Genealogy is all about people, but a big part is location, too.  Since we can’t go back and meet our ancestors, the best we can hope for is to visit the places they lived; to walk the streets they walked, see what sunrises and sunsets looked like, and see the places they lived, worked, raised children and grew old.  Maybe the old church/synagogue/temple/schoolhouse/whatever is still there.  Maybe kids still swim in the same swimmin’ hole.

Whatever the draw, location is an important part of genealogy.  Not just for nostalgia’s sake, but it can often help us past roadblocks.  For this reason, Origins is taking a hard look at how locations are managed.  Being able to enter city, county, state, country is great, but there’s so much more to locations than just that:

  • What about a street address so if you can’t go there in person, online maps with Street View can let you take a peek from anywhere in the world?  (Sure, lots of places have changed a lot since our ancestors were there, but some haven’t…)
  • What about historical names?  Smithville might be “Smithville” now, but in the past, it’s been “Johnsonville,” “Jonesburg” and many other things.  In the past it was part of one county, but now it’s part of another.  It’s still the same place – the lines have just been moved around.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to track that information?  Be able to write notes about why and when a location name changed?  To know that if you’re looking for a death record from 1900 that you should be looking in county X because that’s where the location was in 1900, even though it’s now in county Y?

In Origins, we’re tackling all of this and more with regard to locations.  Currently, here’s what we have planned:

  1. Each location has the following fields available:
    • 4 “street” fields to be used for recording a full street address.  It’s unlikely that you’ll need more than three, but the fourth is there if you need it (don’t worry, if you’re not using it, it won’t be shown unless you go into the “edit” form)
    • 8 “location” fields for the rest of the location information.  Currently we’re calling these Village, Borough, Township, City, County, State, Country, PostalCode
    • Latitude and Longitude for GPS coordinates
    • Notes to record whatever extra information you like
    • Alternate: Has space for all of the location-information in the above bullets, plus a start date, end date and another Notes field.  This allows you to record alternate information for a location, as well as the dates that information applies.  For example, the current town is Smithville but from February 10, 1891 to July 4, 1905 it was called Johnsonville.  You can have as many of these “alternates” as you need.

That’s wherethings currently stand.  I’m sure we’ll tweak it a little bit before we release.  We’d love to hear your ideas.  What do you like/dislike?  What are we missing?



Dave & Lil

PS: Managing locations in this way is also a small first step in being able to handle non-US places.