Drop-down bubbles

+2 votes
These are suggestions re. the automated fields that keep popping up in the Wikitree data entry bubbles:

1. The United States of America was not formed until January 1, 1789, as the U.S. Constitution did not come into force until then. Even though some folks think of the year 1776, perhaps even more precisely July 4 of that year, as the foundation of the USA, in point of fact the 13 colonies that eventually became the USA were not independent from the British empire in that year, nor at any time until after 19 Oct 1781 (the date of the definitive Yorktown battle when the British conceded defeat), or perhaps even until 3 Sep 1783, the signatory date of the Treaty of Paris. In any case, quite simply there were no "United States" until 1789. Any automated input fields for Wikitree containing dates before 1 Jan 1789, as they may pertain to births, marriages, or deaths within the 13 colonies, should refrain from including the term 'United States', or any variation thereof.

2. The current situation wherein physical addresses with the same city vs. county names appear in redundant fashion is confusing. Take for example: Athens, Athens, Ohio, United States. Even the Find-A-Grave records, which are intrinsically less useful or elegant than the budding Wikitree system, distinguish county names vs. their same named municipalities as may be contained within them. It should not be difficult to program Wikitree dropdown bubble menus to provide those political nomenclatural distinctions, so for the above cited example the correct address expression should be Athens, Athens County, Ohio, United States.

3. Retroactive changes to the existing database should be done by the programmer and database manager on a "global" basis so as to address and sort out the issues as identified above. Changes of that nature would of course pertain only to the main panel headers, not to biographies and source fields which should remain free-form for individualistic input.
in WikiTree Tech by John French G2G Crew (840 points)
retagged by Steven Harris
Very cogent arguments in favor of the bubbles
I thought the drop-downs were provided by familysearch. In any case you do not have to use them, providing you use the names appropriate to the time period.
United States of America is preferable. There are a few governments past and present that have used the designation United States (of ...).

3 Answers

+3 votes

On September 9, 1776, the Continental Congress formally declares the name of the new nation to be the “United States” of America. This replaced the term “United Colonies,” which had been in general use.

source: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-renames-the-nation-united-states-of-america

by Tommy Buch G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+3 votes

As Marion mentioned, WikiTree uses the FamilySearch Places API (Place Authority) for the 'bubbles' (location suggestions). See more at Help:Location Fields. Also see the note on that page which states "You do not need to accept any of the place name suggestions. They may not be the ideal way to record the place name on WikiTree. See our style guide below" which states:

Our guiding principle is the same as the one for Name Fields: "use their conventions instead of ours."

Applied to locations, this means using place names in native languages and using the names that people at the time used, even if they now no longer exist.

1. As Tommy mentioned, 1776 is the date that the colonies formally declared their independence and stopped being referred to as the thirteen colonies, but rather the "thirteen United States of America", and is the most recognized date in US History.

So while everything you said may be true, the dates through 1789 are more focused on the initiation of the unified government - while we are focusing on the name itself and what was used at the time.

2. See above again, particularly for our guiding principals on Location Field style, which we "Use the full place name for counties, states, provinces, départements, etc." So while FamilySearch Places is not the perfect solution, it is one that is very comprehensive and would take considerable man-hours to replicate for our own purposes. It is much easier for us to just add the word "County" (or any other missing place designation) as needed.

3. Changes to the system are not directly performed in the database (nor should they be). WikiTree is first and foremost, a wiki, and changing the database directly would corrupt the Change History. The action you are looking for could be performed by a Bot, but would need considerable input and review from the entire community. According to the rules on Bots, there would also have to be an approval for every single action. For instance, changing:

Houston, Harris, Texas, United States to Houston, Harris County, Texas, United States

would have to be approved separately from changing:

Akron, Summit, Ohio, United States to Akron, Summit County, Ohio, United States

by Steven Harris G2G6 Pilot (612k points)
The other big reason is many of those records are stored at the county level. So if you want to find an unindexed marriage record for instance, or probate, you may have to break out the old shoe leather and track it down yourself.
So then, Melanie, it appears that you agree with my initial comment, which is that in order to improve this 'tree we (the database manager & programmer) should come up with dropdown bubbles that actually distinguish the municipality vs. the county name. I've noted that several others who have commented on this topic over the past couple of years also agree with inserting the simple word 'County' into the dropdown menus to make it easier for the data inputers to choose the correct terminology. This is good thinking. We shouldn't have to follow FamilySearch; we should lead. There should be some way to "harvest" place names (with chronologically precise terminology) to fit just about every part of the globe. Somebody should inquire from F-A-G how they do it so well.
There are US states where towns are 'organized' into a county, but there is no current 'county' form of government.  It is used strictly for geography purposes.  To look for birth, marriage, death records, you have to understand where that information is held, whether at the county level, or at a town and possibly state level.

The problem does come in when there is a County name 'in a state' and a city / town name 'in that state' is not in the same County as the city / town name.  When a town is indicated with only a state, then the question comes up as to whether it is the city / town or the County.
The above comment all the more validates the inclusion of the word 'County' following the name of the relevant county (if one exists) in the place names in the drop-down menus. I suggest that interested parties should go back to the original post, wherein it is pointed out that the redundant terminology 'Athens, Athens' is simply confusing to users of this 'tree system, particularly those in continental Europe, Asia, South America, etc. It should be 'Athens, Athens County'. If for a particular place there happens to be no relevant county (as in Linda's example, which is rare in the U.S., Canada, and the UK) then there would be only one name.
Just to note, Maine has County governments. They coordinate state programs in the area, school districts, plow snow from roads not under town jurisdiction, etc. They also have a small police force and maintain the county jail.
John, it is NOT rare in US to see locations in the family search locations without sources because it may not be able to be determined from the source, if you look at the image.  In CT, every town is in a County, but there is no County government any longer, although there used to be. If an image / source doesn't have a town and county, 'who' is supposed to know what the location refers to.  Some sources would come from a County government, at different times, in some locations, but not in other places. If only a 'place' is noted in a source with a US State without a county being stated, you can't 'assume' that it is a town or a county, especially when there is a 'county' with the same name as a 'town'.   If there is only 2 entries for a location, with the last one being the state, you can't 'assume' that the other one is for a county and it sounds like that is what you are stating to do.

Linda, I think you may be confusing county governmental system with place locations. In point of fact, there are 3,142 counties (or county equivalents, called bouroughs) in the USA. Every person in the USA lives in one of those named counties (even in Connecticutsmiley). In Canada there are fewer 'counties' per se, but about 99% of the population of Canada lives in a named county. So, a place name without a county designation is indeed rare. Don't know how the term 'sources' crept into the conversation; I wasn't intending to bring in sourcing to this conversation thread, just pointing out the confusion among users ex-N. America when they see a silly type of 'Athens, Athens' redundancy for a place name in Wikitree. Imagine how a person in Greece responds when seeing 'Athens, Athens' indecision in one of our place names. I'm just trying to get us to input the clearer nomenclature that Find-A-Grave seems to be using by providing the term 'County' in our drop-down menus. Not debating other issues at this time.

We are retrieving locations from sources, correct?  Not all locations on documents / sources have both town and county designated. The indexer is retrieving the information that they see in a document, as you can if you look at a document / source. If there is only two entries, then, that is all that can be indexed. Sometimes, it may be a town and state (in the US) and sometimes, it may be the county and state. Are you expecting people to determine and know the difference at all times?

The drop down for locations is using information that has been entered previously, sometimes a county is used, sometimes it is not. As people stated previously, county lines change, as do state boundaries. If only a town and state is indicated in town records, If that can even be determined that it is not a county name, is everyone expected to research every location to determine the county name being used at that exact time before entering it? Many people don't currently try to determine the correct US state name at a specific time.

As you said some towns have Burroughs, ie smaller designations of a town, so they could have 4 parts to their location. As stated previously, wikitree uses the drop down from family search, so family search would need to be changed to show County. Whether wikitree creates it themselves or uses someone else's information, they are using the information from past written sources to generate that information. I am only stating that all locations, when written down, does not always have a town, county and state in US.  

Find a grave does not try to use locations based on historical time periods, as wikitree does, so it is much easier to use a drop down system that has the county designation.

To address your questions in order presented:

We are retrieving locations from sources, correct? Yes. 

Are you expecting people to determine and know the difference at all times? No, but if the contributor uses the drop-down menu then he/she is somewhat compelled to discern the difference based on what's in the menu. 

If only a town and state is indicated in town records, If that can even be determined that it is not a county name, is everyone expected to research every location to determine the county name being used at that exact time before entering it? No, but here again, if the contributor is using the drop-down menu to discern the place name then he is coached to discern the proper designation by what appears in the menu. If the particular county name does not appear in the menu then what ends up in the data field can be confusing to users of the system on a global basis. My viewpoint is that if this truly is to become a worldwide tree, then we have to think more outside of the box which currently appears to be America-centric. (including Canada). 

Linda, you may be correct that the F-A-G input system is not ideal either re. place names, but it's more "friendly" for users in some respects. I do note that our drop-down menus already factor in chronological changes in terminology, such that changes in municipality names are tailored to the time periods in which they existed. Since those inputs come from FamilySearch, perhaps FS could be induced to include the term 'County' where & when it pertains. Shouldn't be all that difficult...

If you think someone will be confused by not using the word "county" in the place name, clarify in the bio.

There are no current plans to replace the place suggestions with another places database. FamilySearch's places database includes places from all over the world, from different time periods, and those place names are available in different languages. It's the best option for now, as WikiTree does not have the bandwidth to create and maintain something comparable.
+1 vote

There seems to be mass unrest and confusion as far as the start of the United States of America. As far as can be worked out, the original Declaration of Independence was submitted to the printer on July 3, 1776. This original document has been lost to history. Technically all others are a printed "copy". On July 4, 1776 the Continental Congress approved it and took copies back to each state to be voted on.

During that time period either United States or United Colonies could be used alhough Colonies was more popular. After the States had voted, they returned and officially signed 1 copy of the Declaration of Independence which is now on display in DC. Now only United States applied to the whole.

Now the confusing part is at THIS time each state was IN the United States but not OF the United States. It was more a name for the area rather than the entity. This is why the spreadsheet lists them as part of the United States in 1776 but not as a State in the United States until each state ratified the Constitution.

As far as the dropdown bubbles are concerned, I believe Aleš is currently working to address that issue but it takes time. However, at no "current time" was the United States ever referred to as "British Colonial America". This was coined as a term in history books and briefly used for Canada as a current name.

United States Names spreadsheet

by Steven Tibbetts G2G6 Pilot (356k points)
edited by Steven Tibbetts

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