Housekeeping – Cleaning Up Those Locations

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By Amanda Forson, WorldVitalRecords.com

With only fifteen minutes used per day, this could take up a month’s worth of days depending upon the size of the file and the extent of location morass. It is easier to break up some projects more than it is for others, or is a useful activity when a family member wants to help but has no idea how to help with research. This task is time-consuming and mind-numbing, but necessary to get a database thoroughly cleaned out and useful. For those of LDS faith, this also helps eliminate duplications in work for the dead.

This article also assumes that a genealogical database for a family exists, and is intended for users with at least 1,000 or more “names” in a database.

Day One: Open the genealogical software of choice and find the master list of locations. For purposes of this article, Legacy Family Tree will be used as the example. For Legacy, that would be done by going to View-Master List-Location.

Day Two: Look at the list and see whether there is punctuation, numbers, or other information in the location fields besides the town, county, and state, or the parish, district, province, etc. Personal preference delineates how to look at places. I prefer sorting locations from smallest to largest as is the acceptable postal and geopolitical designations for my country. Other countries use different designations. It is up to the individual to decide how to look at locations, but for the case of this article, going from smallest location up to the country specification will be my designations.

Day Three: When noticing and wanting to edit punctuation, click on Edit on the right side of the screen and eliminate the excess punctuation. Excess <>’s, “Of,” commas starting a location, and other similar punctuation can be removed as wanted. After removing excessive primary punctuation, begin removing extra periods.

Day Four: Usually the screen will prompt whether you prefer to update all records with that designation. Personal preference is to update all records for purposes of brevity of the location list and constancy in specific areas, depending upon the time frame.

As my relatives come from different counties in the United States, various parishes in England, geographical regions of Slovakia, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Scotland, there are at least that many places that need checking eventually. The more likely that I have one designation for the smallest place, instead of many designations; the more likely it is that I find all the relatives who lived in that area.


Example: Cold Spring, Putnam, New York
could be: Cold Springs, Putnam, New York
Cold Spring, Putnam County, New York
Cold Spring, Putnam, New York, USA
Cold Spring, Putnam County, New York, USA
Cold Springs, Putnam County, New York, USA

If searching for a place, all of these different options may be on the Master List. There could also be wrong counties or wrong place spellings, such as “Cold Springs” versus the correct, “Cold Spring.” Whenever possible, correct the different options to reflect ONE location. If possible, check for accuracy while correcting the location list. If lacking time for that, it is possible to do a mass US County Verification later.

Day Five: The designations for day four certainly do not pertain to when an area’s names evolved over time. When dealing with someone who lived and died in the same place, technically it is the same geographical location. However, it is also different places as an area grew or boundaries shifted. Use whatever was right for the time period.

Example: A person born in Honolulu, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, USA in 1952 who died in 1963, but lived in the same house the entire time would have died in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, USA.

Day Six: If time was not taken during the Day Five step, check for the counties now. Various software means help with checking this information. There is a US County Verifier on Legacy and other family history programs. There is also AniMap, and other software that aids in verifying county, country, or other location information.

Day Seven: Re-save your file with the clean information to make sure that your clean copy stays clean. Share it with family now, and upload it to FamilyLink.com to make faster connections with others interested in similar locations. As always, keep checking back at WorldVitalRecords.com for new information!

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