Online Volunteer Opportunity: Help Improve Place-Names

July 7, 2020  - by 
Man showing a phone to another woman.

Sometimes all you need to help others with family history is a computer, a few minutes, and an internet search engine.

Over the last month and a half, over 230,000 volunteers have been using a new, super simple volunteer tool on FamilySearch.org to help improve place-names in the FamilySearch Family Tree.

After a recent update, the improve place-names tool now lets you select specific countries you would like to work on, allowing you to focus on countries you are most familiar with. You can also change place information when it is slightly incorrect to get an updated list of possible standards.

What Are Place-Names and Why Do They Need to Be Improved?

Most ancestors in the Family Tree have at least a few place-names (names of locations) documented on their profiles—these locations could be birth places, places the ancestor lived, and so on. When these place-names are standardized, FamilySearch can help website users see a map of where their ancestors have been, show free record hints, and more.

How Can I Help?

In the past, FamilySearch has used automation to help people select missing standards. But automation can do only so much—and that is where you can help! A new tool is available (on both desktop and mobile) that allows you to improve place-names by matching them with a standard place that can be recognized by a map.

For mobile: In the Family Tree app, click the 3 bar menu at the top (Android) or the 3 dots in the bottom menu (iOS). Then find where it says Improve Place-Names.

What Does the Experience Look Like?

The new tool allows you to review a small batch of 10 places at a time. For each place-name, you complete two very easy steps:

  1. Look at the user-entered place, and compare it to the places in other life events.
Screenshot of Improve Place-Names tool opening screen.
Android screenshot of volunteer opportunity to improve place-names.
  1. When the list of standard places pops up, pick the one most similar to what the user entered.
FamilySearch improve place-names tool, selecting a standard place-name.
Saving a standardized place-name.
Thank you screen in FamilySearch volunteer place-name tool.

When you select a standard place-name, the Family Tree won’t delete any information, only add to it. The user-entered data will remain next to the new standard.

User tip: When you can’t find an exact or similar match in the list of standards, you can select a broader area. For example, if “Albany, Cape Province, South Africa” doesn’t show up, you could select “Cape Province, South Africa.”

Feedback from Volunteers Who Have Tried the Tool

By doing simple batches of 10 place-names at a time, thousands of volunteers have helped standardize 1.7 million place-names, though there are many still to do. Here is what some have said about their experience:

From Amanda:

I love standardizing the place names! This is ingenious! I wish I had more time to help. That would be very cool and a great motivator for people. Thank you for continuing to think of ways to make FS better!! ❤️

From Eliza:

This was actually pretty fun and not too hard to do! Thanks for the experience. I will keep going!

From Anonymous:

I really enjoy the “Improve Place-Names” feature added. It is really fun and really relaxing. It allows me to feel like I’m making a difference in Family History work without needing to dedicate a lot of time. If I’m ever just feeling some stress, I can go there and spend a few minutes trying to help. I like it a lot!

From Julie:

It’s a fun, fast way to get a little family history in each day. Thanks!

From Danielle:

Love this kind of contribution! So easy and really hard to mess up. You feel like you get a lot done in a short amount of time. I also really like that adding a standard place won’t replace the more specific nonstandard location manually put in. Great job! Keep doing amazing work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

  1. I have tried to help in the “Improve Place-Names” feature. I first tried a few months ago. I just tried again. It keeps giving me the same 10 names over and over. I never get a new set of 10 names.

  2. I would love to help with this if you have a need in Kentucky or Ohio and i do have maps on Southern IN and IL; also have place name books for Ohio and TN. rr

  3. Fantastic!! Lovely way to make improvements, thank you family search.
    May I make just one suggestion please, for an improvement. To let individual people who live in England, USA, South Africa, Australia, etc please do only their own countries, if it is at all possible please.
    I for one, have no idea, for example, in which states in America, certain towns are situated, or villages in England, or provinces in South Africa.
    It would be so much more fun Standardizing these places correctly, if you knew where they actually were.
    Memory.

  4. Please tell us how you want us to deal with “same Place” from the US Census for 5 years before! Should we select the same standardized name as we select for the census year?

  5. I just recently returned from a Mission working in Samoa.
    I find that when working with Samoa, some village names are used on several different islands. Google can find the locations, but I am not able to properly correct the name, locations.
    Vailoa, Upolu, Samoa (an old LDS church village) is not able to be entered. only Savaii, Samoa is found, the wrong island.

  6. Some of the entry choices are not correct. Hihifo, Niuatoputapu, Tonga is listed as a location. This is a valid location on Google maps, but the choices that are available in the tool are all different islands.
    We need the ability to add the correct location.

  7. I am working in Tonga, Here are examples where I tried to enter the location update to the correct one. The correct choice is not available. Yet Google Maps can find the place listed.
    Need to fix this tool, or many people will be going to the wrong location.
    Peau Fakaanga

    Female 1961- ·

    FamilySearch does not recognize this user-entered place:

    Add the standard place that is most similar to what the user entered. What you add will not overwrite or delete the user-entered place. Skip to the next person if you are unsure.

    User-Entered Place:
    Death:
    Hihifo, Niuatoputapu, Tonga, Pacific Islands

    Mafiveatokelau Maatu

    Female 1807-1862 ·

    FamilySearch does not recognize this user-entered place:

    Add the standard place that is most similar to what the user entered. What you add will not overwrite or delete the user-entered place. Skip to the next person if you are unsure.
    User-Entered Place:
    Birth:
    about 1807
    Hihifo, Niuatoputapu, Tonga, Pacific Islands

    Sioulolovau

    Female 1909- ·

    FamilySearch does not recognize this user-entered place:

    Add the standard place that is most similar to what the user entered. What you add will not overwrite or delete the user-entered place. Skip to the next person if you are unsure.
    User-Entered Place:
    Birth:
    3 September 1909
    Falehau, Niuatoputapu, Tonga

    Lesieli Vaomaile

    Female – ·

    FamilySearch does not recognize this user-entered place:

    Add the standard place that is most similar to what the user entered. What you add will not overwrite or delete the user-entered place. Skip to the next person if you are unsure.
    User-Entered Place:
    Death:
    Tungua, Ha’Apai, Tonga, Pacific Islands

    ‘Ana MGFZ-2HN

    Female 1849- ·

    FamilySearch does not recognize this user-entered place:

    Add the standard place that is most similar to what the user entered. What you add will not overwrite or delete the user-entered place. Skip to the next person if you are unsure.
    User-Entered Place:
    Birth:
    about 1849
    Vaipoa, Niuatoputapu, Tonga (We have a meeting house in this villiage) but I can’t put it into FS tool.

  8. Not expecting a post, just need to reply to an issue.
    Still working on Samoa, I have this village that the tool will not allow.
    Faletagaloa is a village on the central north coast of Savai’i island in Samoa. The village is in the traditional sub-district of Safune in the Gagaifomauga electoral division.Wikipedia
    It would also be handy to have a help line or a reply in the main link.

  9. Fusi, Savaii, Samoa is the correct location, but the standardized place is Fusi, Samoa.
    Fusi (Vilage), Savaii (Island), Samoa (Country), Why does the island need to be removed?

    1. Thank you Joe for all of this information, but for you and many others I need to underscore the idea of what we are doing here with this activity. These entries have no discernible (for our program) standardized place name. Therefore, it is harder to find them in our searches and hinting. We are not looking for pinpoint locations, even a high level standard like “Samoa” is sufficient and infinitely better than what we currently have. The original input may include a lot more information, and we are not changing that, but the standard has what appears as gobbledygook to our program, and we need something, anything that is pertinent. We hope that by even having a high level standard we can assist family to find the record and then do the research to get a more precise standard input. If you are fine doing that work then double thank you. If our standards database is incomplete there is an help article that references (see above comments from Amy) how to get that into our database of standards. But the intent of this exercise is to have something simple and easy to get something good where there is currently nothing. Appreciate your hard work and efforts.

  10. First, I love doing these! Thank you for making this easy activity available. I understand the instructions to pick the one closest to what was entered and also look to the locations already included in life events but there are times either the ‘township’ or ‘city’ for instance would be a good fit. Which is preferred? I assume one is a broader area and the other is smaller. Perhaps this guidance could be included in the instructions so things are more uniform.