Why residence event and not Address?

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The discussion of how to enter addresses in Gramps pops up from time to time, especially with new users. Let's give some reasoning on why to use the residence event for genealogical research, and not address.

Definition

You find a definition of an Address, as well as for a Place in the glossary. So the address is for mailing, while the place is to indicate a point on a map. Mailing is in general not very useful for deceased people, the main focus of your research. So:

What is an Address?
The Gramps concept of an Address is a particular location with an associated time frame. Think of it as a mailing address. It is intended to represent where a person lived and when the person lived there.
What is a Place?
The Gramps concept of a Place is a particular location independent of time. Over time, the same Place may have different address information due to changing borders and political situation. For example, Leningrad and St. Petersburg represent the same place, but with different names. Gramps offers the Alternative Names tab in the Place Editor, allowing to enter different names for the place. The political and geographic regions to which the place belongs can be recorded using the Enclosed By tab.

Apart from this, an event is important here: A defining moment in a person's life. Events can be coupled to places and are a central object in genealogy research, together with people, families and sources. They give a timeline on the life of a person, a timeline on which it is important to also indicate where a person lives.

Why residence events ?

So, what are the advantages of residence events then? Well:

  1. You can attach a place to it. This place will then be the effective address, with possible alternate locations (see the place dialog) indicating how eg this place is called today as opposed to when the event happened.
  2. You can share that place between people and families. With addresses there is no way to check if an address is already in your database - unless you remember it. That makes it unlikely to discover that two people actually lived at the same address. You can also filter on place city, eg give me all residence events that are in a place with city Berlin.
  3. Hence, you can search places and see not just what happened in a certain city, but also who lived (resided) there. That's also not possible using the 'address' system. This is a timeline of a place with all events that happened there.
  4. On a timeline of a person you can see the event and infer details, eg a person marries before or after moving to a new house.
  5. Using a place for the address allows you to use this place for other events. Eg suppose Jim marries at home, then the Marriage event can be linked to the place indicating his home, just like the Residence event does.
  6. Just like the address field, events have full time control, so time spans and periods can be used and are recognized for reports.
  7. Individual attributes on residence event are handled on Gedcom export.

What is a disadvantage:

  1. For a change in streetname, the address changes but the position on the map is the same. Gramps allows you to store this information in an alternate location, but alternate location has no date span, so you cannot indicate during which time frame an address for a place was in use.

Note that some researchers on the mailing list have expressed they like to store address changes in notes connected to a place, instead of in the alternate location tab. This because in general notes are exported to GEDCOM correctly and understood in other programs you might want to use the information.

It is important to note that you could use the Location event also, or make a custom event with a naming that suits you more.

Try it out

There is no standard method of storing addresses in Gramps. Try out the two methods, and use what works for you.

Import/Export

Note the following:

  • Address is not always well supported in other genealogy applications.
  • Alternate location of place used in Gramps is not present in many other applications. You might consider recording this in notes instead.
  • Events are supported by all programs you use, as is the default place location.