Working with Places and Addresses for New Users

Introduction

Places and Addresses identify the geographic location at which a Fact happened.

What are Places and Addresses?

According to GEDCOM, a Place field should hold “The jurisdictional name of the place where the event took place…” and an Address “should be formed as it would appear on a mailing label…” This immediately introduces overlap between the two values (if the specification is followed exactly, an Address would contain some or all elements of the jurisdictional location it falls within), and ƒh users have evolved a number of differing approaches to how they populate the fields, depending on how they intend to use the data.

Place and Address Management

Creating or Editing a Place or Address

Both Places and Addresses consist of a string of comma-separated elements. Creating a new Place or Address is as simple as typing it into a Place or Address field; as you do so, ƒh will offer to autocomplete the field using existing values that match the characters you’ve typed in so far, or you can use the Menu button (which appears when your cursor is within a relevant field) to select from a list of existing entries.

You can also view and edit existing entries via the Work with Data Dialog accessed via Tools > Work with Data > Places or Tools > Work with Data > Addresses.

Place Records

ƒh version 6 introduced Place records, which you can view via View > Record Lists > Places. These are created automatically when you create a new Place value; in addition to the place name , they can also hold a Standardized Place, geocoding information, notes and links to media.

In ƒh version 5, or if you wish to use separate Address and Place values in ƒh6, a combination of Source and Repository records can be configured to achieve a similar result using the Map Life Facts plugin.

Major Recommendations

These recommendations apply to all approaches to working with Places and Addresses.

Think Carefully about your Approach

  • Decide how you are going to handle Places and Addresses before you enter a lot of data.
  • If you decide to adopt a different approach from the one you adopted initially, it is not the end of the world. The Rearrange Address and Place Parts plugin  can help you adopt a new approach), but as in many things it’s a lot less work to get it right from the start.

Be Consistent.

  • Decide on a standard format for Places and Addresses (for example: town, county, country; or house number/name, street, village/suburb) and stick to it.
  • A Place structure should have at least three elements, including Country (to disambiguate places with the same name in different countries, such as Birmingham, Alabama ,USA and Birmingham, West Midlands, England.)
  • An Address structure (if you’re using them) should always contain the house/building name/number and street.
  • If any element doesn’t exist for the location you’re dealing with, leave an empty space between commas. This means that when you use Tools > Work With Data to manage your Places or Addresses (or View > Record Lists > Places in ƒh version 6), you have columns dedicated to a particular element.
  • Which elements you adopt will be heavily dependent on the countries your Ancestors lived in; different countries have different components for Places and Addresses, and you may want to accommodate multiple structures by extending the number of elements you support. However, you will need to be vigilant about what elements to include for each country; the more complicated your structure the harder it will make consistent data entry.

Three Main Approaches

Distinct Places and Addresses

This approach eliminates overlap between Place elements and Address elements. For example:

Address Structure House or building name or number, Street, Village or Suburb
Place Structure Town or City, County, Country
Notes:
  • If you adopt this approach, within ƒh version 6 you will only be able to geocode to the Place level (addresses will not be taken into account.) The Map Life Fact plugin supports geocoding of address/place combinations but the maps are external to ƒh.
  • Churches need special consideration in this scheme.It is quite common to only know the church name and its Place such as St.Mary’s, Newtown, Kent, UK. So in Tools > Work with Data > Addresses the church name St.Mary’s will only be listed once.What if you later discover the street address is say St.Mary’s, Church Road, Newtown, Kent, UK? It is not easy to globally edit just the Address fields for St.Mary’s associated with Newtown, Kent, UK and none of the others.The solution is to include some Place details with the Address to differentiate each church name. However, that could result in duplicated Place details appearing in Diagrams and Reports, unless you enclose those Place details in privacy [[ brackets ]] so they get hidden, e.g. St.Mary’s[[, Newtown, Kent, UK]].

Overlapping Places and Addresses

This approach adheres most closely to the GEDCOM standard (including the overlapping information) so may migrate to other genealogy database with fewer problems. For example:

Address Structure House or building name or number, Street, Village or Suburb, Town or City, County, Country
Place Structure Town or City, County, Country
Notes:
  • If you adopt this solution, within ƒh version 6 you will only be able to geocode to the Place level (addresses will not be taken into account.) The Map Life Facts plugin supports geocoding of address/place combinations including Address only) but the maps are external to ƒh.
  • Churches are qualified by the full details of their address and place, so are much easier to distinguish.
  • You will need to take care if reports and diagrams are not to display repeated information — include either the Address and not the Place (preferred) or the Place but not the Address.

Places Only

This approach ignores Addresses completely. For example:

Address Structure Not used
Place Structure House or building name or number, Street, Village or Suburb, Town or City, County, Country
Notes:
  • If you adopt this solution, within ƒh version 6 you will be able to geocode to exact building level. In ƒh version 5, you can use the Map Life Facts plugin to achieve the same thing, but the maps are external to ƒh.
  • Churches are qualified by the full details of their address and place, so are much easier to distinguish.
  • There will be no repeated information in reports and diagrams, but you will find that most Place Qualifiers are of little value.
  • In ƒh6 you will also be able to associate Notes and Media with a building if you wish.

Historical Name or Current Name?

A recurring question from newcomers to genealogy is: Do I enter the address and/or place as it was recorded at the time, or do I enter the current equivalent?

Place names change over time; county and country and legal jurisdiction boundaries shift; the relevant entities can disappear completely. Addresses are even worse: streets get renumbered or renamed; houses are demolished or repurposed. A building that was once the Kings Norton Union Workhouse (in Workhouse Lane) become Selly Oak Hospital (in Raddlebarn Road), which might be referred to as 1a Raddlebarn Road in birth and death certificates and, at the time of writing, the site is being redeveloped as housing.

Genealogical best practice recommends that you document the name as it was recorded in the source that refers to it, i.e. an historical name. However, historical place and address data may not be familiar to people viewing your research, and it doesn’t geocode very well. You will want to record a more contemporary equivalent, either (versions 4 and 5) in a note associated with the relevant event or (version 6) as a Standardized Place in the relevant place record perhaps with more detail in the Place Record Note.

Displaying Places in Queries Reports and Diagrams

Place Qualifiers can be used to modify the way places are displayed in Queries, Reports etc.

Qualifier Description
Short Places are displayed in shortened format. Only text up to the first comma (if any) is displayed.
Medium Places are displayed in a slightly shortened format. Text up to the second comma only (if there are two) is displayed.
Tidy The full place details are displayed, but extra commas are removed.
Full The full place details are displayed (this is the default).

If you’re not using Addresses, you’ll find the Short and Medium qualifiers are of little value. However the TextPart function can help overcome this.

Last update: 08 Dec 2020