[APG Public List] Actual Physical Location

John Yates john at jytangledweb.org
Mon Nov 1 18:02:31 MDT 2010

Ray, I'm afraid your interest in genealogy comes in a different
direction than mine. My primary interest is to preserve history,
the history of my ancestors, as best I can. I have no interest
in records other than that they are indispensable in finding the
truth of my ancestors. That includes where they lived, where they
came from, precise locations, etc. When it comes time to write
the story of my family (should I ever get to that), the
interesting story is the text, the more boring sources are
relegated to footnotes. Needed for proof, but they aren't
really the interesting story.

I cherish that I have the GPS coordinates of the river bank
where my ancestor came and decided to stay, and built a
boat works. And I have the GPS coordinates up the hill, where
he and his family are buried. With two simple numbers I can
tell anyone in the world how to find that little cemetery
hidden in the edge of the woods. (which took me a month of
people networking and three drive bys to find it myself).

I hang around several historians, generally older than myself
who show me where things used to be. Most of them are not
computer literate, and don't do genealogy or publish history.
(some do). But I listen to them, take in history. I record
GPS coordinates of sites they point out, take photographs, and
try to preserve at least some of what they know from first
hand experience. Valuable historical information that could be
gone soon. And some of it ties in with my family genealogy.

It is all evidence. GPS allows us to record pieces of evidence.
Let me quote from "Evidence Explained": "Sources provide information,
from which we select evidence for analysis. A sound conclusion
may then be considered proof".

We need to document why we believe a site is the site we say.
Digital Coordinates are just a handy tool to convey the information
of where the site is. Nothing more.

And from the Forward of "Evidence Explained":
"All sources lie. --Lawrence of Arabia"

This means that some of the documents you have found and accepted
are bound to be incorrect also. Maybe our trees are wrong
beyond a certain point. Maybe the father wasn't who it was
supposed to be! Maybe DNA can prove/disprove some lineages.
Another topic that no doubt will have followers and naysayers.

We can only do our best at gathering and analyzing evidence.
GPS data helps some of us with the analysis.

Anyone can choose to use any tool or not to use any tool. I choose
not to use zip code plus 4 in my addresses, and often don't include
zip code itself in place locations. But I'm sure some people use it all.
I don't say the program shouldn't be able to handle it.

Digital location, no digital location. To each their own. If someone
had two copies of a published genealogy, one without digital locations,
and one with some digital locations, I'll take the one with, please.

I know that I want a tool that allows me to do justice to digital
locations. I think many others do also. Others can use those fields
and source templates or not.


On 11/1/2010 4:08 PM, Ray Beere Johnson II wrote:
> Larry;
>       For most of our research, the one thing we are most interested in finding is _records_. Those are found by knowing artificial boundaries, not actual physical location. There are German records - ones captured in wartime - in the US National Archives. They are nowhere near the actual physical location where they were created.
>       Even if we could somehow overlay old maps over modern ones and determine the precise actual physical location in a vast shopping centre parking lot where great-great-grandpa's farmhouse once stood, what will all that effort give us? We won't even know if the house once stood on top of a hill or sat at the bottom of a valley, because the land may have been leveled when it was turned into a parking lot.
>       Yes, there are times when you do want to know the actual physical location. I am not saying it is always bad. I _am_ saying that for _any_ researcher to allow themselves to become too focused on any one thing will _always_ - sooner or later - lead them astray. That is true whether you are talking of actual physical location, the name of the town, or any other detail. Don't get hung up on it.
>       And I do still disagree with your original statement. My disagreement was not because I think knowing the actual physical location is never worthwhile. It was because I _do_ believe that the artificial boundaries are where the records are found - and records are at the heart of everything we do. So, for _that_ reason, I think that physical location is less central to our research than administrative divisions. Example: I'd find it far more useful to know "great-grandpa was born in X state" (where knowing the state would allow me to locate the records for that time period) than to know precisely where the farm where he was born was located, but have such a poor idea of _when_ that the record might be in any of a dozen different repositories. (I certainly am not saying we shouldn't check out every one of a dozen repositories if that's what we need to do, merely that knowing the repository is the real key to learning more in almost every situation.)
>                                     Ray Beere Johnson II
> --- On Mon, 11/1/10, LBoswell<laboswell at rogers.com>  wrote:
>> If establishing the "actual physical location" is meaningless, then why
>> would you want to try and establish coordinates for it?  There has to
>> be some purpose for doing so that is perceived by the researcher.  But
>> in the case you describe then the family did live in one location.  You
>> might have been able to find more of that type of "record created in a
>> nearby location" type of thing if you carefully used maps (whether
>> establishing coordinates or not) and data tracking family and extended
>> family.
>> If physical location and fact are going to be misleading then just like
>> you would have to explain why the records were recorded in a one
>> location, while the family lived in another location, _whether or not
>> you also marked one or the other using a mapping tool_.

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