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Online Volunteer Opportunity: Help Improve Place-Names

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.

Source: Family Search

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