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Designating places in North America prior to 1776

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    Designating places in North America prior to 1776


    I recently acquired my brother-in-law's GEDCOM file and will be using it in Reunion. His research goes quite far back and I notice a lot of people in North America predate 1776. These people lived in places both in what is now Canada and the United States. Is there a correct way to designate their locations? I see for many entries he has used "British Colonial America".

    I am interested in your insights on this.


    This is a much wider issue than historic North America. There is the same issue all over the world. Trying to document locations in pre-WWI German empire and city states have similar issues. That said, every historic location has two representations. One is the historic name of the location, using the names that were used at the time. The other is the current name of the location, using current terminology. The first provides historic context. The other provides useful information for research. It can help the researcher find documentation, such as vital records, library resources and historic societies. Reunion provides only one representation for places. Different researchers will have different systems for labeling places in Reunion.

    My primary research area is Finland. During the recorded history of my ancestors, Finland has been a Grand Duchy of Russia, a Province of Sweden and an independant country. I have records for the same farm with locations in each of those countries. I have elected to record the farm's place in current Finnish nomenclature, so that I can see all of the family history within a given farm.


      dfilpus is certainly right.

      A refinement, if you will, is to consider place names to have two general components - one used for the physical location (village/town/city), and one that includes the administrative/jurisdictional unit to which it belongs, or belonged, and that the former is quite stable, and it's the latter that has frequently changed.

      My ancestors emigrated from a village that has the same local name now as it did nearly 300 years ago. But without a heavy handbook of German geopolitical history, no way to know how its jurisdictional name might have been recorded at any point in time, such as in census records. Move 50 km, get another handbook!

      The readily-found U.S. immigration and census records often have only administrative place names, which depend on exactly when they were recorded. They are a fairly useless indication of whether any two families were likely related. Hessen-Nassau? Hessen Darmstadt? Kurhessen? Prussia? Germany?

      I hope to determine whether later immigrants are related to my line with DNA, not place name. And maybe using GPS coordinates will give long-term stability to identify the physical locations... like dfilpus's family farm! qp
      -- Paul ... Reitz immigrants in America

      Reunion 13.0 build 201127 on
      MBPr 15" mid-2015, macOS 10.14.6
      MBP 15" Mid-2010, macOS 10.13.6


        Thanks for your responses. There certainly is a lot to think about. I suppose you just pick what works for you and keep things consistent.


          Definitely pick what works for you and be consistent.

          British Colonial America is a FamilySearch tree designation not used anywhere else and problematic (It's not actually a county). I try to use historically accurate place names (place names at the time of the event). For Colonial America, I tend to put the city (or whatever), county (if applicable), then colony, then country (United Kingdom after 1707, Kingdom of England before that).
          Bradley Jansen
          OS 10.15.2 on a MacBook Pro using Reunion 12 and ReunionTouch 1.0.9