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Standard format for places in the USA

Standard format for places in the USA

Posted: 1360610468000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1360613779000
I have downloaded my ATM tree into FTM2012 and now need to standardize place names. I see FTM uses a standard format of city, county, state and country (USA) but I cannot find a reference that explains how/where to manually enter only county locations. For example, ideally, Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA is the correct entry. But if the location is Dallas county, which is the correct entry

Dallas, Texas, USA?
Dallas County, Texas, USA?
,Dallas, Texas, USA?
something else?

If "County" is added, then should "County" be added even when the city is available, as with

Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, USA.

It would seem like adding "County" might have some impact on searching.


EDIT: That begs the question of independent cities that are not within a county.

Can anyone point me to a reference that has this kind of basic "howto" info...thanks again.

Re: Standard format for places in the USA

Posted: 1360621596000
Classification: Query

Re: Standard format for places in the USA

Posted: 1360622759000
Classification: Query
The GEDCOM standard is not real specific on this, but it says:

The jurisdictional name of the place where the event took place. Jurisdictions are separated by commas, for example, "Cove, Cache, Utah, USA." If the actual jurisdictional names of these places have been identified, they can be shown using a PLAC.FORM structure either in the HEADER or in the event structure. (See {PLACE_HIERARCHY}, page 58.)

So... The place names are only slightly positional in that if the event happened in the county you would only indicate {county_name}, {state_name}, USA

In places where a city does not reside in a county then the city name precedes the state without a county between.

The standard also says that a FORMate is used after the PLAC to indicate a variance from the values in the HEADer.

Personally, I think:

1) always be consistant, if you use the word "county" or "Co." or "Cnty" always use it.

2)Sometimes Township is a "Jurisdiction" because a city does not exist. Use this even though this does not fit into the FTM setup.

3) Sometimes a city spans two (or more) counties, what do you do? I use the first county the city was found in.

I try to be as accurate as I can without becoming "too anal". The place field is not really enough to be acurate all the time. Some countries don't have the same divisions as the USA so you will have to learn what they use.

Re: Standard format for places in the USA

Posted: 1360629140000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1360629421000
" But if the location is Dallas county, which is the correct entry?"

I use Dallas County, Texas, USA. I want to be sure when I (or anyone else) looking for that the name beside the state is a county or a subdivision within the county, so I always use County with the county name. FTM recognizes the text string county as part of the name and will resolve with the county in the name.

"Can anyone point me to a reference that has this kind of basic "how to" info"

You have the PNA built-into FTM - which is very imperfect.

The first place I often look is Wikipedia, because it often discusses the names of that place historically; as well as other places spun-off from it.

I also often look in GenWeb and county history books at and

To illustrate the problems that come with FTM (besides not having historical names and some names can be found in the Bing maps and not in the PNA) are:

Los Angeles. The following areas will be resolved as "area, Los Angeles, California, USA" within the PNA, but:

Marina del Rey is an unincorporated area in the county (not in the city)
Venice and Sherman Oaks have been incorporated in, and are now, neighborhood names in the City of LA
Beverly Hills and Santa Monica are separate cities in the County of LA.

Also, the five part names in areas of villages and hamlets in places like New York resolve to four parts, often leaving out the name of the town the village or hamlet is in. One has to manually override the four parts and add the town to the PNA name to get it right.


So, we can only do what we can do with what we know.

Re: Standard format for places in the USA

Posted: 1360694538000
Classification: Query
Thanks to all for the responses.

Unfortunately, that KB link is what caused my query. No real help for entering the info. I've also looked at other KB articles and the FTM Companion Guide with no success. The PNA is an absurd combination of locations that offers no help.

Obviously, everyone using FTM is entering location info but I see (on many variations.

Hmmm, hadn't thought about the GEDCOM Standard but that seems to be about the only ref available. FTM seems to be mostly compliant with 5.5.1 which advocates something like

[Juris1, Juris2, Juris3, Juris]4 or
[Juris1, , Juris3, Juris4] for an independent city, or
[, Juris2, Juris3, Juris4] for a county only reference.

The above would look pretty ugly in some of the printed reports. And I don't like leaving empty holes to represent information. FTM seems to interpret [Juris1, Juris2, Juris3] as meaning [, Juris2, Juris3, Juris4] (County, State, USA). After a little experimenting, it seems FTM disregards the word "county" and I see other issues with both bing mapping and place names.

IMHO the bottom line is that the naming convention used must be understandable by humans so I am inclined to add "county" where I can. Unfortunately, FTM doesn't want me to make that edit to some county names.

Another thought is that the jurisdictional hierarchy seems a logical construct. Until now I have tried to fit all places into the [city,county,state,USA] mold. However, a top-down, jurisdictional hierarchy seems to work reasonably well. I have had trouble with New York city but from a top-down look it becomes USA, New York, New York, Manhattan with no actual county named.

Again, thanks for the assist...

Re: Standard format for places in the USA

Posted: 1360703153000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1360703692000
I wouldn't call the PNA "absurd". I would call it incomplete and has a few errors (some parts of the world worse than others) and is limiting when it only considers 4 part locations, when 5 or 6 parts would be much better, with the PRIMARY problem that the PNA and FTM"s structure offers no help in how to handle historical names, while at the same time giving the opportunity to find a historical place in a current map if you wanted to go visit.

Beyond the PNA and looking at FTM itself - it has virtually no limitations on how to structure a place name, as long as "component" pieces are separate by a comma and a space.

For example, the following works fine in FTM - and can be resolved so that it will show in the Heirarchical View.

St Mary's Church, 1045 Avenue, Quogue, Southampton, Suffolk, New York, USA

But the PNA will try to resolve pre-Civil War

Preston County, Virginia to
Preston County, West Virginia, USA

and will try to resolve

Tyrone, Steuben, New York, USA for the 1840 census to:
Tyrone, Schuyler, New York, USA - because that's where it is now.

FTM has no problem with general subdivisions being included in names. They will resolve without removing them. (This was a problem until this a FTM2012 update). This includes the words Township and County. Trying to resolve those in versions before FTM2012 will remove them.

For whatever it's worth:

Borough of County of

Manhattan, New York
The Bronx, Bronx
Brooklyn, Kings
Queens, Queens
Staten Island, Richmond
per page

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