This is just a quick post to describe our current view of how Origins will handle locations so that we can continue to collect some feedback.  While much of this is built already, none of it is set in stone, so we welcome your feedback.

We’ve previously written about our approach to Locations here and here.  This post is an evolution of that thinking as we continue to build Origins.

First of all, it is important to know that Origins treats Locations as first-class citizens.  This means that you can edit and manage Locations just like People, Facts, Sources, etc.  We’ll provide more details on this later, but for now it means that Locations are as important as anything else Origins does.

The following screenshot shows what we currently have built for Locations.  This is specifically from the process of adding a Fact, but it will be similar for all instances where you are working with Locations.

See the details below for information on each of the numbered sections.


  1. Select which type of data you want to include with this Fact.  The “Location” section shows up below because we have it selected here
  2. When specifying a Location for a Fact, you can choose to pick from a Location you’ve entered previously by selecting it here.  If you select a Location from this dropdown, the fields below will be automatically filled in
  3. Or choose to enter a new Location  by filling in the fields manually.  Note that by default, only the Country field is shown.  I’ll cover how to add additional fields when we get to #6.
  4. In this screenshot, I’ve added three additional fields: State, County, and Municipality.  For most of the fields here, as you type a value, the field will automatically suggest possible locations.  We’re still working on exactly how we’ll populate the list of locations we use to make these suggestions, but it will certainly include values you’ve entered into each field previously.
  5. Clicking on this icon will remove a field that you have added
  6. Clicking on this icon will present a pop-up list of available fields.  I’ve included a screenshot of this pop-up as it currently stands below, but we’re still tweaking the fields and labels for the fields that will be included.  Also, see the information below about renaming fields.
  7. This is how Origins will display the location information on screen and in reports.  The value shown here (“Drexel Hill, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States”) is generated based on the values you enter.  Specifically, Origins will ship with a formula for each country (as well as a “catch-all” as a fallback for countries we can’t determine a specific formula for) that will determine which fields will be included in this value and which order they will be included.  One thing to note about the values here is that each one has a border around it.  You’ll be able to click and drag/drop these values if you want to rearrange the order they are displayed in, or remove them entirely.  You’ll also be able to drag any field from section 4 down to include it in the Display Value.  If you do change the Display Value from the default, you’ll be able to specify if you want to make this change just for this Location, or if you want to change the formula for all Locations in the specified Country.
  8. If you choose, you can specify a “short name” for a Location.  By default the short name will only be used in the dropdown list of existing Locations shown at #2 above.  You can choose, however, if you’d like to use it as the Display Value for the Location everywhere it is shown (with the option of using the full display value in reports).  Our thinking here is that for some Locations, the full value is overkill.  I don’t need to see “Drexel Hill, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States” all the time, simply “Drexel Hill, PA” is sufficient but I want to be able to capture all of the information and easily switch over to using it if I’m printing a report for others, for example.  Short names are optional.

Available Fields

Here is the list of fields we are currently supporting.  As I said above, this list is not final.  We are still going back and forth on the fields in Orgins and know that we need to spend some time on this – especially to get rid of the very definite US-only bias that the list currently reflects.


Selecting a name from this list will add a field (or two fields in the case of GPS Coordinates – one for Latitude and one for Longitude) to the UI and allow you to specify a value for that field.  In the screenshot here, Country is already in the UI, so it is not available in this list to add again.

Renaming Fields

We’ve given the fields certain names, but they may not be the names you want or need to use.  So we let you rename them.  Right-clicking on any Location field will show the following menu:


Here you have two options:

  • Edit label for this field: This will allow you to change the label for a field just this one Location.  For example, if you need “Province” instead of “State” for this Location, you can do that here
  • Change default label for this field type: This is a global option – it will allow you to change the label for every instance of this Location field, or alternately, all that have not been specifically changed individually.

There are still some details and problems we need to work out for renaming fields, but nothing too significant.  Also, we’re going to allow you to select a “default” set of labels when you start Origins (or at any point after you’ve started).  If, for example, most of your Locations were going to be in Canada, it would be nice to be able to default to “Province” instead of “State” rather than having to change each one individually, or use the global rename shown in the above screenshot.

Master Locations

Every Location you enter is automatically saved for reuse.  This capability is sometimes called “Master Locations”.  You can choose to not add a new Location to the Master List, at the time you create it, or later through a maintenance page.

You can also choose, when reusing a Location (by selecting it in the dropdown shown at #2 above) to “clone” it rather than simply reuse it.  This means that you can save some typing if most of the information for a location is the same, and will create a new Master Location (if you choose) with whatever edited information you provide.

Other things you can do with Master Locations, include:

  • Report on all Facts or People who are associated with the Location
  • Edit the Master Location and choose to apply those edits to all, none, or some of the Facts/People associated with the Location


Locations change, either because of political boundary changes, natural disasters, or any number of other reasons.  We don’t have all of the details worked out yet, but we want to allow you to specify alternates for a Location.  At a basic level, a Location is a specific place on Earth.  But the name by which it is known might change.  Sometimes, the Location itself might actually move from one place to another.  We want to support that but are still working out the specifics.  Initially, we’re thinking this will include the ability to specify the dates for which an alternate is applicable for a Location.  Beyond that, we’re still kicking around ideas.


  • If you provide GPS Coordinates (Latitude/Longitude) Origins can calculate the approximate distance between Locations, show Locations on a map, etc.
  • Alternates will include the ability to simply specify an alternate name or alternate spelling for a Location
  • Like People, Facts, Sources and all other “things” Origins manages, you can include Notes about a Location.


We’re still figuring out what we can include in version 1, so some of this may fall back to a later version, but we’re trying to fit as much into v1 as we can.

I’m sure I’ve missed something in this post, but it should give you an idea of where we’re going with Locations.  As always, comments are welcome.

— Dave