[APG Public List] Actual Physical Location

Larry Boswell laboswell at rogers.com
Sun Nov 7 16:59:58 MST 2010


I put the same diligence into establishing facts no matter what they are.  It's rare that you're going to be able to pinpoint an exact location, say a street address from 1840 that is now under a London transit rail system.  You can see the streets on old maps, compare the addresses, look at things like Booth's notebooks, even track the order of addresses and streets on several censuses,  attempting to reconstruct the enumeratos' movements (which is a valuable way to narrow down a location) through cross streets, doubling back up one side and so on.  Cross referencing it to other sources. Like anything else it's established by analysis and examining as wide a range of information as is necessary given a particular time/location.  When I go to an overlay on London, Google earth and pick off coordinates, I've already developed a very thorough case as to why I'm picking that location, on that particular overlay.  And sometimes I'm off by a few blocks, but more often am pretty close because I do the work that's necessary.  Same as I do to establish any "fact" in a genealogical project.  

But the difference with coordinates, is that once established you can do some very interesting things with them.  I rarely work with one set of coordinates in isolation, attached to one location.  Normally I would have established maybe two dozen of these things, maybe far more.  Space over time.   Combined with information from the documents and records, some interesting things can emerge. 

Put it this way,  I'm wary of advice or offerings from strangers (hah!).   Seriously, though any coordinates or named locations given to me, I'll be very rigorous in looking at the validity of them.  It's not always easy to establish such things.  Narrowing down to the parking lot was actually an interesting, complicated run of research.  But without doubt I can pinpoint the exact spot where the cottage stood.  Though my intent in wanting to establish  that location grew from very personal reasons, I apply that same level of rigorous evaluation to any set of coordinates (or for that matter any fact)

this particular "fact" (coordinates) is treated no differently than any other genealogical fact (but what i can do with it after, or potentially do with coordinates is very interesting, and is looking more interesting all the time)

[finally a computer that can spell check in "Canadian"!)


Larry
On 2010-11-07, at 4:45 PM, Ray Beere Johnson II wrote:

> --- 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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