Places in Gramps
What is a Place?
The Places View lists all the places in your Gramps database, and is a handy spot to make sure your places are named consistently.
Gramps provides a window in which you can edit a place:
Use the Place completion tool to help automate the management of your places, as this allows you to edit several places in one go. It is also an easy way to determine and include latitude and longitude of cities and towns.
Organising your Places
There are several ways you could organise your places. The concept of a place in genealogy is very complex, due both to the level of detail you wish to capture, and the changes over time to the name of a place. Ultimately how much of this complexity you record in your database is up to you, but you will probably find it advantageous to consider your options before you have too many places in your data.
The summary below indicates some of the ways current Gramps users organise their places.
Level of detail
The level of detail recorded for a place affects the number of places you have. One option is to not include detail finer than town or city in a place, in which case the Street field is always left empty. When further detail is to be recorded for an event, it can go in a note associated with that event. This has the advantage that your places are easier to manage, and can appear more consistent in reports. A disadvantage is that you may need to include the same note text against many events, for example if they all occurred at the one address. In Gramps 3.0 you can have multiple notes, making copy/paste of this address in a note easier. You could also add the place ones to the source used for the event. Another possible disadvantage is that the place details may not be displayed in reports in the way you wish.
The other extreme is to specify as fine detail as possible, which may involve putting a lot of information into the Street field. A drawback is that you will end up with a very large number of Place entries.
An approach that is between the above two involves treating a place as a geographic location on the Earth. The land use (e.g. St Luke's Church) would be a note. How you identify the geographic location may not always be obvious: a street address (e.g. 25 High St) will often be sufficient.
No matter which approach you take, you will probably end up with some place entries more general that others. For example, you may well end up with a place Australia, and another Tasmania, Australia, and another Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Changes over time
A given place can change its name over time. This change may be as minor as a change in street number or name, or a complete change in name of town and country. There are different ways of recording this, but most people seem to choose one name which they list on the Location tab, and the other names go on the Alternate Locations tab.
Some put the modern day details in the Location tab, and historical details under Alternate Locations. This has at least two drawbacks:
- You may not know the modern day details for a place when entering it.
- If the modern details change, you have to remember to update everything.
Other people prefer to put in the Location tab the details as they were at the time of the event, and the modern details under Alternate Locations. This also is not perfect, as you need to decide what to do if you have two different events at the same place, but separated in time such that the place details differ. You would make two different places then, for the same place.
Place Name field
The first field in the Edit Place window is generally displayed where space is limited, such as in some graphical reports. Therefore some people like to put in here a short descriptive name.
Other people prefer this field to be a repeat of all the fields in the location tab in the bottom of the window. It can be listed either from the most specific, or the least.
For example, for a location of Street: Rundle Mall, City: Adelaide, State: South Australia, Country: Australia, Postal Code: 5000, different people would set the Place Name field to one of:
- Rundle Mall
- Rundle Mall, Adelaide
- Rundle Mall, Adelaide, South Australia, 5000, Australia
- Australia, 5000, South Australia, Adelaide, Rundle Mall
There are, of course, also minor variations on those listed above.
Some people ensure the Place Name field has everything they want, and they leave the Location tab empty.
The developers have indicated that they believe the handling of places in Gramps could be improved, but as the current system is adequate and there many higher priority tasks, a reworking of the places in Gramps is not likely to happen for some time. Also, see GEPS006 Better Place handling.