[APG Public List] Actual Physical Location

Ray Beere Johnson II raybeere at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 7 14:45:00 MST 2010

--- On Sun, 11/7/10, Larry Boswell <laboswell at rogers.com> wrote:

> you're assuming that your ancestor's parents didn't switch faiths, or 
> parish churches, while remaining in the same general location. Rarely a 
> simple process to match parish to residence, but that's not the issue. 

     But you just made my point for me. That is _exactly_ why I'd prefer to know "great-granddad was born in XYZ Parish" (assuming the information was accurate - a caveat which applies equally to _any_ sort of information; inaccurate information is never very helpful, even if occasionally we get a little use out of it) over a set of geographic co-ordinates listing the location where his parents lived when he was born. Knowing the parish, it would be a (relatively) simple matter to trace those records down to where they are today. So, in my opinion, this would be the best path for assembling the most details of the story of their lives - in most cases, at least.
     Beyond this, I did _not_ ever suggest that knowing just where someone lived wasn't interesting. It is something I'd like to know, although in many cases the records are vague enough I couldn't place the location of a house with any great accuracy. It is a great detail to add - along with (in my opinion) photos of that location as it appears on [date] so, as older landmarks are destroyed, later generations may get a slightly better sense of what that location might have been like once.
     I _DO_ think it is important to _also_ include notes which make plain the limitations of such information. How sure are you that you have the _exact_ location? (For any careful researcher, the answer to this question will, of course, depend on the exact circumstances.) How similar do you believe the area to be today to what it once was - with footnotes to explain your reasoning.
     I am not arguing - and never intended to argue - that geographic co-ordinates are not a valuable piece of information. I am arguing two separate points.
     1: Geographic co-ordinates are not (in my opinion) _the_ most important piece of information you could have. Actually, I'm not sure there is _any_ one type of fact I'd define in quite that way. But I was seeking to refute what I perceived as an attempt by some to establish them as uniquely preferable to any other piece of information, the "key to it all", as it were. Which bit of information is the "key to it all" really depends very much on the specific individual and circumstances.
     2: The value of any such co-ordinates is directly related to how much supporting information is provided with them. A simple string of numbers from an anonymous researcher is worth just about as much as simple unexplained birth date from that same anonymous researcher. In other words, very little. Co-ordinates that include an explanation of how they were derived, and that are backed up with supporting details, _are_ worth quite a bit. This second point is important because, if we fail to clearly make this case, a lot of people are going to start including strings of numbers which are essentially worthless.
     Would you find standing in that parking lot in Manchester nearly as meaningful if you got there by way of co-ordinates provided by a stranger, with no way to be sure your ancestor didn't really live several miles away - or even further afield? Somehow, I doubt it.
                         Ray Beere Johnson II


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