How should place categories work for places that don't exist anymore?

+17 votes

I've recently started categorising profiles by places where they lived. For examples of this, see The Manitoba category is a subcategory of Canada, and contains subcategories for various cities and towns in Manitoba. Then people are categorised into one or more cities. (I'm especially proud of the St. Francois Xavier category right now:

The problem I've run into is that places have not always been the same. For example, Winnipeg, Manitoba, used to be a whole bunch of little cities, including Transcona and St. Boniface. So, if someone lived in St. Boniface, Manitoba, before Winnipeg existed, should they go in the Winnipeg category, or should there be a Category:St. Boniface, Manitoba? And if there should be a St. Boniface, Manitoba, category, should it be a subcategory of Manitoba, or Winnipeg, or both? This is starting to make my brain hurt a little!

I'd love some input on this!


in Policy and Style by Lianne Lavoie G2G6 Pilot (428k points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway
I have 2-3 locations that no longer exist.

I enter 'historical' Rockingham/Davenport, Scott, IA.

4 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer
I guess it really depends on why you use or need a category. Concerning place categories Iuse them to do two things. The first is for historical purposes so using the name used at the time the person lived there makes sense. But my second and I believe more important use is placing People in their right place so others and myself know where to look for records such as birth, death, marriage, land records, wills and so many more. You have to know   where someoe lived to know where to look for all these records. Simply put Wickitree is a genealogy site first and fore mostso we should be helping ourselves and others in their research. So to answer Lianne question I think start with todays communities and then when you create earlier categories for places connect them by adding them as sub category to  these modern communities as well as having their own category. I believe I read somewhere on Wickitree aout this using The Capital of Canada as an example. Ottawa was first known as Bytown and this should be a category conneced to Ottawa so people know the connection. So yes Lianne create  a St Boniface Category as a stand alone category in Manitoa but also add it as Sub category of Winnipeg as well as Manitoba so others can find it through Winnipeg or on its own. This will really help people who do not know Canada that well but have a record or reference of someone in St.Boniface e.g. family bible saying G.G. Grandparents married in St. Boniface Manitoba can find it as a sub category of Manitoba and the same peopled buried in St. Boniface Cemetery can find the cemetery in Winnipeg as St. Boniface is sub category of there also
by Wayne Burnie G2G6 (6.0k points)
selected by Marj Adams
+8 votes
I love the work you're doing here, Lianne. Fantastic.

Boy, tough question.

A related question: What is our style on birth and death places that no longer exist? What do you put in the birth location field for someone born in a place that now goes by another name? Do you put the place name at the time the person was born, or the name we use for the place today? I know this has been discussed but I'm sorry to say I don't remember where or what the conclusion was. We ought to have this on a style guide.
by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
There's actually a G2G question about that in the related questions below:

I agree with what Paul said there: I always use the place name as it was then. That's what's on the records, and besides, boudaries may have changed as well, so it would be really complicated to use modern place names in some cases.

Maybe I'm answering my own question... That makes me think that there should be categories for places that don't exist anymore. So that leaves the other part of my question: Does Category:St. Boniface, Manitoba go in Category:Winnipeg, Manitoba, or Category:Manitoba, or both?
Hah. Didn't I mention to you recently how bad my memory can be? I forget.

So, is this an official style for the birth and death locations: use the original place names? Maybe this should be brought up to the EuroAristo group and when a conclusion is reached (here or there) put it on a new Location Fields style guide page.

Regarding subcategorization, if you have a St. Boniface category, I'd be inclined to put it under both Manitoba and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
I have people in my ancestry who were born in/lived in places that no longer exist, places that have changed their names, counties that were absorbed by other counties or divided into two or more counties, and towns that were absorbed by the growth of a nearby larger city.  I always use the place name at the time my ancestors lived there and include some type of explanatory note about the name change.
For reference, as we come up with solutions to these issues they are being added to:
I agree with Fred. I always keep things the way they were at the time the person lived. That goes for the language, names of places, countries etc.
+23 votes
When it comes to categories, the place name that existed when the ancestor existed should be used, even - and especially - when the place no longer exists.  This is important historically, but also to avoid confusion when someone attempts to duplicate or verify the research for themselves.  I can give you an example:

Several of my ancestors lived in a place called "Westville," so named because one of them was the postmaster and had donated the land for the post office.  Westville no longer exists, there are not even any buildings from that time remaining.  It does still show up occasionally on maps, even though nothing is there.  It's important (to me at least) to show the people who once made up this small farming community.  I would use the category "Westville".  The Westville category would explain, briefly, that it no longer exists and that it is now in Anderson Creek Township.   Westville would be a subcategory of Anderson Creek Township, which would be a subcategory of Harnett County, which would be a sub category of North Carolina and so on.

I might even create a Free Space profile for Westville with a great old photograph or two and some historical information and add that article to the category.  It becomes, over time, a meaningful thing - which is part of what we are all trying to accomplish I think.
by Michael Gabbard G2G6 Mach 1 (19.6k points)
Great points and great explanation. Thanks, Mike.
Indeed a great example. Another idea for those towns/cities that still exist was the idea of Helmut Jungschaffer to use a timeline box to show how it changed the administrative order through the centuries (especially important for Germany).

That would be a lot of work but if someone is so dedicated to build a free space profile for a no longer existing place (and adds some photos, how great is that for preserving the history!) than that same person would probably put some effort into the historical structure as well.


We shouldn't make it mandatory but for people that are motivated enough they should clearly follow Mike's example
+6 votes
Moscow or Москва?

Lviv, Львів, Львов, Lwów, Lemberg or Leopolis?

Ireland or Northern Ireland?

Jerusalem, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם or القُدس‎

I have had all of them arise in my research.  This makes my brain hurt a lot.

Я необычное Американская и может читать русский язык с трудом. seems to force the modern, (American) English name for a location.
by Randolph Herber G2G Crew (660 points)
While I might put Mockba in the data fields at the top, in the bio I would write it as Mockba (Moscow in English),  or some variation of that. Of course if I wrote the whole profile in Russion (fat chance), I would merely put in the Russian word.
Москва by the Library of Congress transliterates to Moskva.

If the text uses an umlauted e, ë, then preserve it! Russians have both a e and a ë; but, they don't use ë except in the case two words are spelt the same and both are possible in context; otherwise, one is expected to know which was meant.

smileyThanks, I was using your example. I haven't got a clue. So won't be attempting to add Russian spellings to profiles I work on.

Moscow or Москва or Mockba?

The LoC transliteration is fine. Most Russians can read it directly.

Look at them closely. The code sets and therefore the fonts are different. The middle is in ISO/IEC 8859-5 and the outer ones are in  ISO/IEC 8859-1.

The moral of the story: the code set is significant.
For categories, you can use any language you like! This discussion started years ago, before we started using a multilingual category hierarchy. Now, we have both Category:Germany and Category:Deutschland, and they're linked to each other. So we no longer have to decide which language to use. English-speaking people are free to create and use English categories, and Russians are free to create Russian ones. :)

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