Recording both Historical and Current Locations

There has been a lot of traffic on the Legacy Family Tree Users Group email list (aka the LUG) regarding recording historical vs.current locations for a given event. As several people have pointed out, genealogical best practice is to store the location as it was at the time of the event. But others have valid points when they state that this makes for confusion when reports are generated for non-genealogist family members, hinders mapping and makes for a “messed up” master location list. (If there are multiple entries that point to the same geo-location, is it really a “master” list? Guess it depends on your definition.)

To be honest, in my own Legacy database I’ve been a little wishy-washy and inconsistent with this. Wanting to do the “right” thing, I have in some cases recorded the historical location. Other times, I have just gone ahead and put in the current location, particularly when the source I’m using records the “current” location. (Like a book of records for a church in what is now Montgomery Co, Pennsylvania but was previously Philadelphia Co., in which case some of the earliest data recorded in the record book happened in the Philadelphia Co. time period)  I also have to admit that, although I have intermingled current and historical locations in the master location list, it really bothers me to do so. Why? Well there is no clear and highly visible way to distinguish historical from current. Nor is there a way to link historical to current other than adding a note – and that isn’t readily visible.

It seems to me a more logical implementation would be to allow both a current and historical location to be added to an event – and also to distinguish between historical and current locations. After all, an Historical Location is really a specialization of a Location. It has all the attributes of a Location, with the additional attributes of a date range and a pointer to the current. Of course, if Mellinnia Corp. (makers of Legacy Family Tree) were to provide something like this in the future, a user would have to go back and identify the historical locations already entered into the master list, add the relevant dates and identify the associated current location. Once that task was completed by the user, Millennia could probably provide an automated utility to go back and determine if the originally entered location was historical and if so find the associated current and make the appropriate updates in the event data record. Going forward, entering the current and historical locations (if necessary) would be up to the user.

Just tossing this out to maybe get some people thinking. It really does seem like a problem that could use a solution!

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2 responses to “Recording both Historical and Current Locations

  1. I use Legacy Family Tree as well and use the location at the time (historical) when I enter information. The date used with the entry of information should provide the context to the location. But I am aware many folks do not use historical location information and many don’t use consistent location information. It makes it hard when you are looking at someone else’s data. Something I do every so often (and just finished in preparation for the 1940 Census) is go through the Master Location List and clean it up where there might be errors. Just one of those boring, routine projects that have to be done. Clearly this would be more difficult if I had more than the 6,000 people I have in my database.
    Did you make request to Legacy about your suggestion? Do you keep up with the LUG? Do you belong to a Legacy Users’ Group? Any interest in starting a virtual Legacy Users’ Group on Google+?

    • Hi Tessa,

      Yes, I do follow the LUG and I actually did send this in a product enhancement suggestion to Millennia. There isn’t a Legacy user’s group in my area, but I like the idea of a virtual one on google+!

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