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File this under "Pet Peeves" if you like, but one of the things that drives me just a little bit nuttier every time I see it is when people use "USA" as a location for ancestors born, married, living or died before there actually was such a political entity.

Now, I realize I could be accused of being a bit nitpicky over this, but every time I see it, one of the voices in my head screams "THERE WAS NO USA IN 1752!!!!" (or whatever date before at least 4 Jul 1776, which is leeway I grant others - I personally draw the line at the Treaty of Versailles, cause you ain't a real country if nobody else recognizes it).

Likewise, to be correct, I observe the name changes of other countries as well, if I am aware of them; in particular, since I have a lot of Canadians in my tree, I try to follow the timeline between Upper Canada, Canada West, and Ontario, Canada - and note that prior to 1931, technically Canada was still a political entity referred to as "British North America" (pause to duck flying debris from the north :) ).

The British Isles is another example of needing to note the date before recording the "country" name. Germany - well, that's just about a nightmare for me right now, it makes my head spin looking at all the conflicting place names I see ascribed to my Teutonic ancestors - but at least I am aware of the existance of the Holy Roman Empire during some of their lifetimes.

Even within the United States of America after 1783, one has to pay attention to the calendar when figuring out place names. When I started this adventure in family history, I really didn't remember from my elementary school American history lessons that there was once just ONE Carolina, that Kentucky was originally a county in Virginia, and that the part of Louisiana where my ancestors settled was previously part of Florida - thus under Spanish and not French rule until we (the USA) purchased it. I had a vague recollection that New York was formerly New Amsterdam, but couldn't recall when that changed. There are so many more, it's hard to keep track in your head sometimes. I made a chart to help me with some of them, but it needs more work. These things make it easier to research when we learn (or remember) them, don't they?

Ahhh - I feel better having gotten that off my chest. Until the next time I see "USA" on a seventeenth-century immigrant's place of death, anyway.

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Comment by Barbara Fried on March 20, 2010 at 10:03pm
I agree! I have French Canadian ancestors and it bothers me when I see someone list "Canada" for a location instead of "New France."
Comment by Jeanie DiLeonardo on July 10, 2009 at 6:04pm
Thanks to everyone who understands - my SO would prolly just label me "anal" (which I consider a synonym for a$$hole). After all, isn't accuracy an important element in genealogy?
Comment by J. Moore on July 10, 2009 at 5:56pm
I'd never really thought about the "USA" issue before as I typically use states as the broadest category unless dealing with Eng/Scot stuff, but ignorance of county creation/redrawing dates can indeed be a pain when dealing with data from particularly careless researchers.
Comment by Claude P Perry II on July 10, 2009 at 3:55pm
Jeanie you bet me to it in writing a blog on this very same subject matter. As with most others who started out doing genealogy, I too, made the same mistakes in referring to the modern/present day naming of locations and have tried to update my locations on my FTM program with the correct period location names. Even now I still have to look up on the net sometimes in regards to what an area was called at such and such a date.
Comment by Jeanie DiLeonardo on July 10, 2009 at 3:01pm
Thanks for the tip, Donna - I will have to check out maps101. I've just been Googling over & over when I get to "new" (to me) places.
Comment by Michael John Neill on July 10, 2009 at 3:00pm
In a similar vein, I am distrustful of files that cannot spell the names of counties correctly. There is no Hartford County in Maryland and there is no Amhurst County in Virginia. It may seem minor, but sometimes genealogy is in the details and if a county name (which can be easily verified) can't be spelled correctly, what other information could be suspect?
Comment by Richard Aurand Sherer on July 10, 2009 at 2:37pm
It's not nitpicky at all! When I see someone claiming that an ancestor was born or died in, say, Snyder County, Pennsylvania in the 1830s, I immediately distrust anything that researcher says, because I know that Snyder County didn't exist before 1855. Using the accurate civil designation for the time period also makes it easier for other researchers to find the correct source of records. The "Snyder County" records from the 1830s are actually on file in Union County, which was the parent of Snyder County.
Comment by Randi Rountree Mathieu on July 10, 2009 at 2:36pm
Thanks for posting this...I honestly hadn't thought much about it. I must admit that I have alot of canadians as well and I use the current political boundaries - St Ours, Richelieu, Quebec
Comment by Donna Atkinson on July 10, 2009 at 1:16pm
Try maps101 website for more clarification. I agree, I didn't get history like I do with genealogy. However, I have to admit that I have used US in place name for ancestor's here prior to 1776. Opps.

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