Old or new names of places

Started by Kjell Odding on Thursday, November 4, 2010


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11/4/2010 at 5:18 AM

When you register a profile, you put the birthplace of the name, area and country. One who was born in Jamtland when the area was Norwegian. Is it right to enter Norway or Sweden?
The same problem has been in Norway where municipalities are merged. Should we register the municipality that was when the profile was living or who is responsible for the area today?
(Jamtland and Härjedalen - perhaps we should take a military exercise and take back those areas :-)

Private User
11/4/2010 at 6:29 AM

Dear Kjell,

In the USA, we have the same problems of using the old name or the present day name . Thousands of places have changed their names over the centuries. As an example, a city in Connecticut is now called New London on the Thames River. Originally in the 1600's it was called "Pequot Plantation" and the river was Pequot River. The Pequots were the Indians who lived in this region before the settlement by Europeans.

Another example: In New York State there is a village called Hurley near the Hudson River. Hurley was originally called "Nieuw Dorp" meaning
"new village" in Dutch.

Wikipedia says: History

In the Spring of 1662, Peter Stuyvesant, Dutch Governor of Niew Amsterdam, established the village of Niew Dorp on the site of an earlier Native American Settlement. On June 7, 1663, during the Esopus Wars the Esopus Indians attacked and destroyed the village, and took captives who were later released. [1] England took over the Dutch Colony on September 6, 1664. On September 17, 1669, the village, abandoned since the Esopus Indian attack, was resettled and renamed Hurley. It was named after Francis Lovelace, Baron Hurley of Ireland.[2

So this piece of history is not of major importance and most Americans may never have heard of it. I happen to have come from New York State and had ancestors in Hurley, so I have learned about it. So.....to me it is important to at least mention the old name and the current name.

I feel that a sense of history and change is important to genealogists. Most people who are writing about their ancestors make their own choices.

Ethel Johanna Myers

Private User
11/4/2010 at 3:48 PM

I always write the nowadays placename into the profiles if it is old names named in the sources. Why ? Because this do it easier for all of us when we later read about the person. The work with finding the place where the person lived is definited. Who know where "Jæmtland, Norway" is ? It is easyer to find "Jæmtland, Sweden".

Private User
11/4/2010 at 4:31 PM

As it's been discussed many times, what is really need is a placename timeline that not only accounts for name changes but also hierarchy changes. For the time being, your best bet is to use the current placename. That way, when we actually do have placename timelines, this will hopefully kick in retroactively based on the time of the event.

11/4/2010 at 4:48 PM

It's important to include the original name and source information. It's easy to do this on the Edit Profile form. Instead of entering the placename in the main form field (the one that gets autofilled with GPS info), click on "Edit Location Details" and then on that top line you can write anything you want to.

I prefer to first write the name of the village or town, county, province/state, and nation *as it was at the historical time* as much as possible, and then in parentheses write "(now known as ____)" or "(now in _____)".

This way you preserve the complete information and are both historically and geographically accurate.

11/4/2010 at 5:11 PM

Pamela, it sounds great. In that way you get names in both old and new time. I think I'll adopt that way of doing it.

11/4/2010 at 5:56 PM

Good luck, Kjell. I think this method will make you feel sure that you are covering all information thoroughly.

Private User
11/4/2010 at 6:22 PM

@Kjell Nilsen-Nygaard
Hello Kjell Odding, The important consideration must to be able later to link information according to time line. Which information comes first is probably not so important. I would prefer to record current information first, the logic being we work backwards in time when tracing ancestors. Good luck with re-possessing the areas.

11/4/2010 at 7:58 PM

We do have plans to buy google-earth and integrate it and GPS with a historical name change database that surely some enterprising entrepreneur, like google perhaps, will make available. I'm told the coding issues are pretty substantial.

I like the idea of entering both if possible.

Private User
11/5/2010 at 6:59 AM

Dear Sir:

I hope that you are willing to put both the old and the new place names in your
profiles. Quite often a reader does not go to the original source. It has been helpful to me to visualize the area where my ancestor lived at various times in his life.

Ethel Johanna Myers

11/5/2010 at 7:39 AM

The only true solution is to enter latitude and longitude of the various places. That is the only certain thing. Then, engines around Internet (Google history maps?) designed for that can tell what that point on Earth was at a certain time. Maybe I was born in a hospital that isn't there anymore. Lived in a house number that is now a highway. Latitude and longitude are the only certain things.

What should we do if a town changes it's name right now? Should we go through our tree and change all mentions of it? That is not very efficient.

My grandfather was born in one country, lived in another, and died in a third one. (Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Yugoslavia, Croatia) All in the same place. Geni isn't a service for keeping track of this things.

Private User
11/5/2010 at 8:06 AM

Well, Janko:

Your idea makes sense. Perhaps that is the idea that is being suggested for using the Google maps of the world to pinpoint locations. The latitude and longitude would locate the area and give a modern day name.

As you say, Geni doesn't call for much history unless we enter information in the overview.

Ethel Johanna Myers

Private User
1/19/2011 at 7:05 AM

Dear Arnfred,

I like your idea of including the present day name along with the ancient names that are correct for that period of time.

Sometimes I add the present day name if I think it is helpful.

Part of genealogical research includes the choice of trying to make clear
the location of the ancestor in terms of place names of today.

In my little world, I am much more satisfied if I have a sense of place, almost like a map in my head.

There are enormous differences between the wilderness that greeted the immigrants of the 1600's and the modern cities of the world today.

Anyone who studies history must keep a picture in the mind of how our
villages and towns looked in the early days of settlement. Almost all building were single story . Gradually two-story buildings became common. Of course, today we have many skyscrapers that make us
look up at the sky to see the top.

The sense of change over centuries is vital to really understanding the
differences between today and the world of long ago.

Ethel Johanna Myers

1/19/2011 at 7:17 AM

I try to put the original name in the location field, using Edit, as Pam mentioned and if necessary, put the contemporary information in About Me. For instance, "Roxbury" which was a town but is now a part of Boston. Tammy and my ancestors helped found Roxbury.

A related question is whether you put the original town name but then put the original or contemporary larger entity it belonged to. For instance - East Prussia, Russian Empire, versus say Poland or Lithuania.

Private User
1/19/2011 at 7:25 AM


I see that you have already been thinking of ways to include the old and new names in such a way that they are easy to understand.

Your suggestion of the old names in the profile and new name explanations in the"About me" makes sense to me.

Ethel Johanna Myers

1/19/2011 at 8:58 AM

I've just come up with this working with my ancestors from Brody, Austria ... then Poland ... then Russia ... now Ukraine.

So for THEIR time, their country. Brody, Austria.
For MY time, where I can find it. (Present day Ukraine)

And point in the "about me" page to the Wiki page on the town (which is no more) that includes latitude / longitude.

Simple, neat ...

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