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Using the GENUKI Gazetteer

Introduction

The GENUKI Gazetteer was originally provided to make it easier to locate the appropriate page which could provide information about a particular place. Over time it has been further developed
  • To provide location information that can be used within location orientated services, such as the Church Database.
  • To provide a direct interface into online maps provided by other sites.
  • To provide a Gazetteer entry for each location which contains auto-generated links to location specific information about the place that may not yet have links to it within the manually maintained Genuki town/parish pages.

It contains the locations of nearly all the civil parishes at the time of the start of civil registration in 1837, and is being developed to include the names and locations of the smaller places which are found when researching family history.

Data sources used to contruct the gazetteer

The gazetteer has been constructed over time from a number of data sources. In most cases an exact location was not contained in these sources, and there have been just a few errors and inconsistencies within them. We have tried our best to eliminate errors but ther may still be one or two remaining. The data available has in fact meant that we actually have three areas handled in different ways.
  • England, Scotland, Wales & the Isle of Man - The starting point of the gazetteer was Gerry Lawson's Parish database which contained the names of the old parishes with the county code and the Ordnance Survey grid reference of the square on the map where they were located. This is a value within one kilometre of the actual value. In just a cases though where there were multiple places with the same name within a county it sometimes used the wrong one.

    We then located a listing of modern places names, on a free CD, which were again approximate to 1 Km, and these unfortunately were grouped by modern administrative areas, not by the traditional pre-1974 counties that we use. So we wrote a program that used the Gerry Lawson data as a starting point to choose which traditional county these places were located in. Those places that were near to more than one county were separated out for a manual inspection to choose the appropriate county.

    An exact location for a place is not always easy to define, but we try to use the town centre or maybe in a small rural area the location of the parish church. Over time we have tried to replace the approximate locations with more exact ones, on a county by county basis. If there a multiple place with the same name within a county we try to add some descriptive text to help differentiate between them. There has also been the job of deciding which Genuki town/parish page is going to cover that place. Work is still required in some counties, and for some additional places have been added by hand. If you want to see the status of a particular county, then the gazetteer statistics page contains that information. Numbers in the columns to the right indicate where more work is required.

  • Ireland - The original Irish places were sourced from the CIA World Fact Book. This contains place names with latitude/logitude although these are not always quite right. The choice of places seems rather random containing townlands with virtually no inhabitants whilst many larger places are not included. And there do seem to be a number of geographical features such as bridges and cross roads. The administrative hierarchy was townland within civil parish within county, but that information was not part of the data. There are also multiple entries for places with an English and a Gaelic form of the name. An alias facility was therefore developed for the gazetteer to make it much easier to manage alternate names and this has also proved useful apart from Ireland.

    The lack of a large number of Irish places was a major drawback, and no other freely available data source could be found. So a different approach which would get them defined with the ability to slowly get more exact locations was devised. It has been possible to download all the civil parish names along with their townlands and counties. Again this does contain a few mistakes. This data was matched with the CIA data and where there was only one place within the county with same name in both the CIA data and the townland data, that location for the townland or parish has been used. For the rest the starting point for civil parishes with no location is the centre of the county. The starting point for townlands is the parish location which for many is the centre of the county. This enables us to provide a gazetteer entry for each place describing its location in the administrative hierarchy and roughly where it is on a map. Icons are not shown on the Google maps and the majority of online maps suppressed where we are using the centre of the county. Over time when effort is available or when we can find a temporary volunteer, work is being undertaken to find the location of the civil parishs and to use these a better value for the townlands within them.

  • the Channel Islands - No data was found for the Channel Islands so just a few places were added by hand to enable the software to be checked out. Latitude/longitude is used for locations here.

Search Results

A primary aim of the gazetteer is to tell you which Genuki page provides information about the place and to guide you to that page. For example on our default search results page, we use a Google map with markers on it to mark where the places are, with links to them, listed by county, on the right. These will link you to the relevant Genuki page. Where we have not yet written a specific page, or configured one in, the link takes you to a dynamically created page, which we refer to as the Gazetteer Entry. As we can easily change this code when we can link to a new external site, the gazetteer entry sometimes contains some useful links that have not yet been added to the normal web page.

The Gazetteer Entry though is available to access as well. If you take the second menu option on the primary search page labelled 2. Tabular list ordered by county, it is the links in the Gazetteer Place Entry column. Where the search results appear as an icon on a Google map, then click the mouse on the relevant icon. This produces a bubble on the map containing a link labelled Gazetteer entry which provides it.

Another useful link in the bubble is labelled Other maps. This takes you to a range of other online maps, centred on this exact location. Now if you want to see maps for somehere nearby, just zoom into the map and drag and drop the icon to the place you are interested in. Again a bubble appears detailing the OS Grid Reference or Latitude/Longitude of that location. If you click the link detailing the new location you can enter a dialogue to report to us a more accurate location for that place. And there is Other maps that gives links to them at this new location. So if you want to give somebody a link to map showing this specific location, then that is how to do it. Or you could for example use it to centre on old maps for that specific location.

At the bottom of the bubble is the latitude/longitude for the location, even for England/Scotland/Wales where we normally use the OS Grid reference. This is provided to help set locations in family history programs. Some have the ability for you to store locations alongside places, and these are then used to provide links to online maps. Displaying the latitude/logitude in the bubble makes it much easier to find the values needed to add this information into your program. If your family history program provides a mechanism whereby you can add additional mappings to on-line maps, then you can use Genuki to link into all the Britsih on-line maps, and very usefully into old maps. For example, it just needs a change to a configuration file for The Master Genealogist.

Information provided by the gazetteer

Distance

The locations of places are stored as OS Grid references, and latitude/longitude and these are used to calculate the distance from the starting point in searches. The initial data used to build the gazetteer only contained approximate grid references, but with time these will be updated to give a more precise location, which will be usually be the centre of an area or the actual location of a prominent place such as the parish church. If only an approximate location is available, the distance is rounded to the nearest whole number and is preceded by a tilde '~' character.

Please bear in mind that the distance given is the shortest distance on a map. The actual distance to travel between two places may be considerably further when geographical features are taken into consideration.

Location

For England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man the Ordnance Survey Grid reference of each place found is used to intially specify locations, whilst for Ireland and the Channel Islands the latitude and longitude are used to do this. Internally within the database latitude/longitude is now used as a common unit for holding the location and for calculating distances.

Places

The places which are shown are grouped according to the GENUKI page which could provide information about that area, and in order of distance. For some of the places in the gazetteer we have not yet identified the appropriate GENUKI page but with time this will be done. Until that takes place you will have to look at nearby hits to point you in the right direction.

Search tips

You can make further searches using the form at the top of the page. Use the first box to determine your starting point, which can be either an OS Grid reference, or a place name. When multiple places with the same name appear in the gazetteer, you are presented with a menu where you can select the particular place you want to use as the starting point for your search. This is ordered according to the distance from the current location, so if you are unsure which one, then it is likely to be the first entry which is the nearest place.

But remember that the distance is the shortest possible and ignores geographical features such as rivers and mountains, and in some cases the travelling distance may be considerably further.

When searching by name, any place containing the characters you have typed is considered for display. This may mean that a further choice needs to be made, but helps find all uses that may have been made of a particular place name.