Plymouth Colony shows up with incorrect Google Map location

+3 votes

Although Family Search appears to recognize Plymouth Colony (date of 1624) in its rightful location in what is currently Massachusetts (listed as British Colonial America on Family Search), Google Maps has a different location of Plymouth Colony - within Georgia. I've attached an ID just as an example of where the problem is occurring for a birthplace name, but likely anytime Plymouth Colony name is used, the incorrect Google Map will come up.

I suspect this may be a problem for other historic locations that no longer have the same name today as they did in history.

Is there anything that can be done, either by naming places differently, asking Google to add historic place names, or something? Otherwise, for historic place names, the Google map feature is not helpful.

WikiTree profile: Jonathan Brewster
in WikiTree Tech by S Willson G2G6 Pilot (109k points)
"Plymouth, New England" gets a reasonable result, and is historically defensible.
Should be possible to indicate any point in the earth using lat/lon coordinates for Google maps. That'd be one way
That's a big drawback when using something like Google Maps along with the name/location of a town, city, state, etc... that has changed in some way as Google Maps will use the current location and doesn't use a historical one.

~Brian Kerr
Thanks Sharon for starting the question.
If I click the map pin icon next to "Plymouth Colony" on the linked profile, I get a Google Maps page with about half a dozen map pins, one of them being "Plimoth Plantation - Re-creation of a 1627 Pilgrim village". Dunno how the tourist attraction's location relates to the historic location, but if it's close, perhaps you could spell it Plimoth in the birthplace field?

4 Answers

+1 vote
The only way, I can think of, regarding the use of Google Maps for a historical location is (as previously mentioned) by Latitude & Longitude.

The following link is only one example that explains this...

~Brian Kerr
by Brian Kerr G2G6 Mach 6 (60.4k points)
As I understand it, the location fields should be place names that people at the time used, even if they no longer exist. I'm not sure whee the Latitude and Longitude coordinates would go in the profiles....?
From looking at an old thread, another option seems to be to add a URL within the bio that goes to the correct place on the map. Maybe we'd also need a note somewhere that clicking on the map pin will not necessarily go to the right location.
This would be placed somewhere under the sources. Possibly a category of it's own or following the source of a mentioned location.

The following is just one decent website that's a good tool for obtaining the Latitude and Longitude of an old location (i can't state for every location as I haven’t searched for them all LOL!)...

... I had only placed "Plymouth Colony" under the City and "MA" under the State and it provided the correct Coordinates for it.

~ Brian Kerr
If someone didn't know what the "current" state is for the place, though, it seems a bit problematic. For example I looked for Wells, Massachusetts (which existed before Maine became its own state as I understand), and it couldn't find it, while it did find Wells, Maine.

Hopefully people won't put too much reliance on the map that results from old place names.
+2 votes

I searched for Plymouth Colony, Georgia, and it is a real place today.

Google  maps is technically not incorrect, it gives you the current place, and not the historical place.

by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (262k points)

Yes, looks like Google Maps offers at least 4 different options for "Plymouth Colony" in the US, depending on where you live!  I live very near Google HQ, so my result when clicking on the pin next to the place name Plymouth Colony marks a large complex of apartments in Mountain View between Plymouth St and Colony St. Could this be the result of a Googler in map dept just getting bored at the end of the workday?  smiley  Stranger things have happened. 

Seriously, unless an anointed expert from WikiTree can contact Google to disable contemporary location results for people entering "Plymouth Colony" into WikiTree location fields, it looks like post-entry checking will need to be done by Mayflower project cleanup crew.   

+2 votes
Just tried "Plymouth, New England" as suggested by RJ Horace above -- and it works!  Seems like this is simple solution for profiles with birth/marriage/death dates prior to 1687. Easily understood by non-expert profile managers and no tech or latitude/longitute coordinates skills required.

Clarification 12/3: better option would be to use  "Plymouth Colony, New England (1620-1690)" in drop down menu, which would show just as "Plymouth Colony, New England" in the place names in online profiles.
by Kathy Durham G2G1 (1.8k points)
edited by Kathy Durham

The "problem" with this solution is that Plymouth, New England does not show up in the drop-down of place names on WikiTree. Neither, for that matter, does Plymouth Colony, although other permutations do, some of which include:

  1. Plymouth 1620-1691
  2. Plymouth, Plymouth, 1685-1691
  3. Plymouth, Plymouth, 1620-1686
  4. Plymouth, Plymouth, Plymouth, 1689-1691
  5. Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, 1691-1776
  6. Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, 1691-1776

It is no wonder that there is so much confusion. The itemized list above doesn't indicate which areas are towns vs counties, vs something else, and anyway, do users know definitively which Plymouth is being referenced? The list above also appears to deviate from what FamilySearch shows. For example, see below:

  • Plymouth, British Colonial America, is referred to as a colony, with dates 1620-1691
  • Plymouth, Plymouth, British Colonial America is referred to as a county, with the dates 1685-1691

  • Plymouth, Plymouth, British Colonial America is referred to as a town, with the dates 1620-1686

  • As a note:, it appears that before the advent of the USA in 1776, FamilySearch always uses British Colonial America as a "country" name. I didn't find any permutations of Plymouth without BCA.

In terms of linkage to Google Maps, by clicking on the map pin for Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay (which is listed in WikiTree's drop-down), Google shows a location in the middle of Massachusetts Bay; clearly unless they lived on a boat, that was not a valid place where people lived. People have appended Province to Massachusetts Bay, but that Google just interprets as a province near Bay Avenue in Plymouth..?

Confused? I am.

We might need to have someone/(a team?) look at the names in the WikiTree drop down, FamilySearch and Google Maps side-by-side to ensure that the pins go to the right place, if it is a big deal. I'm not sure if either FamilySearch or Google would make changes, though.

In summary, do we use the place names that people used at the time (per WikiTree guidance), do we use FamilySearch place names for the relevant dates, do we try to optimize for what Google Maps shows, or something else?

It is a mixed bag as of now, it seems.

Agree that a team would be needed to clean current confusion up properly, including experienced G2G Pilots or above. Also, that the dropdown menu as currently exists is confusing for most users!  

Starting point might be to investigate how FamilySearch resolved references before the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.  

But my hunch is that *someone(s)* associated with WikiTree before 2016 worked out the current options using an imbedded Google lat/long URL. Tapping that wisdom would be most helpful. 

What I can offer:  I would be willing to bug various contacts who work at Google to find which cranny of that behemoth might be best contact point for this resolution. 

What I was suggesting in previous message was just a a quick work-around, i.e. RJ Horace's suggestion for "Plymouth, New England", which is indeed historically defensible. The term "New England" was definitely in use for the area from Cape Cod to Canada after 1614.   I believe they didn't have a formal crown charter during the first decade after 1620, but don't have citation for this handy.   

The original settlement of Plymouth from 1620 to sometime around 1630 was a town with various settlements subordinate to Plymouth settled after 1630 along the coast to prevent Puritan encroachment. Boundary with the Massachusetts Bay Colony to north only resolved in 1640. Helpful map here:

Lastly: It would be incorrect to use "Plymouth, Plymouth" before 1685 because no formal division into counties was established until then, only satellite towns starting in 1630s. 

Quick question, Kathy, just so I understand. Couldn't someone use Plymouth, Plymouth before 1685 since it appears from the map that Plymouth (the town) was part of Plymouth (the colony)? Or maybe I'm misunderstanding your comment.

Yes, certainly Plymouth, New England would get to the right place on Google maps, but then again, so would just Plymouth. If our goal is to try to keep to the names that the residents at the time called the area, I wonder which they preferred between Plymouth Colony and Plymouth, New England. I would guess the former, but perhaps not.

As RJ said, using New England is defensible.  And it is appropriate.  The term New England was used regularly and offically with the Charter of New England.

Responding to Michael: Many thanks for the link to the Charter of New England!  Fascinating read -- is it incorporated as a resource document for early Plymouth history on WikiTree?  

Key takeaways in this context: In the first paragraph, the text definitively recognizes the that the English colony of Jamestown is henceforth be called the "first Collonye". 

Next, this document clearly specifies the purpose and geographic coverage of the "Second Collony" which is named New England and includes all territory between the 40th and 48th degrees.  Here is one key passage at end of l-o-n-g first paragraph: 

" And to the End that the said Territoryes may forever hereafter be more particularly and certainly known and distinguished, our Will and Pleasure is, that the [ed.: same] shall from henceforth be nominated, termed, and called by the Name of New-England, in America; and by that Name of New-England in America, the said Circuit, Precinct, Limitt, Continent, Islands, and Places in America, aforesaid, We do by these Presents, for Us, our Heyrs and Successors, name, call, erect, found and establish, and by that Name to have Continuance for ever."  Note also that this document specifies that Sir Ferdinando Gorges, and certain Knights and gentlemen Adventurers and "Persons of Quality" have taken actual possession of the fort and island by Plymouth (in New England) as well as having  "sustained many Losses in seeking and discovering a Place fitt and convenient to lay the foundation of a hopeful Plantation".

Above wording indicates that this document is an ex post facto confirmation of the 1620 settlement at what the Pilgrims called Plimoth Plantation, later New Plymouth (or Plimoth) in the first decade of settlement. Note that date at the end of the document is ""the Third Day of November, in the Eighteenth Yeare of our Reign over England, &c.", which means November, 3, 1621, not 1620 as the modern title of web document implies. 

Technically speaking, the term "Plymouth Colony, New England" did not come into general use until Puritan migration to Boston and surrounding areas forced Plymouth settlers to clearly define their territorial claims (late 1630's), leading to the 1640 agreement on northern boundary shown on map linked in my message above. But the alternative of "Plimoth Plantation, New England" has obvious downside, and most WikiTree users would find something like "Plymouth Colony, New England (1620-1690)" to be helpful when editing or reading profiles from that period. 

+5 votes
I don't think we should necessarily expect Google Maps to give correct locations for place names that are no longer used.

That said, adding in New England does seem to work. And it was used in contemporary documents.

However, if we mean the colony and not the town or county, we should say Plymouth Colony, New England, not just Plymouth, New England. Using Plymouth Colony, New England seems to work fine.
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (150k points)

Agree with the proposed "Plymouth Colony, New England" resolution, which does show the correct location (modern downtown Plymouth, MA). However, looks like we may still need to have a team to work out the wrinkles with Google Maps!  

Reason #1 is that when I used this wording to change the birth location on the profile that caused me to add the comment that S Willson referenced in her post that started this discussion, my ancestor Mary (Brewster) Turner (1627-aft.1698), the map of downtown Plymouth did show on the right, But the left column gave two modern commercial options, implying that user should choose one or the other:  Plimorh Plantation and Plymouth Rock.  In fact, one can just click enter, but everyone who happens to click on the location pin in the profile will still see the text and images (included below the ==== at end of message).  Or to see it live on WikiTree, check my edit to the birth location for Brewster-9.

Reason # 2 to have a team working with Google is to clear up all the confusion of options for pre-revolutionary Plymouth (many are listed in S Willson's comment from yesterday). 

Question for experts:  Is use of "British Colonial America" expected or required for dates in colonial period? Hope not, but I will re-check style guidelines to see if I just missed this. 


Here is what shows on left of Google Map screen when one enters "Plymouth Colony, New England" . This includes images that probably won't come through: 

Plimoth Plantation



History museum · 137 Warren Ave

Re-creation of a 1627 Pilgrim village

Open until 5:00 PM

Their website mentions colony and new england

Plymouth Rock



Historical landmark · 79 Water St

Iconic landing site of the Mayflower

Waterfront monument showcasing the storied rock where the Mayflower Pilgrims first landed in 1620.

"Is use of "British Colonial America" expected or required for dates in colonial period?"

Noooooo. Lots of G2G discussions on this and response has consistently been, no, because the term was not used by people in the colonies at the time,

Responding to Chase: So relieved to know this, totally agree with this perspective.

Having given this more thought, I agree with Chase, and don't think we should expect Google to adopt date-based maps.

I wish WikiTree could clean up the location drop-down, if possible, where there are duplicate and/or overlapping timeframes for what appears to be the same place. However, as I understand it, that list may come directly from FamilySearch, with no intervention on WikiTree's part. As such, I don't expect that FamilySearch will change their information either.

I hope WikiTree users will recognize the limitations of showing date-based places on Google Maps, which focuses on having accurate current location information. Maybe there is a market for an historic date-based map application, but I am not aware of any organizations working on one.

Related questions

+4 votes
0 answers
70 views asked Oct 27, 2018 in The Tree House by George Churchill G2G6 Mach 8 (84.4k points)
+8 votes
7 answers
+4 votes
2 answers
+17 votes
4 answers
158 views asked Nov 3, 2017 in WikiTree Help by Janine Barber G2G6 Pilot (143k points)
+9 votes
1 answer
246 views asked May 31, 2017 in The Tree House by W Robertson G2G6 Mach 4 (49k points)
+8 votes
2 answers
115 views asked May 29, 2015 in The Tree House by Tim Perry G2G6 Mach 2 (28.9k points)
+4 votes
2 answers
114 views asked Aug 1, 2019 in Genealogy Help by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (151k points)
+5 votes
1 answer
41 views asked Apr 10, 2018 in Genealogy Help by Kelly Ferreira G2G Crew (940 points)
+5 votes
2 answers
127 views asked Sep 27, 2019 in WikiTree Tech by Jessica Hammond G2G6 Mach 2 (28.2k points)

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright