I must say that the FamilySearch Labs website is not one of the better known FamilySearch online offerings. There are presently six programs on the website and three of them are marked "Retired." So, it is a surprise to find out that one of the remaining three programs, the "Standard Finder," has also been retired by being replaced. The new website is called the "Place Research Tool." This program does not show up on the FamilySearch Labs website and I can only wonder and speculate that this particular FamilySearch website will eventually disappear. I believe that both the remaining Labs programs have already been integrated into the main FamilySearch.org website. Community Trees is available on the Search Genealogies page and the England Jurisdictions 1851 map is the only one that is not in the already-used-someplace-else category.
So what in the world is "Place Research?" The web page itself is devoid of help menu or instructions of any kind. There is a link at the bottom of the page to "About." This explains as follows:
Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away. Marcus Aurelius
As time progresses places are built, destroyed, renamed or conquered. As researchers track family histories across centuries, it becomes important to track the historical context of places as well.
Place Research is a FamilySearch application which provides access to standardized information about locations. This information is used by several FamilySearch applications to assist researchers in searching for exact spellings, checking whether locations exist, as well as determining alternate name spellings/variants to expand research.
The immensity of the data being collected and cross-referenced is enormous and ever-growing. If you come across information you feel is incorrect or incomplete, please use the feedback link so we can make corrections and improve this data for future work.I appreciate the quote from Marcus Aurelius but the explanation following certainly leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Some additional language comes from the now defunct Standard Finder website:
Standard Finder is a FamilySearch Labs application which provides access to standardized information for names, locations, and dates. These databases are used by several FamilySearch applications to assist researchers in searching for exact spellings, as well as indexers who enter information used for RecordSearch.
As can be imagined, the immensity of the data being collected and cross-referenced is enormous and will not always be correct. If you come across information you feel is incorrect, please use the feedback link so we can continue to make corrections to improve this data for future work. As you search, please remember, too, that historical perspectives affect the usability and correctness of the data.
As a standalone application, Standard Finder can be of assistance to researchers in determining proper spellings of locations, checking whether locations exist, as well as determining alternate name spellings/variants to expand research.Going back to the Place Research website, it turns out that more detailed explanations of the operation of the program are contained in the "Guidelines" section of the About menu. I hesitate to reproduce the entire long explanations, but there seems to be no alternative. Here we go:
I decided to leave it formatted as it is in the original. Let me see if I can boil this all down to a more understandable form. The computer needs standard place names. We may not like the idea at all, but have to concede the need to use some sort-of standard. Now, the question is, how do you standardize something that is inherently not standardized. For example, part of my family comes from a town in Eastern Arizona called "St. Johns." However, the name of the town is also spelled "Saint Johns." If you are searching for this place, the two names fall into quite different parts of the alphabet. (i.e. "sa" vs. st."). However, they are both commonly used. Which one do you select for the "standard?" Quoting from the instructions above: "Generally speaking, a place will only have one place representation for any given time." That may be "generally" true, but having multiple names for a single location is not uncommon.
When you get down to it, selecting a "standard" name for a location is an arbitrary process. Granted the place names change over time, but they may also change over proximity to the actual location. For example, answer this question: what is the name of the state just south of Arizona? A variation on this question is what is the name of the country just south of Arizona? Do you think you know the answer? Good Luck unless you happen to speak Spanish and had looked up both names. Here is a hint:
OK, this blog post is already too long, but this topic is far from exhausted. I shall return!