You’ve been working on your family history for years and have gathered a lot of information.
You keep careful notes and are consistent in putting down full bibliographic citations so that others may quickly know where you found each of your facts.
But—how are you adding the places of birth, marriage or death for your ancestors?
Here’s a tip: write out the complete geographic location for each event.
Instead of writing:
You want to render it as:
Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, United States
What you want to avoid are abbreviations, because they can often be misunderstood.
For example: which state has the abbreviation AR?
Is that Arizona? Arkansas? No, it can’t be Arkansas—isn’t that AK?
Actually, Arizona is AZ, Arkansas is AR and Alaska is AK.
It’s easy to know if you use those geo location abbreviations often, but when we don’t we often have to look the abbreviation up to get it right.
Over the history of the United States, abbreviations have not always been consistent. People used any abbreviation that seemed correct to them. Newspapers often used an unconventional abbreviation, such as Con for Connecticut. We’re not accustomed to that today—but it must have been acceptable over a century ago.
The accepted style for writing geographic locations is to not use abbreviations and to include the name of the county and of the country. Use the corresponding geographical jurisdictions when documenting places in other countries.
You never want to simply enter the name of the town.
For example, don’t just use: Haverhill.
You understand where that is.
Many of your family lived there—but will other relatives know where that is?
What if your relative now lives across the country—will they recognize where Haverhill is?
Is that Haverhill, Essex, Massachusetts, United States—or, not far away, Haverhill, Grafton, New Hampshire, United States?
Why include the name of the country?
Now that genealogy has gone global, it is customary to include the name of the country to make the entries more precise.
When genealogists are less familiar with the geography, having it spelled out is helpful.
Sydney, Cumberland, New South Wales
Most of us would instantly recognize this is in Australia, but could it be misunderstood as somehow being part of Wales?
Enter it as:
Sydney, Cumberland, New South Wales, Australia—then there is no misunderstanding.
Make your family history crystal clear.
Use the town, county, state and country to describe all of the localities in your family history.
Let’s be consistent in all of our records and leave a clear record that everyone will easily understand.
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