[APG Public List] Actual Physical Location

Ray Beere Johnson II raybeere at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 1 14:08:37 MDT 2010

     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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