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Legacy Tip - data entry of locations

During last week's Researching with Geoff - Live! webinar, one viewer (Barbara) noticed that I entered the word "County" as part of Fanny Brown's death location and asked,

"Why write in the word 'county' when that position indicates it is the county?"

In addition to Barbara's good eye for detail, she must have known about some of the techniques I taught in the Mastering Legacy: Names, Dates, and Places training CD about proper data entry, but she overlooked one of the golden rules for data entry of locations:

Enter the location so that there can be no misunderstanding by novices or others as to the location being expressed.

In other words, when there is a chance that your data entry may be interpreted incorrectly, make the effort to make it clear with as much consistency as possible. For example, I entered Fanny Brown's death location as:

, Saint Louis County, Minnesota, United States

Following the "rule of commas" for locations - each part/jurisdiction of the location needs to be separated by a comma. So in this example, I added a comma before Saint Louis County to denote that I am missing the city (the next lower jurisdiction). For United States research, nearly every location can be entered as:

City, County, State, Country

When you are missing a part, such as the city, keep the comma there as its placeholder and enter the rest. Obviously this standard does not fit all countries throughout the world. When it does not, just be consistent. Use FamilySearch's Standard Finder for help.

Researchers with a good eye for detail would recognize this as Saint Louis County:

, Saint Louis, Minnesota, United States

But readers with less experience may interpret this as a city in Minnesota. What makes it more difficult is when they are reading this location as part of a narrative. Below is a snippet from Fanny's descendant book:

Fanny Belle BROWN, daughter of Martin C. BROWN and Mary Elizabeth JEFFREY, was born in Jun 1885 in , , Minnesota, United States and died on 21 Nov 1966 in , Saint Louis, Minnesota, United States at age 81.

Even worse, if before creating her book, you turned on the option in Legacy to "remove leading commas from locations" the snippet would read as:

Fanny Belle BROWN, daughter of Martin C. BROWN and Mary Elizabeth JEFFREY, was born in Jun 1885 in Minnesota, United States and died on 21 Nov 1966 in Saint Louis, Minnesota, United States at age 81.

Hopefully this visually explains why, when I am missing the city of a location, I add the word "County" to the county's name. By doing so, the snippet would read as:

Fanny Belle BROWN, daughter of Martin C. BROWN and Mary Elizabeth JEFFREY, was born in Jun 1885 in Minnesota, United States and died on 21 Nov 1966 in Saint Louis County, Minnesota, United States at age 81.

Barbara - I hope I answered your question. I didn't add the word "county" for me so much, but for the future readers of my research.


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Here in britain I have denoted my locations as Place, Parish, County, Country. To cover a similar situation as above I use "Parish of" as a place name. eg Parish of, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England. If the individual happened to be born in the village itself then it would read Harmondsworth, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England. The same applies for registration districts, "District of" is a Place name.

In England, wildtech8270's suggestion will not necessarily work for Registration Districts. These may have no relationship to a specific place, can encompass more than one county, or indeed may be in a totally different county altogether.

I type the word "County", and the full name of the state. An Italian relative mistook the abbreviation "Miss." for Missouri, instead of Mississippi. When working in the timeframe that the counties were being formed, I've started adding the date, and from where they were formed, to the Event Log.

Shouldn't one use county when the city and the county have the same name?

I have never used the United States, just city or township, county, and state. Is there an easy way to add United States. What about colonial locations when the United States did not exist?


Diane - in the Master Location List (View > Master Lists > Location) click on the Options button, then Expand/Contract, then "Add , United States"

In Louisiana in the late 18th century, without moving an inch, your citizenship could go from french to Spanish to french again and then U.S. It is good to have the country entered.

The problem with ambiguous placenames in narratives goes away if one makes proper use of the "Short Location Name" field. For example, I have the Location entry ", , New York, United States" entry as the main term, with the "Short Name" as "New York State". ", Saint Louis, Minnesota, United States" should have a "Short Name" of "Saint Louis County, Minnesota".

In Virginia there are two counties with the word city as part of their name. Charles City and James City. This might make you think that someone was referring to a city and not a county.

Not everyone lives in "town" my relatives were "counrty folk" so I might use a township name then a county name then the stste for my locations. Like - Kane Township, Benton County, Iowa. In my opinion I too try to take any doubt out of the location.

I appreciate the reasoning behind when to write out the name of the county. I've also noted inconsistencies with USA and United States. USA is an abbreviation but so is writing United States. To be complete, it would have to read United States of America. Does this have a rule attached to it, or is it a matter of personal preference?

How do you deal with U.S. territories before they become states? Before a US territory becomes a state, should you put the word "territory" after the name of a state? For example, Utah did not become a state until 1896. Would place entries before 1896 be Utah Territory, rather than just Utah?

Geoff, How do you handle a specific location in a town? For example:
Died: General Hospital, Jersey City, Hudson County, NJ, US or
Buried: Good Friends Cemetery, Newark, Essex County, NJ, US.

I typically add these as location items, separate from the City location item itself. But then I see that location items should be Town, County, State, Country. If I follow that form, where should the hospital or cemetery name go?


Fred - I enter these in the event's address. Click on the plus sign on the right of the burial location and there is the option to enter the burial address.

When entering a city and county with same name, I have seen it as thus...St. Louis,,,Missouri. Is this entry OK, or confusing?

regarding Astro_ccd:

Here's the way I enter cemetery and hospital names to locations in my database. This method allows all my locations to stay in alphabetical order in my "Master Location List" and also shows the cemetery or hospital in any "report" or "printout". This method also allows a quick search of my database to see how many cemeteries and hospitals I already have in a specific location. It also keeps the "city, county, state, country" format intact.

Alva, Woods Co., Oklahoma, USA - Alva General Hospital
Alva, Woods Co., Oklahoma, USA - Alva Municipal Cemetery
Alva, Woods Co., Oklahoma, USA - Osteopathic Hospital
Alva, Woods Co., Oklahoma, USA - Share Medical Center

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Co., Pennsylvania, USA - Hahneman Hospital
Philadelphia, Philadelphia Co., Pennsylvania, USA - Lafayette Cemetery
Philadelphia, Philadelphia Co., Pennsylvania, USA - Machpelah Cemetery

PS: this also makes it easy to know what cemeteries to visit when going to a specific town to do research and take photos.

Rob W.

Here are some examples of the way I’ve been arranging locations for the past 25 years.

I use three places - one for smallest local area; one for county or province or parish; one for state or country. Doing this makes the Master Location List stay in order. I find that three places is enough to use and still be clear.

Standard three places, comma separated:
Marlow, Baldwin Co, Alabama
Waikiki, Honolulu Island, Hawaii
Seward, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Franklin Twp, Wayne Co, Indiana
Llanfihangel y Creuddyn Upper, Cardiganshire, Wales
Calascibetta, Enna Prov, Italy

Standard three places, comma separated, from an earlier time period (being Very Careful to make sure date of event falls within span of name):
Bryan Co, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory
York Twp, Belmont Co, Ohio (Northwest Territory)
Teplitz, Bessarabia, Russia
POW Camp Oglethorpe, Macon Co, Georgia

I have also further divided an area by using more punctuation.

Standard three places, comma separated, additional information added to smallest local place:
Llanfan: Talgarth, Cardiganshire, Wales (Talgarth is the house in the village - - in a country where many in a locality have the same surname and the only way to identify them is by the name of their abode!)
Loleta: Table Bluff Cemetery, Humboldt Co, California (Since cemeteries have been known to have a name change, adding the nearby town gives me more information.)
Wabash Twp: Burton Cemetery, Tippecanoe Co, Indiana
Newport: St Woollos Cemetery, Monmouthshire, Wales

This came about because there will sometimes be more than one cemetery of the same name in a county – for instance:
Stillwater: Fairview Cemetery, Payne Co, Oklahoma
Cushing: Fairview Cemetery, Payne Co, Oklahoma

And it is especially helpful since the computer groups the names in the list by my smaller location:
Iowa, Appanoose Co, Caldwell Twp: Exline Cemetery
Iowa, Appanoose Co, Caldwell Twp: Monroe-Hism Cemetery
Iowa, Appanoose Co, Caldwell Twp: Salem Cemetery
Iowa, Appanoose Co, Caldwell Twp: Zoar Cemetery

Odd locations:
St Louis, Independent City, Missouri
Baltimore, Independent City, Maryland
on the Atlantic Ocean (no commas or additional information)

I Never abbreviate U S states: they are confusing to those of us who live here.

I Never leave any place holder blank. If I don’t know what to put, I enter it thus: [---], Wyoming Co, Pennsylvania, or [---], [---] Co, Pennsylvania. I believe this removes the possibility of someone misreading what information I do have.

I’ve found this method to work very well for all locations in my files.

It would be very convenient if Legacy found a way for users to input two location names -- historical and modern. Legacy recommends inputting the original location names. For example, my ancestor was born in 1886 in Vysoko-Litovsk, Grodnenskaya Guberniya, Russia. However, if I input that location, none of my mapping software programs recognizes it (and neither does Legacy's Geo Location database). I have to input the name in its modern form (Vysoke-Litevske, , Hrodzyenskaya Voblasts', Belarus). But by inputting the modern location name, I sacrifice my ancestor's historical heritage. Can any one recommend a good workarond for this problem?

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