Google Alerts and GeoNames

My friend and occasional guest-blogger, Barbara Poole, recently told me about her success in using Google Alerts to find new obituaries. Up until now, I haven’t used Google Alerts.

After receiving Barbara’s message, I signed up for a few Google Alerts. One was for “Nienadowa”, the Polish village of my paternal ancestors. The first alert I received was for Nienadowa, Przemysl, Poland, populated place.

This link brought me to

To my delight, the link provided information on the location of Nienadowa, including the altitude (271 m), the latitude, and the longitude (N 49° 50′ 0” E 22° 26′ 0” or, in digital form, 49.83333 / 22.43333): 

The Polish Village of Nienadowa, Poland on GeoNames

The Polish Village of Nienadowa, Poland on GeoNames

Now, using such genealogy databases as Legacy Family Tree, The Master Genealogist, and RootsMagic, I can include the coordinates for Nienadowa, providing an unambiguous location for the village of my ancestors.

Unambiguous location data is important for common place names. One can usually narrow down a place with a common name if additional information is provided (such as the name of the county and state for United States place names), but I think it’s great that, even if the administrative divisions of a place change over the years, the latitude and longitude stay the same.

The GeoNames service also provides alternate spellings for the place name, if appropriate.

A case in point is the Lithuanian village of Butrimonys that I visited in October. Butrymonys is the location of the parish church that my maternal grandmother’s family attended.

Butrimonys ca. 125 m
Butrimance, Butrimantsi, Butrimantsy, Butrimonis, Butrimonių,
Butrimonys (English), Butrymańce, Бутримонис  (Russian)
populated place
N 54° 30′ 0” E 24° 15′ 0”
54.5 / 24.25
GeoNameId : 600213

This location is distinct from another village of the same name just a short distance away at N 54° 15′ 0” E 25° 9′ 0” (54.25 / 25.15). Without the exact coordinates, one might not be certain which of these two villages is the correct one. Both are located in the Dzūkija region of Lithuania.

The plethora of alternate spellings provided includes Polish, English, and Russian spellings, all very useful when reading historical maps and documents. In particular, my great aunt used the spelling Butrymańce on documents she filled out in the United States, something that confused me until I realized that it was the Polish spelling of Butrimonys.

I’ll be adding a few more Google Alerts in the weeks to come.

Copyright © 2008 by Stephen J. Danko

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One Response to Google Alerts and GeoNames

  1. Apple says:

    I use google alerts to find work related content but I hadn’t thought about using it for genealogy. Thanks to you and Barbara for a great idea!

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