Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Standard dates and places in the FamilySearch Family Tree

NOTE: This is another post where you need to read the comments. There is some really good information in addition to what I wrote originally.

This entry in the Family Tree looks fine to most users of the program. However, in an attempt to establish some uniformity in dates and place names and to increase the accuracy of record hints and searches, there has been for some time a system of standardized dates and place names. If I edit this particular entry, I will see the suggested standardized place name.

In some cases, even though the date looks identical to the suggested standard, the date hasn't been "standardized" and a warning will come up in the program to that effect. However, in viewing this entry, there are some other considerations.

The rule to follow with regards to place names is that the place needs to be recorded as it was at the time the event occurred. Here Utah became a state in 1896, so the designation "Utah" is inaccurate. Even though the suggested standard agrees, there are really more choices.

The "correct" choice is as follows:

To substitute the "correct" place name, you click your cursor to the right of the text to be changed and hit the spacebar. The choices above will appear and you can then select the most appropriate choice. 

Here is the saved entry:

If you do not find a "correct" entry among the choices shown and you know your entry is correct, then click outside of the box on the screen somewhere and your entry will be preserved. 


  1. You ended this blog article too soon. But then almost everyone else stops discussions of standards too soon, also.

    I would suggest revising and expanding your last paragraph to say:

    “If your correct historical place name is not yet included in the standards list, then after typing in the complete, correct name click outside of the box on the screen somewhere and your entry will be preserved. Check the green bar to make sure an appropriate equivalent location has been entered there. If not, click on the green bar and choose one from the list. This green bar does not need to be historically accurate but it does need to be geographically accurate. Often the best choice for the green bar will end up covering a larger geographic area.

    “Also, if you wish to include more specific information in your place name such as:

    20 February 1871
    First Ward Chapel, 740 South 8th East, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah Territory, United States

    you can type in the complete, correct name and click outside of the box on the screen somewhere. Be sure to check the green bar and correct it if necessary.”

    1. You are right, but sometimes even I run out of time to keep typing. :-) Thanks for the additional explanation. There is, by the way, a Help Center document that goes into greater detail that I could also have mentioned. See Entering Standardized Dates and Places

  2. If the objective is to record place names as they were at the time of the event, then for events VERY early in Salt Lake City's history (21 July 1847-at least 2 Feb 1848) , the correct form should arguably be "Great Salt Lake City, Alta California, Mexico". From Feb 1850 until 1868, it was "Great Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Territory, United States of America".

    To me, the only solution is for genealogical databases to expect two place names to be entered for each event -- one standardized one based on what is used now and one based on what was used at the time of the event. Having the standardized modern place name greatly simplifies matching with records from Internet databases, and it enables accurate automated proximity seaches.

    1. I very much agree with you. The solution would be to show both the place at the time of the event and the standardized place. They may be the same, but as you point out, they may not be.

    2. Family Tree is the only genealogical database I am aware of that not only expects two place names to be entered, but requires it. These are the place name in the white box which has wide latitude in how you enter it and the place name in the green box that is the standardized version that may not always be the modern place name, but internally shares the same geo-code as the modern place name for matching records and which is used for the new mapping feature in the Family Tree mobile app. The system is pretty good, but not perfect yet.

      Take Chad’s two examples. Enter "Great Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Territory, United States of America” in the white box, click outside it, and you will get “Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah Territory, United States” in the green box. Enter “Great Salt Lake City, Alta California, Mexico” and you don’t get any good choices for the green box. I suspect it got overlooked or skipped if the area only had that name for just 7 months. People can send in requests to have missing place names added. If you enter just “Alta California, Mexico,” you get two choices for the green box, “Alta California, Mexico” and “Alta California, New Spain.”

    3. It looks like I need to come back to the topic sometime soon with another more complete blog post. Thanks for the additional comments and updates.