This is the second in a series of three articles on data entry standards for genealogy in the United States. The first article covered Dates and now we are going to look at Locations. Please see the list of caveats at the top of the Dates article which also applies here. There is one specific to locations: Always record the location as it was at the time of the event. You can always add a note explaining that the location is"now Perry County"
The standard for US locations is four jurisdictional levels; town/city, county/parish/borough, state, country. The four jurisdictional fields are also the FamilySearch standard.
Purvis, Lamar, Mississippi, United States
Legacy allows you to enter a "short location" for reports so that they don't sound so formal/wooden; for example,
Purvis, Lamar County, Mississippi
If you are using a different software program you can check your options to see if you have something similar. When you export your data you should be exporting it in the longer form so that the receiving person/website will be able to interpret the data correctly.
What you shouldn't do, even in reports, is to over abbreviate. I would never put Purvis, Lamar Co, MS. You lose a lot of readability and you really won't be saving much space. If someone from another country reads your data they could easily get confused.
If you are dealing with locations in other countries, each country has their own standard of the number of jurisdictional levels. For example, I use three jurisdictional levels for Germany but I use six for France. The most important thing is to be consistent from country to country.
One thing that throws people off are the independent cities in the US that aren't part of a county. For data entry purposes it is best to enter these with a comma place marker for the county.
Fairfax, , Virginia, United States
This will ensure that the data is interpreted correctly when you do a gedcom export/upload to a website. Again, if your genealogy program has short locations you can make this look better for reports, Fairfax, Virginia.
Another thing to look at are townships. Townships are different than towns (how different depends on the state) so I do put the word township as part of the town/city name.
Cedar Grove Township, Essex, New Jersey, United States
I wrote a much longer article on location data entry that was specific to Legacy. One thing I want to point out from that article is that some people like to put an address in the location field.
Harlem City Cemetery, 310 South Bell Street, Harlem, Columbia, Georgia, United States
The reason some people like to do this is they like how it reads out in reports but if you create a gedcom to send to someone or to upload to a website you risk the receiving program/website not interpreting the data correctly. If you are uploading to FamilySearch this would be flagged as non standard.
The biggest issue you will have with locations are those locations before the United States was formed. Unfortunately, there is no real standard for this and there is quite a bit of variation with how you will see these locations recorded. It can get very complicated because not only were the place names and the jurisdictional lines in the "colonies" changing, England/Great Britain was having its own jurisdictional issues. Sometimes colonies were called colonies and sometimes they were called provinces. Depending on the date, the official name of the controlling "country" was England or Great Britain. Other countries also had control of areas certain areas. Here is a short list to give you an example. Don't think this information is set in stone because different resources will give you slightly different information. All of these areas were settled prior to these dates but these are their official formations and when they came under jurisdictional rule.
- Delaware Colony (England 1664 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Province of Pennsylvania (England 04 Mar 1681 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Province of New Jersey (England 08 Sep 1664 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Province of Georgia (Great Britain 21 Apr 1732 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Connecticut Colony (England 03 Mar 1636 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Province of Massachusetts Bay (England 14 May 1692 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Province of Maryland (England 20 Jun 1632 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Province of Carolina (England 30 Oct 1629 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 1712)
- Province of South Carolina (Great Britain 1712 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Province of New Hampshire (England 1629 - 30 Apr 1707,Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Colony of Virginia (England 14 May 1607 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Province of New York (England 1664 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Province of North Carolina (Great Britain 1712 - 04 Jul 1776)
- Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (England 1636 - 30 Apr 1707, Great Britain 01 May 1707 - 04 Jul 1776)
- New Netherland (Dutch Republic 1614-1674) contained the areas that would become New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and parts of Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Prior to the establishment of English rule in those colonies they would have been referred to as New Netherland
Believe me, when you are dealing with these pre-US locations your head will be spinning. Another thing that will throw you off are Districts vs. Counties (South Carolina) and Parishes vs. Counties (Georgia). These jurisdictions are not the same as counties so I do use the word District and the word Parish in the location.
- Skidaway Island, Christ Church Parish, Province of Georgia, Great Britain
- Edgefield, Ninety-Six District, Province of South Carolina, Great Britain
Again, you will definitely see some variation with pre-US locations because no clear standard has been established.
Another interesting location dilemma is when you have someone who was born, or who died, at sea. Normally I record it this way:
USS North Carolina, Pacific Ocean, At Sea
There is no way to get this one to fit into the 4 jurisdiction convention.
There is one last location term I want to mention and that is the word "of." "Of" is a very powerful word and I use it all the time. It is a recognized standard but I think it is underutilized. Here is an example from my own genealogical research. I have no idea where my 4th great-grandparents James Simmons and Ellenor Lee were born. I do know that two of their known sons were born in South Carolina in 1794 and in 1797. That is the earliest record I have for James and Ellenor so I record their place of birth as:
, , of South Carolina, United States (in reports this would be simply, "of South Carolina")
Slawson, Mary H. Getting It Right, The Definitive Guide to Recording Family History Accurately. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Malloy Lithographing Incorporated, 2002.
Though I don't agree with everything in the book, Mary has done a good job addressing some of the unusual situations you will come across. The book does needs to be updated but it still presents solid information.
Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.