Place names change over time as the boundaries and jurisdictions are modified. Genealogists should use the place name as it existed at the time of the event. For example, the location of a family living in the same house in Preston for 40 years could be recorded at different times as:
Preston, Oneida, Idaho Territory, United States (1880)
Preston, Oneida, Idaho, United States (1900)
Preston, Franklin, Idaho, United States (1920)
Idaho county map, 1900 Idaho county map, 1920
Recording Historical Places in Family Tree
In FamilySearch.org FamilyTree, a list of standardized places are suggested when you type a place. Standards help:
- Clarify the place so other users are not left to guess whether the entry of “Boston” means Boston, Massachusetts or Boston, Lincolnshire, England
- Locate people with the FamilySearch Find feature
- Find matching records with the Record Hint feature
But what standard should be selected if you are adding a historical place name that doesn’t match the modern/standard name of the place?
First of all, it helps to understand that FamilySearch essentially records two locations for each event: the display place and the standardized place.
When entering a historical place in the display field, FamilySearch asks that you link it with the modern name. The help article “Entering Standardized Dates and Places” says:
FamilySearch recommends you use the name of the place at the time of the event. This matches with sources and facilitates hinting. FamilySearch is working to connect historic names of places with their modern names. … Connecting with the standardized place makes it easier for other people who use the Find feature to find this person. If they look for a name and a place, the system can match the place they enter with the standardized place.
The FamilySearch help article gives you these steps to connect the historic names of places with the standardized places (click image to see larger):
To start, type the historical place into the display field (white box). You will see a list of standardized places appear in the drop down menu. Don’t click on any of those – instead, click somewhere else on your screen.
You’ll see the yellow message “No Standard Selected” in the standard field. Click on the “Click here to select a place” message to see a drop down list of standardized places. Select the modern place name. Now your historical name is displayed, but it’s linked to a modern/standardized place name and the person’s information will more easily be matched with record hints and queries entered into the Find tool.
My grandfather’s side of the family lived in a town called Ada, located in Indian Territory before this became Oklahoma. Linking this historical place name with the modern name was tricky. I wanted the place displayed as:
Ada, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, United States
with this standard selected:
Ada, Ponotoc, Oklahoma, United States
I followed this suggestion from the FamilySearch help article quoted above:
If you are typing an old historical place, type the place, and then type the modern place to connect the old name for the place with the standardized name.
These instructions weren’t very clear, but here’s how I did it:
Although the display name now includes both the historical name and the modern name, I think this is the closest way to achieve what I want. At least the historical place is linked with the modern/standard place. Hopefully as FamilySearch works to connect the historical places with the modern places it will become an easier process.
Great article explaining the challenges we have in trying to correctly record historical locations. I love your explanations.
I see you live in my birth town – Tucson. When I lived there it was just recently moved from the Southern California Mission and we met in a purchased, old church down on Broadway south of the U of A. Great memories there as that is where I learned to do genealogy at my grandmothers knee literally as a 10 year old.
Keep up the good work.
What a wonderful grandmother you had, to teach you as such a young child! Thank you for sharing.
Oh how I wished I knew this many years ago. Now I will have to go back and fix many family histories to correct them with the right names of places when the events happened. Thank You very much you are a God send, Stay safe and my God Bless you Always