is it correct to use today's place name?

+5 votes
i am wanting to be sure it is correct, here, to use today's name for a cited or referenced place, particularly when it is clearly associated with a date.  one example i have is howard-22149.  he was born in 1820 at a place known today as Marshall county, West Virgina, but in 1820 was known as Ohio county, Virginia.  but what if a record is not clear about the timing used for its name and uses a name that could be ambiguous.  i have many ancestors and other relations from Braxton county which was formed from parts at least 3 other counties.  if a record references Braxton county in today's names, which county is to be named to say where when the event happened?

i am now researching howard-22149 to add more citations and add his father.
in Policy and Style by Phil Howard G2G5 (5.6k points)

2 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer
We are supposed to use the place names as they were at the time the event occurred.  This is particularly problematic in the case of West Virginia because records remained in their counties when the state split from Virginia.  I divide the baby by putting the name-as-it-was in the data field according to the style guide and then explaining in the biography, e.g. "John was born in 1820 the part of Ohio County, Virginia which became Marshall County, Virginia and is now Marshall County, West Virginia...." People born in Virginia could live in two states and sometimes three or four counties without ever moving an inch.
by Kathie Forbes G2G6 Pilot (627k points)
selected by Dale Byers

In addition to what Kathie stated, this is the State Historic Place Names tab in Data Doctor Worksheet.  It shows that between Jul 4 1776 and Jun 20 1863, West Virginia area was called Commonwealth of Virginia because West Virginia didn't become a state until that 1863 date.

+6 votes
Locations are supposed to be the name the place was known  at the time of the event. This has been a long standing policy. If the name could be ambiguous, it should be researched to the extent possible to try and place it in time and with correct name. Not always possible if the dates aren exact. That is, you have a year but a place was renamed or divided in that year, then a best guess should be made.  

If you have a record using today's name but for a different time period, is that a primary record or a more modern record? Can you give an example?
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (463k points)

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