Place data

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Place hierarchy

Place data (Gedcom tag PLAC) are entered in many places in the program; all events and facts have place locations. The standard prescrition for entering the place is to use a hierarchical entry: City, County, State/Province, Country, comma separated, in this order. The main goal of this convention is to uniquely specify the place, allowing one to locate it on the map and distinguish from other similarly sounding locations. The program makes use of this convention, manages and displays the place hierarchy, allows one to display the locations using Google Maps etc. Such a convention is an ideal, but the reality often does not conform to this simple rule.

  • Big cities are often their own states or counties (as opposed to seats of some bigger regions). This results in silly repetition: London, London, England. Saint Petersbug is a city that lies in North West Russia and is a capital of Leningrad province (oblast), but belongs to neither. Brooklyn is a city and a county, and Brooklyn, New York sounds right, while Brooklyn, Brooklyn, New York does not convey the actual hierarchy.
  • On the oposite end, little villages are often identified by additiona level(s) of hierarchy - municipality (Parish, Gemeinde, Gmina), as there can be villages of the same name in the same province.
  • The States or Provinces are usually, but not always, standard, next level is more ambiguous; for example in the USA the second level are Counties or Parishes (depending on the state). Countries are unambiguous, except where they are not, for example, should England or United Kingdom be positioned as Country in the place hierarchy?
  • Historical data often does not match current hierarchy. Cities split and merge, administrative divisions change, countries invade others and places belong to different Countries. This leaves a researcher with a dillema: should I use old (but now obsolete) hierarchy or modern?
  • Coordinates: very recent developments (GPS and mapping effors) allow one to easily locate coordinates of virtually any place. This gives a unique identification of any location and is independent of the place hierarchy. Plate tectonics will change it eventually, but coordinates are more stable now than political designations. PGV has a Google Maps tool that uses both place hierarchy and coordinates (in a separate database table) to display all locations for individual.

The PGV administrator of a webpage can select a specific convention. It is more important to use a convention uniformly than to select one convention above the other. Below are suggested rules that can be modified for each installation, and which should act as a template:

  1. Use place hierarchy, i.e. always list information in a hierarchical manner, from most detailed to most general. Always include Country. Each lower level entity should be part of higher level.
  2. Use the City, County, State/Province, Country convention as a guideline only. You can reasonably expect to locate Country and possibly State or province, and those can rely on position (in the comma separated list) only. Spell out intemediate level names, i.e. use Queens County not Queens, Acadia Parish not Acadia etc.
  3. Use as many place levels as necessary, but do not skip levels (Saint Petersburg, Russia; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Crowley, Acadia Parish, Louisiana, USA; Kleiniesiel, Stadland Gemeide, Wesermarsch Kreis, Niedersachsen, Deutschland, etc. Skipped level means that the level is unknown, and needs to be filled; it is indicated by adding extra commas in the hierachy.
  4. Always add coordinates, if possible. There are several good webpages to help locate coordinated of any locality. If you are using Goole Map module, this is the place to enter the coordinate data.
  5. Use modern hierarchy in the PLAC field, and list the original location data (and possibly variants) in Notes. This helps the program to maintain uniform location names, but retains original information.

There are several aids in entering the place data. Always use the little globe icon (Find Place) by on the entry form: the place could have been used before. Other aids are described below.

Edit Place in Split mode - NO

Place hierarchy 12.jpg

When entering data in relation to places you will be provided with the following dialog entry box. In this case the hierarchy has been created with the separation of items using a comma (,). The list indicated has the format of City,County,State/Province,Country. If at a later stage "Edit Place in Split Mode" is turned on this information would be automatically split into the appropriate areas.

If in this field the following information was entered:-

Big Maternity Ward, New York

The data entered actually has the form:-

  • City:- Big Maternity Ward
  • County:- New York
  • State:-
  • Country:-

Whilst there is nothing incorrect with this entry some consideration to format needs to be given before entering too much data.

Edit Place in Split mode - YES

The key difference between the two images shown is the addition of a small + symbol.

Place hierarchy 13.jpg

clicking on this symbol will expand the options available for data entry

Place hierarchy 3.jpg

If this is a new entry all fields will be blank. If you are editing an existing entry the fields will be shown.

Place hierarchy 6.jpg

You then choose the country from the menu item. Once selected it will then show a graphic for the country selected.

If you are aware of the state you can then type the data into the state or click on the country map which will bring up the state/province map. You can then select the state or province by clicking on the appropriate one.

Place hierarchy 4.jpg

You can then click on the state/province map and it will display a list of counties available or alternatively you can type the county into the system if you are aware of it.

Place hierarchy 5.jpg

finally you type in the city name.

Related Pages

Hierarchical Place List, Administrators Guide