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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pay Attention to Place Names in the FamilySearch Family Tree

As I help patrons at the Brigham Young University Family History Library and friends and others who ask for help, I am constantly reviewing the entries they have in the Family Tree. One of the things that I note most frequently is a lack of attention to the details of place names. Unfortunately, I do not have to go too far in my own portion of the Family Tree to find the same issues as examples.

Here is a sample of the place listings for one family I have yet to work on.
  • Udimore, Sussex, Eng
  • , Udimore, Sussex, England, United Kingdom
  • Udimore Suss., ENGLAND
  • Udimore,Sussex,England
  • Udimore,, Sussex, Eng
One of the members of this family is reported to have been christened and married in Rolvenden, Kent, England. The time frame with these entries is from the late 1600s to the early to mid-1700s. If I continue forward in time, I find that his son's family has the following place names:
  • Udimore, Sussex, Eng
  • Udimore, Suss., Eng.
  • Sedlescombe, Sussex, England
  • Battle, Sussex, England
  • of Sedlescombe, Suss., Eng.
  • , Sedlescombe, Sussex, England, United Kingdom
  • Rolvenden, Kent, England
From this point on to the present, the family is found entirely in Rolvenden, Kent, England or in places closely associated with Rolvenden.

Now, this may not seem like an important issue, but the places need to be put in the context of the time period. In addition, it might also be helpful to note that these families were classed as agricultural workers and that the family intermarried with families of other agricultural workers in Kent. Because of social and physical limitations, it is very unlikely that events in the lives of your ancestors living before the mid-1800s would have been able to travel to different counties or even different parishes for the events to occur. There are exceptions, but the general rule is that before 1850 most people's birth, marriage and death occurred within a six mile radius.

Here is a screenshot of a Google Map showing the distance between Udimore and Rolvenden.

This is certainly a possible situation even for the the 1600s. Here is what it looks like when you

Still not too impossible, but starting to look a little spread out for the average distances between life events. But the issue here is not so much the locations themselves, it is the way they have been recorded.

The extra commas and the abbreviations are an inheritance from the time when we had to cram place names into a certain space on a paper family group record or into a character limited field in the old Personal Ancestral File program. Many older genealogists see nothing at all wrong with these entries. The problem is that the computer considers commas and spaces as significant in some cases. In addition, the abbreviations can be confusing, not only to the computer program but also to other users.

In addition, the United Kingdom began in 1707 with the political union of England and Scotland. References to the United Kingdom before that date are inaccurate and inappropriate. The rule is that the places are recorded as they existed at the time the event reported occurred.

There is also the issue of standardized dates and places on the Family Tree. Using a standardized place helps clarify the information and helps the Find and hints features of the Family Tree. The list of standardized places is growing constantly, but it does not yet reflect all the historical places possible, so in these cases, the actual place at the time should be selected. There is a process for accepting an alternative "standard." See the Help Center article entitled, "Entering standardized dates and places."

Here is the standardized places for all of the entries above.
  • Udimore, Sussex, England
  • Sedlescombe, Sussex, England
  • Battle, Sussex, England
  • Rolvenden, Kent, England
If any of the dates associated with these places were during the existence of the United Kingdom, it would also be appropriate to add that designation.

Correcting and standardizing entries in the Family Tree is not a trivial or make-work activity, it is a valuable way to make the data more accurate.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this article! I have been wondering for a long time about all the commas and such. My tree seems to be full of them, and I am constantly correcting them because I want them to be correct in my family tree. In the section that pops up and asks "why you feel this is correct?" I always put a note that I am correcting the entry be it town, city or such. I hope that is the correct way to do this,. When searching for info on this subject I could not find anything to guide me. So again thank you!