How to Enter Counties in Genealogy Databases
Three genealogy software programs (Family Tree Maker, Legacy, & RootsMagic) provide various capabilities regarding what can be done with the places | locations in your database. This article is not going to explore what those are—there could be a future article should there be interest.
The focus of this article is very simple – how to enter a county in your database.
Should it be Sullivan County
… or Sullivan Co.
… or just Sullivan?
Ancestry.com and thus Family Tree Maker chooses Sullivan followed by the state. One sample has the following entry: Provo Cemetery, Utah, Utah, USA.
Legacy (software) User Guide also displays county entries like Ancestry. Example: Deerfield, Warren, Pennsylvania, USA.
RootsMagic help does the same. Example: Ames, Story, Iowa, United States
Can three major leading software companies be wrong?
No. But I do not follow what Family Tree Maker, Legacy, & RootsMagic suggest. Instead I use the full word “County”. If I had the above entries in my database they would appear as:
Provo Cemetery, Utah County, Utah, USA
Deerfield, Warren County, Pennsylvania, USA
Ames, Story County, Iowa, USA [Yes, I too noticed that RootsMagic used United States.]
I am for following the rules unless I have a VERY good reason why.
There is a Sullivan County, Missouri and there is a Sullivan (town), Missouri. The latter is not within Sullivan County. But when both crop up in your research.
Examples typically show you the “town” then the county followed by the state & country.
If EVERYTHING was displayed that way, no problem. But – they do not!
I’ve seen entries with just Sullivan, Missouri. Now that technically means Sullivan County, Missouri. But that’s not what it ended up being. Instead this was the town of Sullivan which happens to be in two counties! It straddles the border of Franklin County and Crawford County in Missouri.
If you are researching either for people who lived in Sullivan (city) or Sullivan (county) Missouri, you can see the problem.
After wasting time more than once with the confusion of the above in both research & in my database, I decided that while Family Tree Maker, Legacy, & RootsMagic made their decision for good reasons1—I also was making a good decision. For me & for anyone else with whom I shared my information.
Consistency, Consistency—Above All Consistency!
Someone just rolled their eyes. Yes, I saw you & yes, you’ve read that before on this blog. And you will again. It is important no matter which method you select above that your county entries be consistent.
“Enter locations consistently—use the place authority database to enter place names consistently and in a standard format.” ~ p. 5 Ancestry.com Family Tree Maker 2011 Version 16 Upgrade Guide, 2011.
Be sure to read next entry on this “Pre-Location Cleanup Series”: Using Abbreviations in Locations.
Was my decision right? or wrong?
Sullivan County, Missouri versus Sullivan (city), Missouri was the reason I started adding County. Was I right to do this? Is there a better way to do it?