[APG Public List] [APG Members] place names

John john at jytangledweb.org
Tue Oct 26 22:14:07 MDT 2010

On 10/25/2010 9:01 PM, Elissa Scalise Powell, CG wrote:
> John, Do you mean the recent conference in Pittsburgh that Elizabeth Mills
> gave on Saturday? A great time was had by all at this fun day.

Yes! Thank you and your associates for making it happen!

> Helpful as GPS coordinates are, the caution should be more than that, IMHO.
> Just like "about" dates get turned into real ones through later
> interpretation or entry into absolute databases with no "about" feature, the
> GPS coordinates could be guesswork or preliminary findings of the
> originator. Sure your car can take you there but is "there" the place that
> is correct?

Indeed. For gravestones and cemeteries hidden in the woods, my usual
caution is that I have to find it and record the GPS coordinates
myself. For sites that still exist, this is at least theoretically
possible. If someone give me GPS coordinates, I can eyeball them on
a map, and record who gave them to me and even assign a "surety"
number. For sites gone, evidence would have to be recorded as to
why I'd believe the coordinates to be true.

I am just a beginner with Evidence Style nomenclature, but not with
scientific investigations (being a Ph.D. chemist). Putting my thinking
cap on with what GPS coordinates are, they are simply physical
attributes of a physical object. If we think of a person as a physical
object, they have height, weight, eye color, etc. And if we choose
to include that in our genealogies, each should have a source.

If the physical object is a place (like a grave stone, a house location,
... the GPS coordinates are simply an attribute of that place. So I
misspoke that it is a source, but it is just another attribute of
a physical object that itself would require sourcing. Did I record
the GPS coordinate? What device did I use? What coordinate system
does that device use/or did I use? What is the RMSD (Root Mean Square
Deviation) accuracy? One can go overboard with too much detail, but
some day someone might want to record all of those things and more.

Some computer programs have fields built in for recording GPS
coordinates, and some actually ask if you want the program to
fill in GPS coordinates for locations. That could be helpful, or
a slippery slope. It is helpful for producing maps of where your
ancestors came from, as long as you use common sense interpreting
the GPS data. I would know from my notes if it is a more precise
location that I had taken pains to record vs. Bremen, Germany
that the program put on the map because it finds ancestors there
in my file and did a GPS lookup of some sort. (If I let it do that!)

> This reminds me of my pastor who took his family to England. He knew within
> about 5 miles of where his ancestors lived. So he picked a place in the area
> and told his family that this was where they lived. Close enough for him,
> but not for a careful genealogist.

Yes, but if he used language like "this is the locale (+/-5 miles) where
my ancestors lived", as I would, it would properly convey the
information. And you could record him as the source for that place's
attribute. With a "surety" as well. ;-)


> We had a saying back in my computer days: GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
> Hence we need to be careful with any information we pass along or even have
> in our notes without a caveat. My preference is to not really say something
> as concrete as a GPS heading without being really sure that "this is the
> place."
> My .02,
> Elissa
> Elissa Scalise Powell, CG
> www.PowellGenealogy.com
> CG and Certified Genealogist are Service Marks of the Board for
> Certification of Genealogists, used under license by board certificants
> after periodic evaluations by the Board.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: On Behalf Of John
>> Sent: Monday, October 25, 2010 8:29 PM
>> I think the caution of using them can be addressed in the description
>> (citation detail?) of what the site is. Mostly, distinct locations
>> (house site, cemetery site, grave stone site; remember most GPS devices
>> today are only accurate to +/-15feet) can be annotated as "Grave Site
>> of..." etc.
>> I use my GPS for finding almost all new sites these days. I just used
>> it to find my accommodations near Pittsburgh and the site of a
>> conference. I almost never use or need printed maps any more for
>> travel.

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