Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Place names and boundary changes can direct research

"I grew up at Coles Station, Illinois. We all said "at" because Coles Station is not much of a town — so we never really felt like we were 'in Coles Station,'" writes Judy Rosella Edwards, in her article, "Coles Station: The Ever-Changing Place Name." The article shows how one small town not only changes names over the years, but is claimed at different times by different counties. This story is repeated over and again in genealogy and underscores the importance of local area research. Not only do county boundaries change when new counties were formed, as we see in the census maps, but individual towns may be claimed by one county and then the other for economic or political reasons. And communities along state border lines always deserve close examination; where the research seems to suggest an ancestor migrated from one place to another, it may be they never moved an inch, but the borders changed. Such details are significant in finding people at different times and in locating documents. Even today, in various parts of the world, wars are changing boundary lines, countries come and go and place names are changed to suit the new regime. There is much more to the geography of the world than the lay of the land.

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