Locations Genealogy should be primary when making policies for profile fields

+8 votes


Policies for profile fields should always put genealogy first.


I do not mean  We should change the location field names to modern location names

I have been doing Genealogy for over 50 years. I have been to the archives in London, Edinburgh, Den Haag, and Oslo. I do know that Genealogy consists of more than names and dates, I do not need to be convinced of the part history etc plays in genealogy.

I am trying to discuss the present wording of the policy and any other suggestions that outside of that wording that could be used in addition, to the policy.

I am also saying that I feel that those that have more interest than the average genealogist, dictate or least try very hard, the rules and policies used for profile fields, to suit their purpose. I do not mean that in a negative way, just that it shouldn't be that way. I suspect it is because they are more engaged that the average on the issues they burn for..


WIKITREE the primary purpose is too grow a well sourced single family tree. Historical locations and correct titles etc should then be secondary when defining policy for profile fields.

For historical place names
The correct location name for a particular era is an interest in historical accuracy, which is a policy of Wikitree.

So in my opinion, policy promoted by those interested in historical places, has won over the average genealogist.
In my opinion WIkitree needs to use categories or something else , instead of letting any group, monopolize ANY field by policies to promote interests.

Proof that genealogy does not come first

*if I had 1000 genealogists in a room and asked where Lenapehoking is--how many would know?. The use then of this name in genealogy tells most of us nothing

*if you did know where it is, or take time to look it up. It still only locates your ancestor in an area that covers 3 states instead of one.

As I genealogist I want to know which state it was today. As I genealogist I have used time, I could have used looking for sources, instead of trying to figure out where it is.  I still don't even know which state, so was of no help and time wasted.

*I want to search for all of one surname on WIKITREE for genealogy purposes, to possibly find other relatives, in a state my ancestors lived. If I search for them in New York, Delaware, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, those that have Lenapehoking as the place name, will not show up. Again not best solution for genealogy purposes.

*Genealogists that do not use the correct historic name can do so, BUT

**someone may change it

**it will show up on error lists which is irritating for most genealogists and WIKITREE members

**Time is used to change the present name to the historical one, by different help groups. That is time that could be used on improving sources and profiles.

I don't like to complain without at least offering a possible solution.  I do believe these interests are important and improve WIKITREE.

Use Categories for historical locations
[[Category:dates, what ever was historical name, State]]
Possibly it could be automated and come up as a suggestion when place doesn't exist for that time period and category be added by choice.

For those that are interested or need the place name for research --It does not need to be in the place field

Location groups have some good tools.  They are a good alternative to using the place name field and those interested just need to save the link

such as


in Policy and Style by Jean Skar G2G6 Mach 1 (12.3k points)
edited by Jean Skar


I want to commend you for the comment  "I don't like to complain without at least offering a possible solution."     While I'm retired,  throughout my career that was the expectation of my employers.   It adds powerful credibility to your comments. Nevertheless,  I won't weigh in on this discussion, because there are many other WikiTree members more qualified and I don't want to diminish the "discussion". 

I focus on United States and, to a lesser extent, Canada genealogy. I have actually found it much more important to know "what it was then" for purposes of finding life event records, because generally the "then" political/geographic entities are the ones that still have the records (or that is how they are organized in regional archives). In addition, we are documenting the life AS LIVED by the profile subject. I would suggest just the opposite - use categories (or a bio note, which is what I do) for current locations if important, such as noting ethnicity. My great-grandfather was born in Russia. He was of Polish ethnicity, but he was born in Russia, and it was the czar he disavowed when he became a citizen..

For those that are interested

It does not need to be in the place field

Location groups have some good tools which is also a good alternative to using the place name field and those interested just need to save the link

such as


Why is no one suggesting using the bio for historical names instead of other names. Is there any difference which are in the bio?
Maybe because the data fields should be supported by the sources. If you don't have a source then you encouraged mythology not genealogy. Any sources you find will more likely have the historical name. If you use the current name then you would have to waste time finding all the sources proving why the location name you chose reflect what the birth/death/marriage source says is the actual location at the time of the event. So doing it that way double or triple the work needed and detracts from finding sources for the person that the profile is about.
Bingo, Ellen. For much of my family, it may be Gaston County, North Carolina, today, but before 1845 it was Lincoln, and that is where the pre-1845 records are now. And even in this case, the line between Lincoln and Gaston has moved. Don’t want to deal with that.

To me, it's not just that the data field should reflect the sources (they should), but that the data field summarizes a person, and that summary should reflect the actual life lived by that person. In this way, Wikitree's mission may be different from other many other "mainstream" (whatever that means) genealogy/family history sites. 

Jean, You might consider changing the title of the post to something more specific to the topic. This might help attract more interest from folks with opinions about location fields.
Jean, I find your question to be very confusing. I am new to genealogy and to WikiTree and I'm trying to figure things out. Can you reduce your question to the lowest common denominator so I can understand what you are asking for?

Marilynn Tobash

Marilynn Tobash Sorry I have confused you and others (so not just you), not sure this will help-- but my proposal was suppose to be to change the wording in a policy. Unfortunately I didn't write clearly for this actual policy. 

for policy see Help:Location Fields

Until we have something better in place the wording should include the word "preference" (it can be removed later)  and be changed from

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.


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

The reason being

Preference is not a rule. Nor does it give errors. We have a guideline that is impossible for many average genealogists to follow.

We have place name suggestions, that appear in a drop down list when you are adding locations that do not follow the present Policy guideline. 

Until we have a better system in place, there should be no errors, it is discouraging and irritating to members and especially new members. You use a drop down list and it is an error!

I fully understand what you mean about the drop down list. Whenever I enter something in a profile or on my tree it takes me forever before what I have tried to enter is acceptable. I have to guess at what is the acceptable way and lately I've been getting very frustrated at everything, not just WikiTree because I have peripheral nerve pain and the medication my doctor prescribed for it has brain fog as a side effect. It does a good job on keeping me free from the nerve pain and she said the brain fog will go away once my body is fully adjusted to the medication. But it makes it difficult to sit down and do anything that requires details, I get lost and confused. That's why I was so confused with your question.

Marilynn, the drop-down menu is a ''suggestion'' only, and you do not have to conform to it, it comes from FamilySearch and doesn't conform to WikiTree standards often.  If you are working in a particular area of the world, check to see if there is a project that covers that, often projects have guidelines on place names.

17 Answers

+34 votes
Best answer
So if I am understanding your post correctly, your suggestion is that the Birth and Death Location Fields should only use current place names and all historical data can be relegated to categories?

If that is the case, I would have to strenuously object.

Genealogy is about researching our ancestors and "their" lives. This is supported by the standards adopted by the community that we should "use their conventions instead of ours".

If I am researching an individual or family or in the 1800's, I am using their information (parish registers, church records, etc.) to document where they lived. It is the records from the specific place and time that interest me for that profile, not what that place is called now.

Using your example, if someone was noted to live in Lenapehoking, how would a listing of New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania help me do more research on them?

In regards to Historical Categories, much of these already exist and can certainly be expanded, but they should in no means become the sole source of support.
by Steven Harris G2G6 Pilot (473k points)
selected by Danielle Liard
There's a big difference between acknowledging that there is variation in users' language or ability to add the correct accents, compared with accepting any and all place names, no matter how idiosyncratic or anachronistic. If someone adds "Canada" to a profile from 1700, it's simply wrong.

You're right that we need to be patient with everyone's best efforts. But that doesn't preclude working towards a consistent set of historically best-accurate names and naming conventions. That's what projects do.

Well actually Brad, if somebody adds Canada to a profile in 1700, they are probably right on, since the French colony in St-Lawrence valley was called Canada.  Canada, Nouvelle-France, to be exact.

Jean, a large part of the problem with location names stems from early days of WikiTree, where people uploaded their trees in large quantity, not sure if the policy was in place then or not, but lots of GEDCOM imported trees don't follow it.  Takes a lot of time to clean it all up.

On fait ce qu'on peut avec ce qu'on a, c'est tout. 

If someone adds Germany for a profile before 1906 it is also just as wrong. Acttual worse as it is much more recent historically.

I do agree we need to correct these errors, and many are happy when you so so. I have nothing against mine be corrected.

I believe we need to follow Policy recommendations not impossible rules as far as our abilities allow. 

 I believe we need to take out lists for Data Doctors to improve the names. 

But not just for North America to be fair to all users, In both cases they should just be lists not show as errors on suggestions for the different users. 

Danielle Liard Is the problem with Gedcoms not the same to.day re following rules?

Personally I would like to see a limit to 2 generations at a time and encourage people to correct them before next upload.

I personally would like to ban GEDCOM imports totally, since they bring in a whole lot of duplicate profiles as well that then have to be merged, but it's not up to me.
I'm with you, Danielle.  The most destructive thing I've ever done on WikiTree was to upload a Gedcom.  I did it once, I'll never do it again.  That was several years ago and I'm still cleaning up debris from it.  Write on the blackborad one hundred times:  I am a Gedcom vandal.  I am a Gedcom vandal.  I am a Gedcom vandal.....

Danielle: "Well actually Brad, if somebody adds Canada to a profile in 1700, they are probably right on, since the French colony in St-Lawrence valley was called Canada.  Canada, Nouvelle-France, to be exact." 

I didn't realise about the St-Lawrence Valley. Although, I should probably have remembered the Heritage Canada advert from my youth "I think they're talking about the houses down there. The village." But 'Canada' is definitely wrong when applied to profiles dated 1700, anywhere in present day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or Newfoundland, where I do most of my work.

And yes. I'd ban gedcoms, too.


I'd ban gedcoms until a better mechanism for upload/merge of them is developed. Not sure what that would be but it probably would need to require each profile to be cleaned up and merged one at a time. Not the make a pass through first and ignore all the potential duplicate warnings method we currently have. Perhaps it should also require reaching an experience level first.
Right, Doug? I'd really love to see a process where you can upload a gedcom with, say, 10 profiles. That get's checked by a mentor and you get a badge, that lets you upload a gedcom of 50. That gets screened again, and then you're fully qualified.
re Gedcoms agree with you both Doug and Brad

Think of the improvement and work saved doing corrections later
+11 votes
by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)

I don't really understand or feel capable to do step 1

so I started at step 2

Possibly another policy that is difficult for the average user?

I have stated above what I can and what I think. Is there any where I can ask for help doing this?

Jean, for step 1, you would essentially just provide your vision as a rewrite of Help:Location Fields.

I have over 75 lived over the last 50 years in Norway. My head mixes English and Norwegian and forgets words in both languages.

To just rewrite is for everyday English speakers. 

I feel I have covered everything in the above post even if it is not the right format


Is there any where I can see a finished draft that is done that shows me how to do it?
+23 votes
Personally, I want to know both what the location was called and what it is called now. I believe both are necessary for locating records. I do spend time researching locations but I always thought that was just part of the process of genealogy and I enjoyed it so haven't minded WikiTree's emphasis on proper historical place names. Sometimes it can be a bit of a  challenge to determine the correct historical name of a location. However,  not knowing the correct historical name can be a deterrent to finding records. The historical location name is where my ancestor actually lived during their lifetime. It is what existed then. The historical name won't change whereas using what it is currently called could change. The historical name is accurate and the honor code we each signed says we strive for accuracy. One can use the biography to explain what the historical place name is called now if it is different and significant. So, I am opposed to the change you propose.
by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (301k points)

My point is it is only a part of genealogy.

Any part of genealogy should not dictate rules and policies for the main stream and what should be the primary focus Profiles and sourcing in profile fields. It should only be allowed if it is best for mainstream genealogy and genealogists.

The mainstream has given us Ancestry trees. Shouldn't WikiTree be encouraging people to work toward becoming genealogists rather than just dabbling at genealogy?

I agree we should help and encourage the mainstream to became better genealogists--so we agree

But there are loads of areas we need to help them first Basic sourcing needs to be a priority

I don't see that historical locations should be a priority or that it has ever been the main problem with ancestry trees.
Doug is right, we are a cut above mainstream - and in the other question I gave you a link that makes it easy to determine what a place was called when - here I guess I will do it again:


and for what is now Canada:https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19msdf4uzxBiyIwCSNUBcrHt15Qp-DXpGxBYLp3YWDO0/edit#gid=1390013396

And I also gave you some of the reasons we use the place name for when the event (birth, death, marriage, census, etc) happened so lookups can be done in the right place and histories of the areas in question can be referred to etc - the modern place names can be put in the biography so you can look on a current map if you want - there are some that have said there should be a field name for both - I do not know if it is on the wish list yet, but it has been discussed before
Locations aren't the problem with Ancestry trees. It is that the mainstream doesn't actually do genealogy, they do name collecting. Many only care that the names match. Doesn't matter that locations are thousands of miles apart, they match so my John Smith in Boston has to be the same as the one in London. My comment was about the mainstream which we should be striving to be above.
Completely agree
Navarro Mariott love your links.
Wikitree will eventually fail if it goes the route of becoming an elitist group of genealogists. Main stream hobbyists are its core. We already see a high volume of warning signs in G2G of discouragement in members and especially new members. If you do not like what you see, fixing it is always an option. That would be true collaboration.
George I am alarmed by your reply!  Elitist?  I would love to know what you are referring to there, If you think that herding new folks toward help in learning to use accurate entries and valid sources is wrong I can not understand that - I guess I really do not know what is meant by that - I know when I began here I was a little scared to forge ahead and add and connect the tree I had worked on many years before - but I learned and researched and read through many hundreds of G2G questions and answers and looked at help pages so I could navigate and enter my information correctly and I try and improve those profiles I entered and branch out and learn more about my ancestors and their history - It is a hobby, I do not spend much money on it, but lots of time and I do not see ANY discouragement of new members - on the contrary I see and was so glad of the help by those who have been here a while and lend a hand showing the way to those who came later

Dear George,

You confuse accuracy and elitism.  I was given access to Ancestry by a cousin a while back, and it suggested adding a profile to my tree that showed the woman married before she was born.  Errr, spot the error as they say.  That is not genealogy, that is fantasy.  While I like reading fantasy, I don't want my family tree to be composed of such.

Please define ''main stream genealogists''.  Who are they, and what do they eat in winter. wink  We are building a Wiki here, and Wikis are considered as data sources.  WikiTree already shares its data with other sites for which people pay, like MyHeritage, who ''give you for free'' the data from WikiTree.  We need accuracy or we will just be continuing the misleading junk that is out there.  

Historical accuracy of place names may seem unwarranted, but if you take as an example the people who were born in New France under the French régime, lived through the English conquest of 1759-60, and died when there was a basic parliamentary system set up for Upper and Lower Canada (starting 1791), just having the location names reflecting these changes already tells you what the political climate may have been like.

That is exactly what I want. I agree that you have to know both to correctly check records. I have reached quite a few brick walls on my maternal grandfather's line and with the 2 I am currently concentrating on location and compatible dates are the only clues I have to investigate their ancestors. I'm looking at men with the same surnames as each of my 4th great grandfathers who were born in a time frame that would logically make it possible to be fathers to them and then I check the location of where they were born and where they died and if they lived in other places during their lifetime. I don't have a maiden name for one of my 4th great grandmothers, I only know she was born in Germany. I have a maiden name for the other, it's Smith, so I will only try tracing her as a last resort. Both Family Search and Ancestry say she was born in England but I couldn't find the location where she was born. I have a marriage date and place from Family Search, March 1834 in Old St Pancras Church in London but there was nothing to give me where she came from so I can't try searching from that angle. When I do search for the 4th great grandfathers I use every place name I can find that has a possible chance of being correct, both modern and the historical original name and any place names used for the area in between the original and the current one. If I come across something that will help me to locate my 4th great grandmothers I will work that angle as far as I can take it. To do that I need all the place names possible for a specific place.
+25 votes
In all my training to become a genealogist, the place name as it was known at the time of the event is critical and insisted upon. In publishing it is recommended to stay with that approach but putting the current name in brackets to give a reader the information on where that place is in current terminology is allowed. Unless WikiTree adds a new field for modern name (not likely to happen) then the name should be as it was at the time of the event. That said, there is nothing that says you can't put the place in brackets in the biography. Modern place name categories could also be used.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (415k points)

Unfortunately putting in the Bio solution doesn't work when

I want to search for all of one surname on WIKITREE for genealogy purposes, to possibly find other relatives, in a state my ancestors lived. If I search for them in New York, Delaware, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, those that have Lenapehoking as the place name, will not show up. Again not best solution for genealogy purposes. 

I would agree with Doug, disagree (politely) with Jean. Genealogical standards favor the place name at the time of the life event. Maybe it makes searching Wikitree more difficult, but that is a technical search issue, not one of disfavoring "genealogy".
You forgot Connecticut. You are also suggesting completely wrong ideas which should give any average genealogist headaches as what it would do is make their work mythology rather than being accurate. I would rather work on accurate genealogy rather than myths.

Searching for profiles in a area your ancestors lived means searching for what the location was called at the time. Searching for a area name that does not reflect what your ancestors called their location just means you want to be inaccurate in your searching. It would mean that every time a location changed it's name you would force every profile with the old name to be changed in the location field. That would create a lot more unnecessary work detracting from sourcing profiles. That is the opposite of what you should aim for.
Yes, Ellen. the original name is critical to finding records. As borders changed and political/geographic entities reorganized, frequently the records stayed with the original entiity. Records seldom moved. Sometimes they were copied but most frequently not.Some Maine records are in Massachusetts. Some West Virginia records are still in Virginia.  Some of my New Brunswick people show up in the original Nova Scotia records. Not knowing the history of the places our ancestors lived makes research very difficult.

At some point we may have better search tools.
Forgetting Connecticut just goes to show how difficult it is
+20 votes
I don't get the argument that using place names as they were at the time is somehow favoring a special interest or proving that genealogy doesn't come first.  If we agree with that, and believe that it hampers our present genealogy work, wouldn't we have to carry the argument on to its logical conclusion -- i.e., that spelling of surnames should also match what is being used by descendants who are alive now?  I could foresee a lot of problems if we talked ourselves into that policy!
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (401k points)
This is a very good point Dennis. I have cases in my family where the surnames changed sometimes small and other times majorly and to insist that cause the name is spelled this way now means that all members of the family need spelling that way would be a very slippery slope to fall down. It is a logical conclusion to insisting locations are called by current locations rather than what they were called at the time of the event in question.
Surnames have 2 fields so that problem is solved. Location has only one therefor can be a problem
Surnames also are sourced by documents. So any changes in surnames can be sourced using what record was made at that time. So the current locations requirements and the current surnames requirements both should be documented by the sources that where made at the time. Putting a location for the here and now would be the same as insisting that Odin Borson should have a last name of his sonThor Odinson even though the patenalomyic name is correct as Borson. (Sorry about  the spelling for the naming system of using fathers name, son).
lol Dennis, considering the usage of ''dit'' names in New France, and the wild variations in spelling due to illiteracy and regional accents, the clergy writing them down almost phonetically, like McFarlin written Maquefarlin, things would be absolutely crazy.

Also, for example the modern name Coutu was actually written Cottu when my ancestor first came here.  Haven't gone looking at records in France for him, but if I was looking for Coutu rather than Cottu, I would certainly not find him.
+14 votes

"If I had 1000 genealogists in a room and asked where Lenapehoking is--how many would know?"

I imagine all of those who had ancestors who lived there would know.

My time as an amateur genealogist has taught me many things due to their relevance to my ancestors lives. I even know the names of different 'cuts' of turf due to one of my ancestors being a turf digger.

One of the first things I learned was the movement of place boundaries. A big chunk of my father's ancestors come from Huntingdonshire, an English county that no longer formally exists. Those families were Huntingdonshire families; not Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire or Northamptonshire or wherever their home parish was claimed by. I won't even get into my Irish ancestors who lived in what is now considered Northern Ireland.

If I come across a place that my ancestors lived in that I don't know about, it is my responsibility to research it. I think it's fun, and it also can help you learn more about your family.

by James Knighton G2G6 Mach 2 (23.9k points)

"I imagine all of those who had ancestors who lived there would know. "

I suspect it might be true for those that have done a lot of genealogy from one area 

That is like saying Genealogists that have ancestors in Germany know how to use the local names for the historic time period according to the WIKITREE guide lines for location. 


Heiligen Römischen Reich  900-1806

Germany Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1949-1990)

Deutsche Demokratische Republik (1949-1990)

Deutschland (1990-)

I did a search for Heiligen Römischen Reich  900-1806 and only found 3. Yet that is what should be used according to the guidelines

I did find a little over 1600 though for the Holy Roman Empire

The amount that have used Germany instead of  Holy Roman Empire in that time period is huge.

You will find this is the same for most other countries.

If a person doesn't have the time to research the historic names then they shouldn't be conducting genealogy.  In a nutshell you're saying "its too hard" so we should dumb it down.  We already have that, it's called Ancestry.com and it is a mess.
THANK YOU SJ!!!!!  2nd is My Heritage  And I'm not too fond of Geni either.  And the first thing we have to do is change the mindset "OH Its on Ancestry so it has to be true!"  As we get more and more into the proving the lines, we will become the industry standard.
MyHeritage and Geni are owned by the same company now, have been for a few years.
+4 votes
Jean, where known, I’m perfectly happy to stick with the current policy of historic locations in the location field. I’d love another field, but I realise that may be technically difficult. Categories work as a way of adding current names and some projects do this, especially where the names have had many changes over time - it does seem to be a way to keep families together. I do find it somewhat ironic that places like Nieuw Amsterdam which was initially a Dutch colony are anglicised by the purists. Similarly, I’ve also seen Deutschland for Germany long before 1871. While historical names are the ideal, it must be recognised that not everyone is an expert and errors do occur.
by Fiona McMichael G2G6 Pilot (159k points)
+4 votes
I wonder how many of the folks who are making the argument that you have to know and use the historical name for a location in order to find the records for the place have actually tried to do that.

Example: go to FamilySearch.com. Choose Search, then Catalog. In the location field, type "Hampton, Norfolk, Massachusetts Bay Colony." See how many 17th Century records you find. (Hampton was in "Old" Norfolk County in Massachusetts Bay Colony until 1689.) Then try "Hampton, Rockingham, New Hampshire, United States."

Example 2: Again in Family Search, try "Livermore, Cumberland, Massachusetts, United States." When that fails, try "Livermore, Androscoggin, Maine, United States."

There are times when knowing and using the historical names is important - for example, looking for probate records in New Hampshire before the establishment of counties in 1769. But in my experience (which admittedly is pretty much limited to New England) that is the exception.
by Stu Bloom G2G6 Mach 6 (62.1k points)
FamilySearch and Ancestry are bad examples. They are first and foremost, repositories for information. And with that, places are only listed by their modern names and boundaries since the catalogs only include those current places for which the physical libraries have records.

For example, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research is located in Houston, Harris County, Texas and listed under the Catalog as such. But the library itself contains records from the Mexican Land Grants of 1829 before this area was ever a part of the United States. Searching "Harris County, Texas" brings up records stored in Harris County, Texas - not only current information.

WikiTreers do it all the time.  Monthly I see questions asking what was the proper place name for this or that city or region in such and such century.  Just last month I saw one, lemme find it:


Often, I see that someone has their relative in Baden-Württemberg, Germany and I correct it to The Duchy of Württemberg, Holy Roman Empire and provide a link and they go and read it, click the like button on my change, and a few have even emailed me saying thanks.

Really, "its too hard to find" doesn't cut it.  Wikipedia gives the history of most every city in the world, there is Google, and when all else fails, we have research assistance at G2G.  Heck, you could probably get directions on how to change your car's transmission here cheeky

Well I certainly have done that Stu, why would I say it if I did not do it?  That is silly - Family search is the place that is responsible for the drop down selection you get by default when you start typing in a location , and is hardly ever completely right and leads to many misleading place names on profiles - USA before 1776, New York before 1664, etc - so your example uses the one site we search on that does NOT use place names that were in line for the times - use a search engine and look for a record before a place was called what it is now and you are not going to get the record you want.

I do not know why you are making such a big deal out of it - First you say it is not a part of genealogy when it sure is - part of the story of that person when they lived

Secondly most places have the same name - for a long time, so that narrows down your work load - meanwhile do what you want, and if the profile is open someone else will put the right place name in -
Who's talking about drop-down menus? I'm talking about finding records.

If you're interested in finding the original records for the town of Hampton prior to 1689, I suggest you take a trip to the town of Hampton in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, and ask the town clerk for access to the records. And good luck with that. Or, if that's not convenient for you, search FamilySearch for the microfilmed records of the town of Hampton, Norfolk, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Or go to a genealogy library and look for the published records of Hampton, Massachusetts.

And FWIW, I follow the WikiTree standard when I'm creating or editing profiles here, not because I agree with it, but because it's the established rule. In the data section, I use the historical name. If the previous poster has used the modern name, I correct it to the original. In the narrative, I put the modern name, with the original name in parentheses, e,g., "Hampton, New Hampshire (then in Massachusetts)."
+6 votes
Sometimes it is important to know the current location. Especially when you work in Prussia you have to know: Is the location in today's Poland or in Germany? Is it in this German region or in that one? The answers to these questions can lead you to the repositories where to find more answers to your genealogical questions. That is why I always write in G2G threads also the current jurisdictional entity like "Roßdorf is today a part of Bruchköbel, Hessen in Germany".
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (669k points)

I would write, "In 2019 Roßdorf was part of Bruchköbel, Hessen, Deutschland."

You don't know that it won't be part of another jurisdiction in 2039.

The word "today" refers to the date of the post, so (in this case) 2019.
+2 votes

Actual a question 

The Guideland says

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.

The guidelines also say

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.

I find this very confusing

Do I have to use the guidelines or am I free to use what I please.

If I am free to use what I please, why are there lists with errors for location and why is it then OK to change it on a profile

by Jean Skar G2G6 Mach 1 (12.3k points)
The section you quoted is referring specifically to the place name suggestions that appear in a drop down list when you are adding locations.  See: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Location_Fields#Place_Name_Suggestions

As it says there, the place name suggestions may not be be the ideal way to record the location and to check our style guide to see what is appropriate.  If the place suggestion doesn't match our style guide then you don't have to accept it.

I did a search for use of country names in native language

14061 profiles for "Norge" which is correct for Norway

More than 64000 profiles for "Norway"

also less than 25% are getting it right

More than 64000 profiles for "Germany" and only 3 that were correct for the period  900-1806 which is almost none that are getting it right

The guidelines as they are worded are impossible to follow.

The average genealogist or amateur genealogist doesn't have a chance to get it right

Thanks Eowyn Langholf  for the clarification

If I add Germany as a place of birth for someone in 1802 WIKITREE suggests Germany 1801-

This is also not in compliance with the present guidelines

Jean, I think there may be a misunderstanding of what Eowyn provided and how the location fields work.

WikiTree utilizes FamilySearch's Place Research database to make suggestions for location names based on what you type. When you type in Germany, the field is looking for all possible occurrences of Germany (which there are many) and also provides date ranges to ensure you are using the accurate location names and designations for the time period.

These dated references are meant to be a verification for the time period in which you are working (meaning, 'Is this historically accurate') and does not append the date to the location.

This function also has nothing to do with WikiTree guidelines, it is a tool to aid in research.

Steven Harris thanks for the clarification. 

+8 votes
Many of the original/historical places don't exist now (Acadia is a good example).  What was Acadie is now parts of 6 different places that did not exist then.  Forts were in use then but not now.   Some small towns and villages have grown and combined so the new name would lose the distinction of the original place.  Which names would you use - current for those that survived and historical for those that didn't?  I would find that confusing.
by Cindy Cooper G2G6 Pilot (150k points)

I am NOT saying we should not use historic place names

I do agree that historical place names should be the preference

But a preference is not a rule. We have a guideline that is impossible for many average genealogists to follow. When the majority can't or don't follow the rule, I believe it needs to be changed.

Maybe all that needs to be changed to the guideline is adding the word preference.

The Guideland says

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.

needs to be changed to

The Guideland says

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

Thank you for that clarification, Jean.  Adding the word "preference" softens the guideline even more and simplify codifies what people do now which is not follow the rule.  This would be like saying most people drive 65 mph on this 45 mph road so lets change it to 65.  I would rather keep the rule clear and still encourage people to use it.  Otherwise there will be even more usage of current places over historical names, because using historical becomes only a "preference"  My recommendation is NOT to change the rule.  Back to my point that a mix is confusing.

It is possible, if most people are driving 65 mph on a 45 mph road that speed limit is too low. It has been successfully used here as a reason to change the speed limit.

When only about 3 get the correct name for Germany in the period 900-1806, tells me our guideline needs adjusting

We irritate and loose members by sticking to our principles. Is it worth the cost, not being a little more flexible?

The guidelines say "This standard is often difficult or even impossible to apply"

If it is impossible how can it be a rule? Is it not then a preference

The speed limit is that low for a reason.  Just because people violate it doesn't mean it is equally good at 65.  I still think we should not water down the "rule" because people violate it.
+11 votes
I don't believe you're being fair in contrasting "historians" and "genealogists" as if genealogists cannot be historians.  

The tension you describe is a real one, and I prefer to characterize the two sides as "historians" and "geographers", i.e. those whose primary place name interest is in what it used to be, versus those whose primary place name interest is in what it is now.

Speaking as one of the historians -- and genealogists -- it serves nobody to destroy historical accuracy.  I was born in a hospital in Oakland California.  The hospital no longer exists: who knows what is there now, perhaps a parking lot.  The record would not be improved by saying, "Jack Day was born in a parking lot."  (And my mother, may she rest in peace, would possibly be insulted!)

It would serve the interests of geographers if the data field had an extra line in which the current GPS location could be added.  Then, looking at the profile of someone born in East Prussia, Germany, when you click on that GPS location it might show you a location in today's Poland.  Well and good.  But to the historian genealogist, it is like scraping fingernails across chalkboard to show the individual as actually born in Poland.  It was not Poland when he was born.   

I think it is a fantasy to imagine that you can do genealogy without learning a lot about history -- and also geography, and the way it has changed over time.  The more you learn about both, the more you know about genealogy.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (355k points)
The hospital I was born in is actually a parking lot now!
The hospital I was born in is actually a parking lot now!



The one where my one sibling was born is now a humongous hole in the ground.   There is no longer a town at all.

I was actually born on the parking lot in front of the hospital, which claims I was born there.
I was born in what is possibly the largest Bank in town, now.  It was a hospital at the time and quite small, not even large enough to have beds for all the mothers that gave birth that day, we and many others were lodged on stretchers in the hallway.
One of my school classmates was born in "Corey Hospital". That is now a private residence and most in the city, it was a village then, do not even know about the history of that building. In the mid 50's they built a county hospital about 5 miles away and over the years even that has had major changes and became part of a university hospital system that has hospitals in both Cleveland, Ohio and Akron, Ohio as well as many other city's in the area. The hospital I was born at has been torn down and is now just a medical office building and parking lot.
And the elementary schools I attended are an apartment building and a (closed) hospital parking lot.  Good example.
+9 votes
One problem with the idea of using "current" place names is that "current" place names change, while place names at the time of an event are fixed. If you are creating something that will hopefully last decades, you don't want to hard write in names that may change.

The best solution for locations is if WT adds the ability to add a GPS location for an event. The ability to get current locations from GPS locations already exists and the location names get updated as things change. You could also generate historically accurate place name locations using GPS locations, but I'm not sure that database exists. Adding GPS locations would also make it very easy to generate ancestor migration maps and other cool things based on locations.
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (210k points)
edited by Chase Ashley
The problem would be solved and may be solved if one has an automated process that automatically changes the place name fields to the correct name and language for the time period,

This requires no new fields.  Other than you need a new field for GPS a great idea
Jean, that is a noble idea.  However, this is a free site run by volunteers.  All we would need is a programmer to write the code for free, test it, put it through Beta, and then install and monitor the site.  If someone could arrange all that, I'm sure WikiTree management would give the thumbs up.

Recently I suggested an improvement to G2G functionality.  I began my search and found that G2G is run on an open code (free) program.  If you want to add this or that feature, you go to GitHub and see if someone has authored and published such change.  If not, you write it yourself, submit it there, have others test it, and then publish it for consumption if it works out.

I decided to stay with the G2G we currently have.

Just because WT is free to members to use does not mean that everyone is a volunteer and that there is no revenue stream. As WT's "About" page says: 

Almost everything is done by volunteers. By keeping costs low we are able to cover expenses through modest ads on public pages.

So there is income and there are non-volunteers involved. The software for WT didn't come from nowhere and there are still people doing great stuff and adding features to WT, eg, the new Enhanced Edit Mode. Adding the GPS feature is something that WT management (not you and I) could definitely do if they thought it was worth doing. 

It is my understanding that the Enhanced Edit Mode was written by a volunteer.  Thanks to him.
It's not a very simple thing, accessible from a profile, but when you create a place category, and include an infobox, you can add gps coordinates. For now, that's how we're getting WikiTree places organised. It's a really cool (to me) aspect of the categorisation project.

Thanks for the info Brad Foley 

I love to hear about solutions, people create, to solve the limitations of costs and technical issues on Wikitrre.

Even if they are not as beneficial at the moment as we would like.

+4 votes

Actually a new questions

Is there any where there is a list of technical limitations for what is possible and not at this time, for expanding or changing  wikitree formats?

I have understood new fields are not likely is that correct?

I lot of time goes into impossible suggestions and discussions that suggest new fields. If it is impossible then it is a waste of time.

The WikiTree utilizes FamilySearch's Place Research database to make suggestions for location names based on what you type

Is there any reason why it can not be downloaded and become an integrated part of WIKITREE. Or is that also impossible at this time,

The efforts of those interested in correcting historical names could then be used to improve and correct the suggestions.instead of the profiles. This would have a bigger impact on improving and make it way easier for the mainstream genealogists.

It is difficult to suggest solutions when you have no idea what the limitations are.

by Jean Skar G2G6 Mach 1 (12.3k points)
Jean, first it is not "impossible" to add more fields but it would be very costly and WikiTree wants to remain free to all so it very unlikely they will ever be added, it would require a major rewrite of the entire program and everything that has been added on.

As for the Familysearch database, they have been kind enough to let us link with their database but downloading it, even if they would allow us to do so, would create another problem because then if anything is changed in either location they would no longer match without someone changing it in both locations. The use of the suggested names from that database is optional but they have a much bigger budget and are able to maintain it better to provide better accuracy.

Remember except for a very few we are all volunteers here.

Dale Byers Thanks loads

That is a great help, when trying to find solutions and avoid making impossible suggestions.

This should be mentioned on


+5 votes

for my two bits, no, changing the location field names to modern location names would be contrary to the lives of my ancestors.  

For an example, the Lachine Massacre happened in Lachine, which is on Montréal island. The city of Lachine got fused with the city of Montréal a couple of decades ago.  Should people then refer to this event as the Montréal Massacre?  My ancestors who died in that massacre would turn in their graves most likely. 

In this province there was a massive amount of municipal fusions done in late 1990s.  And constant changes to other administrative structures in the province.  Putting modern place names in BMD fields is not reflecting fact.  

The whole point of WikiTree as far as genealogy goes is that profiles are supposed to have a bio and not just BMD data.  Obviously, for many of them about all one will find is BMD and descendants and possibly occupation.  But their lives were lived in specific places.  Most of my ancestors migrated from France to New France.  The records for their marriages mostly name their place of origin, and it will be something like La Rochelle, Aunis, NOT La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime, which last dates back to French revolution and later.  My folks were already on this continent before then.

So let us stick with historical accuracy.  If a location is really abstruse, you can add notes in the bio, or even a map.  But most place names are not that hard to find for anyone wanting to research the geography.

by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (355k points)

I have never suggested  changing the location field names to modern location names 

Well that is just wrong, you have and continued to even when everyone showed you why it is not only policy, but general genealogical  practice, I went and fetched an old question where this had been discussed and showed it to everyone, and it does state that it is not at this time practical to have both current place names and the historically correct place name in the data fields and so many have suggested that the current place name be put in the biography narrative and you then wanted us to flip that over and use current place names in the fields and put the correct in the bio which makes little sense - do not deny the purpose of this whole discussion!  It would seem that perhaps just want to stir everyone up with things that you are not willing to accept as how things are done here and I would say go ahead and do things as you like to, but do not get upset when those of us striving for a better tree come along and correct the profiles to what facts are available.

Navarro Mariott  

If I am so wrong as you say and  it is not only policy, but general genealogical  practice. 

Please explain

 How come you do not follow the policies--nor general genealogical practice--and are not willing to do how things are done here--which you are accusing me of.

I looked at your family tree and took out a family list and you have numerous errors according to policy.

 You are not following either the policy, or general genealogical  practice on some of your European ancestors

Germany is not to be called Germany, Norway is not to be called Norway Netherlands is not to be called Netherlands. According to the policy it is what your ancestors used and they did not use the English names. 

Germany did not exist before 1906 so you don't have to go far back in history to find that out.

You have used Deutschland a few times but that also is historical incorrect and didn't exist before 1906

I can go on.you have used Netherlands (which should be Nederland) numerous times, which first isn't even correct in English--The official name of the country in English is the "Kingdom of the Netherlands" 

Does the policy only apply for North American locations?

This just goes to show how difficult the policy is to follow. Those criticizing mainstream genealogists and saying it is so easy --- it is not when it is not your language or country.

Maybe you should correct your own ancestor profiles first instead of others.

Ladies please, take a deep breath or a walk, do not get hot under the collar, it is not good for your health.

Jean, it may be a translation issue, since you indicate English is not your first language, but the whole tenor of your arguments do come across as you suggesting that the policy be changed.

Navarro Mariott  

 I said I have never suggested  changing the location field names to modern location names

You say that is wrong

Please quote where I have said that

"location field names need to be changed to modern locations names."

I have stated at least 2 or 3 times that is not what I meant.

I have expressed myself in a way that COULD and HAS  been misunderstood and for that I can apologize.

I will not apologize for trying to make a policy better in my view, and trying to make mainstream members more satisfied.

I am on Prednisone that does make you more agitated and aggressive but I have tried to be fair in my comments and when answering. Don't think I have been the worst one here.

Jean, anti-rejection med, have you tried Sirolimus? (I think that's how it's spelled).  Not as strong so fewer side effects.  Have a friend who had liver transplant.

 Danielle Liard  Thanks for the tip. I have asked about other meds but my Dt says No. Actually I am very lucky compared to most on Prednisone. I have few side effects and none that are real health issues.

Even the aggression and agitation only seems to relate to what I consider unfair, personal or off topic comments. Before I would just ignore them now I have an extremely hard time not, unfortunately I often do not igoire them. 

I hear you, my friend really hates Prednisone because of its side effects on her.  Be well.
+3 votes

My Summary for clarification

I have never said!

We should change the location field names to modern location names.

I have said!

If people "Groups" want to prioritize historical names, categories might be the solution

I have said!

Until we have something better in place the wording should include the word "preference" (it can be removed later)  and be changed from

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.


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

The reason being

Preference is not a rule. Nor does it give errors. We have a guideline that is impossible for many average genealogists to follow.

English speaking countries and non English speaking countries are not treated the same.

Data doctors, and error reports seem to be for English localities only

We have place name suggestions, that appear in a drop down list when you are adding locations that do not follow the present Policy guideline. 

Until we have a better system in place, there should be no errors, it is discouraging and irritating to members and especially new members. You use a drop down list and it is an error!

We need to have more links or help pages for historical names on the Policy page 

by Jean Skar G2G6 Mach 1 (12.3k points)

What are the Disadvantages to changing the rule


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.


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

So far from this discussion the only reason I have found not to change is

 Otherwise there will be even more usage of current places over historical names, because using historical becomes only a "preference"  

+6 votes
I'm pretty sure that if you had 1,000 genealogists in a room, they would agree with Wikitree's policy of the name at the time.  If you had 1,000 family history hobbyists, they prefer what is easy.

The genealogists demand sources, which would show the now non-existent name; the hobbyist doesn't care--just prove that I'm descended from __ with lots of unsupported names.

The genealogist will write a biography that includes what the place was called and what it is currently called (and I add the date of the current).  Will what it is called now be the same in 300 years?  I can't predict the future.  I do know that boundaries change, but the name of the place at that time remains the same.
by Kathy Rabenstein G2G6 Pilot (258k points)
edited by Kathy Rabenstein
In my opinion you don't make laws rules or policies that can't be followed you make recommendations. The policy even says it is not always possible to follow.

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