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From: Darrell Martin <>
Subject: Re: [TMG] Re: Pre-USA country designations
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2005 13:01:14 -0400 (EDT)

** my Web e-mail client sets "Reply To" against my will, sorry **

Hi, Simon:

I have no problem with how you do things. It is certainly appropriate for some users, as one option, to stick to the nomenclature in use at the time the record was created. However, there are difficulties with that approach too.

It is not "imposing modern concepts" to use modern names to refer to places that have a continuous identity over time. In my case, I feel it is more important to identify the place unambiguously than it is to maintain geopolitical onomastic precision.

Here's an example. It is not as extreme as it might sound. It just happens to combine a number of things, each of which is in fact very common in New England. My grandmother Dutton was born (a Williams) in this place.

In 1754, the Town just west of where I grew up was chartered as "Flamstead" by the Colony of New Hampshire, which at the time may have been considered by some to be part of the New England Confederation, although I don't believe the governmental unity of the N.E.C. survived the Crown's reassertion of its prerogatives after the Restoration of Charles II. Anyway, the first charter was abandoned and a new one was issued in 1761, also by C.o.N.H., under the name "New Flamstead".

Before the Revolution, the Colony of New York convinced many Towns in what is now the eastern part of Vermont to obtain new, C.o.N.Y. charters. In 1766 residents of Chester obtained a C.o.N.Y. charter, with the Town renamed "Chester".

In the mid-1770s the political situation began to change. Some American colonies began to break away from the English Crown. At first, there was little unity among them; merely a Continental Congress, compared to which today's E.U. is positively monolithic. (The citizens of Chester drafted one of the first so-called "declarations of independence" in America, 10 October 1774, denying that all Acts of Parliament of necessity applied to them. I doubt they considered this "independence", but who knows.)

In 1777, many people living in the "New Hampshire Grants" decided to set up their own government and call it "Vermont". From then it was referred to as "The Republic of Vermont", or just as part of New York (State?), or as George Washington I think called it with some sarcasm, "that so-called government styling itself by the name Vermont" or something pretty close. The boundaries were a bit nebulous. For a few months "Greater Vermont" was nearly twice as large as the state is today.

Did I mention that the oath of Allegiance taken by citizens in the mid-1770's was to "Vermont and the United States of America" even though the U.S.A. was emphatic that there was no such government as Vermont?

In 1791 the State of New York relinquished all claims to Vermont and the latter was admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the Original Thirteen.

Here is a place that could be called, as a Town:
New Flamstead

which was considered part of:
Cumberland County, New York
Windsor County, Vermont
(among several)

in the
Colony of New Hampshire
Colony of New York
New Hampshire Grants
(part of C.o.N.H.)
(part of C.o.N.Y.)
Republic of Vermont
State of Vermont

in the once effectively independent region previously known as
New England Confederation

in the nation
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Republic of Vermont
United States of America

***** During that entire time, Town records were kept in the same physical books, there was no significant discontinuity of government, the Town's boundaries didn't change enough to matter much, and the same families and kind of families continued to arrive, live, raise children, and die in Town. There were few disruptions after the unpleasantness with the French concluded in 1763. *****

For me, it is easy to decide what to call this place. It is *always* "Chester, Windsor County, Vermont" short place "Chester". Historical precision in place names, applied to Chester, would be a wasted effort for me -- literally. To many Vermont genealogists it might even be an indication that I understood neither the history nor the nature of the genealogical records.

As I have said in another message, if historical name changes struck me as interesting, I would put them in the sentence Memo field. I always quote the actual place name used in the original source, in the Citation Detail for any Tag for which that source is used to support the place (location or place name).

If I had information from other parts of the U.S., I would probably handle those places a bit differently. And I'm not sure how I would approach British countries, counties/shires, towns, villages, parishes, etc. if I began to enter a lot of them. I'd probably ask a lot of questions on this list. But for me, for now, the "modern name" choice is not just easier; it is *right*.


-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sep 20, 2005 6:06 AM

DeAnna Burghart writes:
> I generally just leave country blank for those. I'm also careful to indicate
> the political entity *at the time*

Fully agree, this is part of a wider problem.
Boundaries change, names change, countries form and unform
I feel it is important to try to use the nomenclature of the period and not
impose modern concepts

Darrell A. Martin
a native Vermonter in exile in Illinois

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