|Introduction to Genealogy|
The general rule of thumb when entering place names into genealogical records is to record place names from smallest to largest location (i.e. town/locality, county/parish/district, state/province, country). You may choose to leave off the country if it is the one in which you reside and the one where the majority of your research lies, but you may want to at least make a note of this in your files. The breakdown of these locations will vary by country. Here are a few examples:
- Pittsburgh, Allegheny
County, Pennsylvania, United States
(City, County, State, Country)
- Calluragh, Inchicronan,
Clare, Munster, Ireland
(Townland, Parish, County, Province, Country)
If you have additional place name details, feel free to include them. Just be sure to make note of what it is. For example, you could add the name of the barony (Upper Bunratty) to the above location details for Calluragh, Ireland.
Many paper pedigree charts and even some computer programs do not include enough room to record full place names. Abbreviations may certainly be used as long as they are the ones in standard use. For example:
- Co. (County)
- Par. (Parish)
- Twp. (Township)
Check out this very useful List of Genealogical Abbreviations from Rootsweb for more commonly seen abbreviations. Country and place names usually have accepted variations as well. The Roots Surname List of Country Abbreviations gives three-letter abbreviations for countries and for the counties and other subdivisions of many countries (i.e. U.S. states).
If you only know the town or city in which an event occurred, then you should consult a gazetteer to find the county, parish, province, etc. There are also many online sources from which you can obtain information on the county or province in which a town or city is now located. See Geographic Place Names for a list of online sources.
Population changes, wars and other historic events have caused location boundaries to change over time. It may be something as simple as a town which no longer exists or has changed names or something a little more complex such as a town which was originally part of one country and is now part of another. It is very important to know the history of the area in which you are researching so that you will be able to make educated guesses as to where to find the records for a given time period. When recording a place name for an event, you should always record the locality as it was situated at the time of the event. Then, if space permits, you may also include the information for the locality as it exists today.
Example: Beaufort Co. (now Pitt Co.), NC
If you aren't sure of a location, but you have records which suggest the most likely alternative (i.e. if you know where an ancestor is buried, you may make the assumption that he probably died in that locality), then you can record the place as a "probable."
Example: prob. St. Michael, Bristol, Glouchestershire, England
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