Saturday, May 10, 2008

Duplicate place names

24-7 Family History Circle points to a post on the Mental Floss blog entitled "10 of the Most Common Place Names in the U.S." It's a fun reminder to cite your places fully, but once I noticed that the headline did not read "The 10 Most Common" I started to go all genealogical on it, and the results weren't pretty. (Maybe this is why I haven't been to a party in a while!)

"Place name" is undefined and no source is given. So I looked at a couple of plausible sources.

Mental Floss says there are 37 Franklins in the US. My usual quick reference for stuff like this is Rootsweb Townsearch (towns are what most people think of when you just say "place," right?), which reports 61 -- and that's before you start in on "Franklin Acres," "Franklin City," and all the rest.

If you favor a more generous and rigorous definition of place, try the US Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), which gives us 217 civil features -- cities, towns, villages, counties, townships, etc. -- with "Franklin" somewhere in the name.

Mental Floss claims there are eight places named Washington in Wisconsin alone. Rootsweb Townsearch has just one, in Door County. My old road atlas doesn't have any. GNIS lists eleven, eight of them being "towns," but in Wisconsin that usually carries the northeast-US meaning, which most Midwesterners would call "townships" and no one except elected officials and genealogists pays much attention to.

I leave to the reader the excellent timesucking exercise of finding the actual ten most common place names. Please make at least a vague gesture in the direction of your sources, though.

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