[APG Public List] Actual Physical Location

LBoswell laboswell at rogers.com
Mon Nov 1 17:39:49 MDT 2010

Ray, I probably have picked that up along the way.  But the only way you 
know which artificial boundaries apply is to know where a specific location 
is.  That's genealogy research 101.

Do you do any British research?  What you describe is common there.

I strongly disagree that knowing locations and how they relate to both the 
jurisdictional and geographic "landscape" isn't critical to successful, 
complete research outcomes (both those "landscapes").

London has been rearranged many times by fire and other factors.  The Blitz 
wiped out many churches, reduced whole areas to rubble. But that doesn't 
change the historical location which can still be pinpointed. Doesn't matter 
if it was levelled, or a mountain turned into a valley.  In it's own time 
period it was there, and that's the period that's been reconstructed. 
Knowing where that historic location is now can tell you what modern (or 
relatively modern) repository holds the records from the location before 
mountain became valley.  Most parish registers for churches in the Greater 
London area are on deposit at the London metropolitan library, but so are 
others from neighbouring counties outside of Greater London.  Far from the 
church that originally created them.  But I only know they're in London now 
if I know the location was in one of those stray parishes.

I can only think we must be all talking past each other. This is fundamental 
stuff here.


----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Ray Beere Johnson II
  To: APG Posting
  Sent: Monday, November 01, 2010 4:08 PM
  Subject: Re: [APG Public List] Actual Physical Location

       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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