[APG Public List] Historical vs Current Name Places

Stephen Danko stephen at stephendanko.com
Tue Mar 2 02:24:11 MST 2010

I, personally, record place names as they were at the time of the event. This is important for my family history because, over the centuries, the political and administrative borders shifted so that my ancestors lived in several different countries throughout history, although my ancestors stayed in basically the same place. One ancestor in particular was born in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, lived in the Prussian Empire and the Duchy of Warsaw (controlled by France), and died in the Congress Kingdom of Poland (controlled by the Russian Empire), although he never moved.

Recording place names as they were at the times the events occurred helps define the geopolitical events in my ancestors' lives and places the lives of my ancestors in a historical context which, I think, greatly enriches my family history.

Recording place names as they are at the present time also suffers from one serious shortcoming. If the place names change in the future, the researcher will then have to go back and change all the place names in the database in order to keep everything up to date. Given that the borders and administrative divisions of Poland have changed four times since World War II (1945, 1950, 1975, and 1999), recording the current place names would have required a lot of work just to update the place names in the database.

I wrote an article that addressed this subject on my blog about a year ago at http://stephendanko.com/blog/index.php/archives/3478 .

Best regards,
Stephen J. Danko, PhD, PLCGS

From: Renee Zamora <harrisena at gmail.com>
To: APG Public List <apgpubliclist at apgen.org>
Sent: Mon, March 1, 2010 8:24:48 PM
Subject: [APG Public List] Historical vs Current Name Places

I have a personal question and wondering if I could get a feel for how others do this.  In the past I recorded name places based on where they were located currently.  Simply because it was easy to lookup.  Then I started to put the historical places based on the event's time frame.  Now my database has part current and historical name places, simple because I never transferred everything over.

Since starting to use new FamilySearch I see that they are trying to record places as they are known currently.  Should I follow and change everything in my database to reflect it's current location?  I could record a place currently as "Queensbury, Warren, New York, United States" and then in event notes put formerly "Washington County" to reflect the historical event. Then in the individual summary it will note the change historically.

The benefit of doing this would help me keep my place list neat in my database.  I just wanted to know how others are handling this, and the pros and cons of each way.

Renee Zamora
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