Tips from the Pros: Recording Locations, from George G. Morgan

For each of your ancestors’ vital dates (birth, marriage and death), always record the precise location as it existed at the time of the event. That means listing the town, the county or parish, and the state for U.S. events. For foreign locations, the town, province, and county should be recorded. More important, because boundaries and jurisdictions change so much over time, make certain you have the correct county or state, or province, or country listed as it existed when the event occurred. This is important to you for purposes of locating copies of records and important for future researchers who want to confirm your research and obtain copies for themselves.

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9 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Recording Locations, from George G. Morgan

  1. Thank you for reminding people to record the location as it was at the time of the event. There is nothing more annoying than to see a modern location attached to an old event. A common example would be saying someone was born in Ohio County, West Virginia in 1825 when it would be more correct to say they were born in Ohio County, Virginia (now West Virginia) or even Ohio County [West] Virginia.

    When I see such errors my first thought is to question how accurate is the rest of the data. One error in a document or posting can be forgiven, but more than that calls into question the compentency of the researcher. There is excuse for being so sloppy.

  2. Excellent advice; but in most (European) countries, the province is the equivalent of our stte — the major subsivision of the country. Therfore, outside of the U.S., it is proper to say you should record the town/village, county (or equivalent), province and country; rather than town/village, province and county.

  3. Very sound advice, but I would add that all names should be spelled out i.e. Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan NOT Detroit, Wayne, MI or Detroit, Wayne Co, MI. Abbrevations change with time. Geographpy is one aspect of genealogy that we all need to learn.

  4. Great advice that is often overlooked! My tool of choice for figuring out the U.S. county location on old stuff is AniMap You can mark a location and then scroll thru the county boundary changes over the years.

  5. Example, please! My father came from Lackawanna County, PA, which was Luzerne County until 1878. So do I say his ancestors were born in: Greenfield Twp, Luzerne County [now Scott Twp, Lackawanna County] PA –or Scott Twp, Lackawanna County [originally part of Greenfield Twp, Luzerne County] PA –or ??

  6. Re Joyce Ogden’s request for an example. Either way you mentioned in your posting is okay. The point it to acknowledge the location name at the time of the event as that often effects where one finds the records. Letting folks know the present location name alerts the reader to a change which they can then look into to see when it occured and if that effects where they must look for records. If there were several changes you might want to put the details in an endnote or footnote.

    An example: what is now the town of Rockport, Knox County, Maine has been in four counties since it was settled in 1759, has gone by two village names, and has been part of another town before being incorporated under it’s own name.

    So events in 1810 occurred in Goose River Village, Town of Camden, Lincoln County, District of Maine, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

    For an event in 1821 one would change only the district and state name to give the final, broad location as Maine.

    In the 1858 events occurred in Rockport Village, Town of Camden, Waldo County, Maine.

    In 1861 events occurred in Rockport Village, Town of Camden, Knox County, Maine.

    In 1895 events occurred in Rockport, Knox County, Maine.

    I left out a few variations from other time periods, but you get the idea.

  7. I have recently come against a quandry similar to that noted by Joyce Ogden. In my case I identified an address in Berlin for my great grandfater. When I compared to current maps I found that street name (Treskowstrasse) shown in 5 different parts of Berlin. When I look at the little “stick map” included in the early (I’m looking at 1902 right now) Berlin directories (in the house by street cross reference) I find that the street that used to be called Treskowstrasse is now called Knaackstrasse. So, if I include the address in my records, I think I need also to include a map-lette showing the original street and its “translation” to the new street so that any others would not confuse what’s where.

  8. Excellent point.

    My problem is with people who are born at home who then list their post office address as their place of birth. Or I have many people who list their children’s birth place as their home address when they were actually born in another town in the hospital.

    I find I can only trust my own research.

  9. For consistency in my database, I find it best to record the location of the time of the event and then add the modern day equivalent in the notes/comments section, otherwise my searches are not consistent.

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