[APG Public List] [APG Members] place names

LBoswell laboswell at rogers.com
Mon Oct 25 14:30:02 MDT 2010

I certainly don't think they're "better than nothing."  I think they're a 
huge improvement on using names tied to a particular time and era, whether 
historical or modern.  Those coordinates will never change. They can be far 
more precise than a "place name" when that's appropriate and required.  And 
they can be used to generally locate a jurisdiction where a particular 
location within that jurisdiction is not known.  Centre the coordinates on 
the general town or township, using footnotes tied to the township or town 
level (rather than a street or particular rural address if none is known).

Clients like them because they can plot their ancestral location easily, get 
specific or general directions to the areas.  The coordinates can be plugged 
into dozens of programs and mapping software.  Multiple names over time for 
the same location can be anchored to an unchanging set of coordinates.

Just because it would be a new type of way of noting locations doesn't mean 
we should reject it out of hand.  Eventually this type of coordinate system 
will have to be the norm

The "use historical name or the modern name" is a non-argument.  All place 
names can change over time.  Modern names are not immune to that, and I can 
cite dozens of modern name changes that have taken place in the last few 
years.  When  the city of Nepean, Carleton Co., Ontario, the town of 
Metcalfe, and a dozen other locales all were absorbed by the city of Ottawa, 
they were the modern names for various locations within them.  Now they're 
no more, so anything entered using the 'modern name' of Nepean is simply 
'historical' reference now.  And there's a chance part of the city will 
break apart again.  It's happened for most places over time.

but the coordinates don't change.  Tie the various name changes over time 
for a location to one set of coordinates and you've got something that is 
reliable, and will always point to the same place no matter how many name 
changes the place goes through (or has gone through).

It makes sense, period.  And it's a good fit with everything digital. 
Instantly catalogued and accessible as maps, descriptions, and able to bring 
up every name associated with a local



----- Original Message ----- 
  From: eshown at comcast.net
  To: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
  Sent: Monday, October 25, 2010 2:38 PM
  Subject: Re: [APG Public List] [APG Members] place names

  Michael wrote:

  >I may be in the distinct minority, but I only use gps coordinates when I 
am certain I have a relatively precise location. .
  >My grandmother's 1910 birth only indicates the township in which she was 
born. In this instance, that's a square 6 miles on a side. I have no idea 
where in the township she was born (her father was a tenant farmer and I 
don't know the location where he rented).

  You make a very good point, Michael. Especially so with farm families that 
did not own land. Tenant and sharecropping families tended to move every 
year or so. Even if they stayed within the same township for the duration of 
their working lives, thirty-six square miles makes for too large an area to 
arbitrarily assign coordinates.

  >Various software and sites will assign coordinates to this location, but 
they are (in my opinion) arbitrarily precise. If I were to use coordinates 
(which I don't in this case), I would only indicate the four corners of the 

  >Use of GPS isn't the only scenario where more accuracy is assigned than 
is implied.

  Agreed. While some researchers do feel that arbitrarily assigned 
coordinates are "better than nothing" and some trusting clients seem pleased 
to have them, I share your caution here.


  Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <../attachments/20101025/ee98e46f/attachment.htm>

More information about the APGPublicList mailing list