which suits my purposes (and if I ever happen to write an article and the publication wants them in a different format, then I'll adapt).


Keith Riggle said...

Randy, a problem with using the Place Details field in RootsMagic is that it gets exported to GEDCOM using the ADDR, or address, tag, subordinate to the PLAC, or place, tag. This is bad GEDCOM grammar. An ADDR tag must be subordinated directly to an event, while most genealogy apps I've reviewed expect the ADDR tag to be subordinated directly to an individual record (which is also wrong). So in terms of portability and compatibility, this may not be a good practice.

Randy Seaver said...


Thanks for that - I will update the post.

Some Facts in RootsMagic have a Description field also - I will see if I can add that to BMD facts at least. Do those go into GEDCOM somewhere?

Laura said...

In RootsMagic, I enter the current place in the Place name and geocode it.

Then, I change the Place name to the Historical place and add (now in xxxxxx County, State). if needed. I adjust the now statement for towns that changed names, etc.

Any, explanation of date ranges and other explanations goes in the Place note.

I don't use Place details.

I don't have my database on any online websites. So I don't have to be concerned with their place name standards.

Keith Riggle said...

Sorry, Randy, I took another look, and the ADDR tag is NOT subordinate to the PLAC tag, it's subordinate to the birth event. It would be better if it were a NOTE subordinate to the PLAC tag, but it's not wrong. Apologies.