Friday, February 8, 2013

Places in GEDitCOM II

I have been using GEDitCOM II for doing my genealogy. I have really grown to like it and respect it as a good genealogy program. For me the interface is very intuitive, and it provides a lot of functionality. Furthermore, it provides the ability to compile very complete information about your ancestors and relatives.

In this article, I want to share my enthusiasm for the way GEDitCOM has implemented a great way to identify those locations where events pertaining to a person's genealogy occurred, such as births, deaths, marriages, etc.

Place Advisor

GEDitCOM's most recent innovation is the Place Advisor. This part of the program allows you to identify a location by drilling down from the country to the state, to the county, to the city, and even to a suburb if that is appropriate. GEDitCOM identifies that location through a boundary box which includes the place that you're trying to identify. It also ties in to Google Maps, so it gives you a map and the geographical coordinates to identify the location. You can also see within the map places of interest which can be identified such as churches and cemeteries.

United States Utah
United States Utah
Uintah County Vernal
Uintah County Vernal

This contrasts with every other genealogy program I've looked at that give you the ability to enter a location tied to a map. They all identify the location as a point on a map. Well, for me, Seattle, Washington, for example, is not a point on a map. It is an area which is better described as lying within a boundary.

It is very easy in GEDitCOM to find a location because all you have to do is drill down from the biggest container to the smallest container. It is also very easy to do a search. For example, if you know the city and the state, but you don't know the county, call up the state, and then do a search on the city name. It will search for the city within the state. The results will include the name of the county.

Vernal search
When entering place names, you no longer need to worry about correctly formatting the name of the location since everything is selected from a drop-down list and the formatting is taken care of for you automatically. There is very little typing involved so the possibility of making a typo error is eliminated. When genealogists have to type place names into their genealogy, they often end up with a mess like this (the numbers in parentheses are the numbers of entries that use the name shown):

Buckingham House (8)
Buckingham House, London, England (3)
Buckingham House, St. James Park, London, England (1)
Buckingham Palac, England (1)
Buckingham, Palace, England (3)
Buckingham, Palace, London, England (18)
Buckingham, Palace, Music Room, England (2)

In fact, in the above list of seven names, there are really only two places that are being identified, assuming Buckingham House and Buckingham Palace are two different places. I just went through all the place names in my genealogy and eliminated almost 200 names out of an original list of around 750 by cleaning the data. GEDitCOM made this process very easy.

Use of Current Name or Historical Name

Genealogists have been confounded by the problem of identifying historical locations. This has become more problematic recently because of the ability to identify locations with GPS coordinates. But when you're using geolocation, the current names of a location do not always correspond with the historical names. So the quandary has arisen whether to use the current location name or the historical, and there have been all kinds of workarounds proposed. (See, for example, this blog post by Randy Seaver discussing how he is handling historical names for places:

With GEDitCOM II this problem is solved because once you have identified the current location you can then add the historical record of the names of that location or place. This is accomplished by the software creating custom fields which are available to the user.

The standard format for genealogy data is called GEDCOM. Because the place information is created within the GEDitCOM program, the information will not transfer intact to any other genealogy program. GEDitCOM does not provide an app for mobile devices. This means that if you want to use your iDevice on the road, you can use an application built for the iDevice which can export GEDCOM data. This will allow you to only enter basic genealogy information and export the GEDCOM file into GEDitCOM. However, the place information will have to be entered once you get back to your Mac.

With the use of the additional fields provided by GEDitCOM, you can list all the names which have been in use for the location and provide the dates during which time those names were used. Then you can decide which of the names to use as the primary name. The primary name is the one used when running reports. Thus you can choose to use the historical name that was in use at the time of the event, or you can choose to use the current name. The decision is yours to make. I personally will be using the historical name.

Bliss Idaho

The GEDCOM standard used by practically all genealogy programs allows for the basic genealogy information to be shared among genealogists and among genealogy programs. Most genealogy programs have deviated from the standard with the use of custom fields. I really like the way GEDitCOM has implemented the identification of places. This by itself is enough to make me stay with this program and use it rather than any other.

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