Can people stop removing the Country from existing profiles?

+7 votes
392 views
I have to complain about the people who go around "fixing" the place of birth and death by removing the word "United States" from other people's profiles. I get you want to be time wise correct - but then replace it with "America".

Not everyone knows the US states and while we like to have dates to know what century we are in, it is also imperative to know what Country you are in.

Example is Hull-5367
in Policy and Style by Janice Trenouth G2G2 (2.1k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Janice, [https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:DBE_603] this is a good link to review for birth's, and here is a link to review for death's [https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:DBE_633]
Prior to the Revolution, Virginia, Massachusetts, the Carolinas, etc, were British colonies, so the country should probably be Great Britain.  How confusing would that be?
How about “His Britannic Majesty’s Colony of ______?” (Well, it sounded cool.)

I completely agree that the full name should be used for any place name, rather than an abbreviation, but I can't support using modern place names.  What do we do when a border changes, or a place name changes? Try to figure out whose profile needs to be updated?  

And if we try to list all the possible country names for a place over time, as a standard practice, we'll run into real problems in Europe.

It seems to me that using the name that was correct for the person whose profile we are creating is accurate over time.  So when I am working on a profile, I will remove the name of a country that wasn't, and I spell out the location in full, the same way I try to add sources for each of the facts. 

My 2 cents

Laurie, you’re right, the hard part is the changing borders! If one was born at just the right time, one could show up in records in a whole host of places. Ex. Live in one house from birth to death, and live in Anson, Mecklenburg, Tyron, Lincoln counties, North Carolina. This example has happened more than once in my family.

Here’s a quirk: if someone was born in the South during the Civil War, what country is the right one, USA or CSA? I haven’t come across one of these here yet.

Well, Pip, there was my ggf:  Edward G Tardy

Well, I’ll be! I need to go back and check mine!
Pip, one saying you'll hear is that "it is the winners who write history."  From the perspective of the USA, the Confederate States of America never legally existed, therefore I would suspect the official USA perspective is that all events like birth, marriage and death, took place in the USA.  Had the outcome of the war been different, I have no doubt that the way we officially look back on a birth or marriage in Georgia in 1863 would be different, too!

Ah but Jack, the winners do write history, and often they are right. Still, in many conflicts and situations around the world, even recently, one breakaway province might have a legitimate existence. For many years, the US recognized Taiwan as “China” even though China never recognized Taiwan as a separate country. Of course it’s different now. I would say that the Taiwanese believe they are the true China (or at least one of two Chinas. Same with the two Vietnams. And the two Koreas. 

When I was growing up, we had a set of World Encyclopedias, 1959 edition. WE had a separate entry for the CSA, the entry for the war headed “The War Between the States,” and even Jefferson Davis listed as an American president with his picture right along side of Lincoln. So, over the decades, this perspective changed. (A poor analogy would Orwell’s 1984, when official policy could change in a day.)

For someone like me, a son of the South, steeped in the history of the South from our perspective, we can understand that some folks, the Scots, the Welsh, even the Cornish, as well as many other people around the world, might feel the same way about their history. 

I’m not defending the Confederacy’s policies, nor all those horrible years of Jim Crow that followed. That would violate my (and others’) very humanity. However, I would venture that a defense could be made for the Constitutional issues involved. A force of arms does not always settle these issues (think Eastern Bloc). 

I think this could turn into a political or cultural discussion, and I don’t want it to, and with the climate the way that it is here in the US, it would not be fruitful. In any case, I went through my watch list, ordered by birthdate, and found only four born in that era. I guess the men were busy elsewhere.

8 Answers

+22 votes
Hi Janice,

The birth/death dates in the profile that you listed are pre-Revolutionary War, so United States and America were not place names at that time and shouldn't be used in location fields for those dates.
by Rick Peterson G2G6 Pilot (154k points)

Connecticut Colony or Colony of Connecticut would probably be appropriate for those dates. You can check out the Location Field Style Guide section in the Location Fields Help Page for more information.

+11 votes
I'd also like to see full state names and a country on US profiles when date appropriate. I don't have a clue about US state abbreviations as I'm from NZ.
by Fiona McMichael G2G6 Pilot (165k points)
I agree, Fiona. Full state names. No abbreviations!

Hi Fiona,

Per the Location Field Style Guide section in the Location Fields Help Page, full place names should be used for everything but country. Country can be abbreviated (tho I still usually use the full country name).

Same here, Rick. Full names for country for me.

NZ ? Is that Northern Arizona? laugh

Just a bit further south west and across the Pacific, Bill.
I have the same problem when the country is not included for New Zealand and Australia. Have to look up town, etc., when I'm doing comparisons.
People from all countries are guilty of the same thing, Shirley. I live close to Richmond, Tasman, New Zealand. There are many Richmond's worldwide. Therefore putting in the state and country is vital. (I always write New Zealand in full and fix NZ when I see it.) All contributors need to remember the world is larger than their own back yard.
Short postal-type abbreviations such as CA, BC, WA, ON, NZ, NSW, SA, SC, MD, MA, and ME definitely should be avoided universally. Not only are they unrecognizable to people from distant places, but they can be ambiguous (examples of ambiguity: CA can be Canada or California, WA can be Washington or Western Australia).

I think that UK and USA have been treated as acceptable exceptions, but in my opinion it is also best to spell those out. DC is another exception, but only when used in the context of "Washington, DC, United States."
I agree, Ellen! Even my Google search using "Ontario CA" results in links to the California city instead of the Canadian province.
That's a hoot!

When I search for Ontario CA, I also get the place in California. But if I search for ON CA, I get Ontario, Canada.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a bit of a mouthful. I'll stick with England etc.
Yes, "United Kingdom" is plenty long enough...
+8 votes
As Rick says, United States is considered an error and will be removed from all pre-1776 dates.

I personally don't like your America and would remove it if I saw it.  If you really need something which is accepted as correct is to put the colony name (e.g. Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Colony of Connecticut) or what I would prefer as a term which is understandable now and was used then is "New England."  - Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut, New England.

Also, it may be a good idea to get in the habit of writing out the word "County" in county names.  A majority of counties the US have towns of the same name somewhere in them.  I suspect this may become an error in the future to leave it out.
by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (224k points)
it's worse than Joe suggests.

In some US states, there are counties and cities with the same name in completely different parts of the state. I like to cite the example of Decatur County and the town of Decatur in Tennessee. The town of Decatur, Tennessee, is the county seat of Meigs County and is over 4 hours by car from Decatur County, Tennessee (where Decaturville is the county seat).
Joe - I am also a fan of writing out County. It may not be standard practice, but it does aid clarity, which is more important.
Joe/Ellen/Chase, I agree that adding County to the county location name helps to more specifically identify the location. We have similar problems here in Missouri, USA where the St. Louis City and County split apart in 1876, so that the city of St Louis was no longer within the county of St Louis. But many records since that date just state St Louis, Missouri without designating whether the "St Louis" refers to the county or the independent city (not located within the county). While they're in the same metro area, they are certainly different geo locations. So I definitely add County to the county name for location names when known.
Another name I've seen for pre-Rev War New England is British Colonial America.

I kinda disagree about adding "county": designators are not properly part of placenames. You can use the locational heirarchy to disambiguate: New York, New York, United States is the city, while New York, United States is the state. Granted, this breaks down in special cases like St. Louis, and one doesn't necessarily want to just ignore the jurisdictional details (i.e. use St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri for a post-1876 event), because the jurisdiction can determine where one should look for records. There is no perfect answer, I guess.
Please use what was on the records at the time.  I frequently see "New England" on 17th century documents (wills and land deeds for example). Sometimes I see Massachusetts Bay Colony. I have never ever seen "British Colonial America" on records from the time period.

Because data doctors typically are not familiar with era records, they are more likely to remove the incorrect info (pre 1776 USA) and not replace it with what was appropriate for the time period. It's up to those of us most familiar with the records to come along behind the data doctors and fill in the blanks correctly.
J Palotay:  The word County is a proper part of the name in the US.  Only in genealogy is it commonly left off; this is the result I believe of early gedcom and database coding which made it easier on the coding guys and conserved computer memory.  I can't refer to a US county when speaking without using the name - it would just sound wrong.

Sure if the name is written in a 3 part structure (Town-County-State) it is easy to know when a county name is intended.  As someone who works on correcting place names I continually run into the problem where it is not clear.  For example, if someone writes Los Angeles California I cannot know if Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California was intended or if just Los Angeles County, California was intended (it is almost always the first).  If someone writes Allen, Indiana I cannot know if Allen, Noble County, Indiana was intended or if Allen County, Indiana was intended (this one is common and almost always is the second).  I can come up with a couple thousand similar examples (there are a little over 3000 counties in the US).
What Joe said!

Regarding the word County being a proper part of the name, I can't imagine anyone saying that the City of Seattle is in "King" -- it's in "King County." And Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, isn't in "Dauphin" -- it's in "Dauphin County." And San Antonio, Texas, isn't in "Bexar" -- it's in "Bexar County."
+3 votes
Even though country names can be abbreviated (if using a standard, recognized abbreviation), I would put the whole country name. State, province, etc. are supposed to never be abbreviated. Part of doing genealogy is to find that historic context. My ancestors settled in Nova Scotia and the Island of Saint John. That is what the records  say even if the current day names are New Brunswick, Canada and Prince Edward Island Canada. New Brunswick wasn't Canada until July 1, 1867. Prince Edward Island didn't become Canada until 6 years later. To me, that is important for keeping context.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (424k points)
+5 votes
America is not a country - it is two continents

The United States was not that until it was - I see where the problem is and it really comes down to the fact that we have been saying put it into the bio, but we need another slot for current place so it becomes clear that it was called such and such at the time this person lived there but now it is what it is now - Now there has been a lot of time wasted on this and arguing back and forth about what to put - I go around deleting USA and all if it is before there was a USA as should we all - and a couple guys went through and figured out the History of all the states and what they were called before they were states and all and there is a whole spreadsheet on that to help but it does not help in this situation where folks do not know that the places will later be states - so do we start adding North America? People do not know that it was New Netherland, New France, Mexico, etc before the place became the USA
by Navarro Mariott G2G6 Pilot (147k points)
+1 vote

If we're using the FamilySearch place authority (which some help pages say we are), the standardized top-level entity for these places prior to 1776 is British Colonial America.

For example, between 1643 and 1776:

by J. Thompson G2G1 (1.5k points)
Ugh.  As I wrote above, the people of at least New England never used that phrase in their documents.
I agree. I was only referring to the database fields for standardized places of birth, marriage, and death. It seems to be especially recommended to use standardized places there because it helps prevent the creation of duplicate profiles.

You're correct that in biographical narratives (and most sources that support them), it would very rarely make sense to refer to "British Colonial America." In fact, I don't mention countries at all in narratives unless the individual has traveled or migrated.
+4 votes
WikiTree considers it an error for a person to be born in the USA prior to 1776, because there was no USA before then.  So it turns out people are encouraged to do what is bothering you.

The British colonies before 1776 were really not part of anything.  Their governors were appointed by the king, but they were governed in terms of their own charters.  One of the causes of the Revolution, in fact, was when the British parliament started passing laws that infringed on the freedom the colonists had already experienced for managing their own affairs.

As coordinator of the Maryland Project, I encourage people to use "Province of Maryland" for pre-1776 place names in the data field.  That's what Marfyland was called in most official documents until the Revolution.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (363k points)
+1 vote
As far as county, I like to add the word if it is referring to the county and don't use it if it is part of the whole location.

Sacramento County, California, United States

Sacramento, Sacramento, California, United States

Also, if if you select Spanish for the profile language, it will suggest place names in Spanish.  It is very handy for pre-1846 New Mexico.
by Marcie Ruiz G2G6 Mach 2 (29.5k points)
When I see "Sacramento, Sacramento, California, United States" or "Albany, Albany, New York" I am inclined to wonder whether someone accidentally duplicated the words. To avoid misunderstanding (and to prevent people from helpfully deleting duplicate words), I think it's always best to include the word "County" when referring to U.S. counties.
I don't have a problem leaving County out when there is something before it. Just don't leave it out. There are states with multiple communities with the same name and the county name can help differentiate. And don't call them counties in Louisiana.

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