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Why residence event and not Address?

The discussion of how to enter locations in Gramps pops up occasionally, especially with new users.

Let's go over some reasoning on why to use an Event as a point of reference in genealogical research rather than an address. In particular, why it is preferable to use the Residence type of Event rather than building an address book into Gramps. Then, we will discuss how logging an address can be used as a research aid.

Contents

Definition

You can find a definition of an address, as well as for a Place in the Gramps Glossary. The basic difference is that the Address is for contacting someone... while the Place is to indicate a point on a map. Generally, contacting is not very useful for deceased people, who are the main focus of genealogical research. So Gramps provides ways of logging Addresses but focuses on providing the tools & analysis features for Places.

What is an Address?
 
Fig. .1 Address Editor - Dialog - default
The Gramps concept of an Address is a particular location with an associated time frame and is an attribute of a Person. Think of it as a mailing or delivery address. It is intended to represent where a person could be contacted and note when the person was available there. Addresses can be found in an attribute tab of the Edit Person dialogs.
What is a Place?
 
Fig. .2 place Editor - Dialog - default
The Gramps concept of a Place is a particular location independent of time and is associated with Events.
Over time, the same Place may have different delivery address information due to language, changing borders and political situation. As illustrated by the Leningrad and St. Petersburg example detailed in another section of the documentation, many different names may represent the same place. 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. Places in Gramps can be accessed from many different points in the interface: the Place category view, in relationship to specific Events through the Geography category view, as a key attribute within the Event editor, and from the Place editor are among the most obvious.

Apart from the concept of a Place, an Event is important here: together, they give context to a defining moment in a person's life. Places can be coupled to Events at a specific date to become a key object in genealogy research. Associating that object with people, families and sources takes genealogy beyond a barren pedigree. They are the foundation of a timeline for the life of a person. And the story of a timeline should answer the basic factual questions of any news-worthy article: who, what, where & when? (Why & how are conclusions that can be argued after establishing those facts.)

Why residence events ?

Residences Events are widely supported & found in virtually any genealogy system. Although your Census data will certainly be where a person was residing on the enumeration day & and they might own the property where they were residing, a Residence can encompass any of these. So the most basic report in any program is almost certain to note any residence but might neglect to mention a census or property.

Address format and support varies wildly between even the programs with a strong commitment to GEDcom compliance. Even outside the genealogy community, companies specializing in address labeling for mass mailings cannot agree on the 'correct' way to store an address.

Advantages

Gramps has both addresses and residences. If you intend to work entirely within Gramps, a feature being broadly available isn't a reason to forsake another feature. So, beyond just being highly compatible, what are the advantages of Residence Events for the Gramps user? Well:

  1. You can attach a place to this Event. This place will become the more familiar 'general delivery' address of today. Meanwhile, reports may indicate alternate names that are historicly appropriate to date of the Event.
  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 for Events, People, and even Place subdivision that were in a Place... such as within the city of 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 allows plotting a timeline of a place with all Events that happened there or People who were there.
  4. On a timeline of a person you can see the event and infer details. For example, did a person marry before or after moving to a new house. Or, were families living in close enough proximity that a marriage seem reasonable.
  5. Using a place for the address allows you to use this place for other events. e.g. suppose Jim marries at home, then the Marriage event can be linked to the place indicating his home, just as the Residence event did.
  6. Just like the address field, events have full time control, so time spans and periods can be used and are recognized for reports. But addresses can completely disappear... such as when a residence is seized for eminent domain and razed to build a bypass. But we don't have to panic when there's a place definition. It continues to clearly identify the historic location.
  7. Individual attributes on residence event are handled on GEDCOM export.
Disadvantages

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 shared that they like to store address changes in Notes connected to a place, instead of in the alternate location tab. This because notes tend to be transferred through GEDCOM correctly and are understood in other programs where 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.

When to use address attributes

 

Please update or expand this section.


Addresses support the data imported from vCards, also known as VCF (Virtual Contact File), when using the 3rd party add-on Import Gramplet.

Importing vCards from an addressbook program built into your smart phone or eMail client can be a quick way to start a Tree or add newly discovered relatives. Importing adds a new Person who is disconnected from the Tree. That Person must then be added into the proper place in a Relationship to define their genealogical connection.

Try it out

There is no proscribed 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.