[APG Public List] [APG Members] citing coordinates (was place names)

LBoswell laboswell at rogers.com
Thu Oct 28 07:44:05 MDT 2010

These are excellent.  I think the coordinates themselves have to be 
justified by using the same techniques used in other areas of genealogical 
research.  So I can see the coordinates themselves being cited separately. 
Where did the coordinates come from?  What evidence or facts justify 
attaching a particular name to a particular set of coordinates?  And so on.

So would the coordinates be cited say to having been sourced from a 
particular map.  Or use of a gps at the actual spot being given the 
coordinates in the field?   Or from a text description that then was 
interpreted using a historical overlay or map?  Or all of the above if 
applicable, but separately cited?

I like your analogy to photos though.  GPS is really taking a 'snapshot' of 
coordinates in a field.  That's a nice creative way to get at it

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Terry Reigel
  To: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
  Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:04 AM
  Subject: Re: [APG Public List] [APG Members] place names

  Elizabeth wrote:

  > Thanks for all your input on this subject. It's been a
  > very informative discussion. Would you like to suggest
  > the kind of citation that might be useful, going forward
  > into the unknown, based on the variables that have been
  > discussed?


  For the moment I'll stop short of specifics but will offer some thoughts 
that might guide how a citation might be constructed. I see three separate 
aspects involved:

  1. Describing the source of the coordinates itself. In my experience, 
there are at least three distinct ways that coordinates are obtained:

  - By a database search. One can search on an online mapping site, like 
Google Maps, for a specific place and if it is identified the coordinates 
can be obtained. Other types of websites list places, sometimes with their 
coordinates. I think you can do the same with various computer programs. 
There may be books that do so as well, though I've not found them. It seems 
to me that citing such websites or books is well covered by existing models. 
It seems to me rather like citing any other bit of data found in such a 

  - By locating a place on a map. One can use an online mapping site, a 
mapping program, or even a physical map, to locate a place, then obtain the 
coordinates. This method requires describing the source as above, but also 
introduces the issue of the user having identified the location. Unless one 
is dealing with a point named on the map, shouldn't the citation say 
something about how one determined that the specific spot was the right one?

  - By going to the place and using a GPS device to determine the 
coordinates. This seems to me rather like taking a photo of something. One 
should describe who gathered the data, and perhaps, if not clear, how that 
person determined that this was the correct location. It is not clear to me 
that the details of the device used are important, any more than one would 
record what type of camera was used. For very small points, like a specific 
tombstone, the precision of the device might be relevant. But for anything 
larger it is not.

  2. Describing what was located. This is a point addressed previously in 
this thread. For relatively small "places," like tombstones or buildings, 
this is not an issue. But for larger places, such as towns or counties, it 
seems to me important to include in the citation a mention of what was 
located - the post office, center of town, or whatever.

  3. The practical aspects of citing coordinates. While not necessarily 
relevant to the citation templates, the question remains about how to attach 
the citation to the coordinates. One can attach the citation to the 
appropriate part of the text in hand-written documents. But genealogy 
programs seem to differ in their treatment of coordinates, and someone here 
reported that at least one doesn't allow attaching citations to the 
coordinate field. Other programs make the coordinates part of the larger 
place definition, requiring that the citation note mention that it relates 
to the coordinates, and not to the rest of the place description.

  Terry Reigel 
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