Should we be encouraging the use of geographic tags for questions, at least at the country level, maybe state, province, UK county?

A lot of questions (most?) are about a specific area. If they are tagged with (for example) "usa", "canada", "england" then it makes it easier to search for answers in the area of interest in the future. Plus state, province, UK county where the question is really only relevant to that smaller area.

US counties are a bit too local for tags I think, same with UK parishes.

And then maybe add synonyms, such as Scottish -> Scotland, America -> USA. (with the aim of being useful, rather than totally accurate).


6 Answers 6


Yes, we should have geographic tags. They are immensely useful for understanding the geographical context (for those who look at the tags, at least) and for searching. Countries and US states definitely should have a tag. Much beyond that depends on the amount of content we get and how much local customs, records, etc vary.


Identifying an appropriate geographical tag raises (once again) the question of whether we use current or contemporaneous names for nation states (or smaller entities).

When my ancestors left Europe in the 1860s, were they from Prussia or Germany? I would be inclined to tag a question (concerning, for example, characteristic features of parish records in Lutheran and Evangelical churches) with both to increase my chances of finding an interested (and knowledgeable) reader.

But how many tags can you have before they become a barrier to attracting readers because it appears that you don't know what the question is about?


I'd like to make an appeal to keep the tag New-York-City, even if we don't want city tags in general.

New York City keeps its own archives and records separate from the rest of New York State. That makes it essentially a separate entity as far as research in historical records are concerned.

Answers which were written for counties in upstate New York, which might refer to record collections at the NY State Archives and other statewide resources, will not be useful to people working a similar problem in New York City, and vice-versa.

  • +1 I agree that New York City is exceptional enough in the ways you describe to warrant its own tag.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 22:13
  • I just made new-york a synonym of new-york-city and created a new new-york-state tag. From a quick review I think I have done the more obvious retags to get the questions sorted correctly but I am sure your more local eye will do a better job on any I got wrong or missed.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 3:43
  • I think London and Bristol are other cities which need tags because they are not part of an English county or they are considered part of several. In Australia I see no need for city tags because the states are much closely tied to their capitals.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 3:25
  • Is Chicago another city that warrants its own tag or do its records tend to be kept with those of Illinois? So far we have had 17 questions mention Chicago but there is no tag for it.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 2:36
  • 1
    @PolyGeo Chicago city records apparently are sent to the State Archives just like any other city in Illinois. See Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) System. In NYC, the records comparable to the City of Chicago records described on that page are at the NYC archives (as far as I know).
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 17:48

We are already getting city tags. What happens when a city tag conflicts with a state or country or even another city/town. I'm thinking we should only go as far at regions, that is one level under a nation level:

  • United States -> State

  • Canada -> Provence

  • England -> County (names often end in "shire")

  • Australia -> State

I'd also recommend removing any existing city tags and replace them with the region they are in.

Also I would say, no abbreviations for geographic tags. Abbreviations can be entered as synonyms.


Have we come to a consensus on geographic tags? Sounds like many people agree that country and state/province-level tags will certainly be appropriate.

Also, should we set a naming convention for the geographic tags? I just added "maine" to a question, and I'm wondering if perhaps state-level tags should also have the country? For example, maine-usa or usa-maine. Either one would come up as an option (if already created) when someone starts to type "maine" as a tag.

  • No reason for state (or province, uk county) tags to have the country. But do always add a separate tag for the country as well ("united-states" seems to be the tag for the USA, despite being ambiguous). There will be cases where a state/province tag alone isn't enough of an identifier (e.g. "georgia", "ontario", "oxfordshire"), so a country helps to clarify it.
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 22:24

I agree with JustinY, as long as we are answering the research technique questions and not the 'Does anyone know the X family from Y' questions.

If we don't drill down past the state level/degree (depending on the country), I think we'll be OK.

TBH, I'm not so sure about the tag variations (America vs. USA) If we abbreviate each state and then spell them out we're looking at 100 tags right there, multiplied by how many nations can have similar dual references - York vs Yorkshire etc. I may be a bit of a minimalist, but we have the 'Tags' page for a reason, let people check that to find the right tag that describes their question.

  • 2
    synonyms - that's where they are for
    – Saariko
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 13:31
  • 2
    Just a note, that many people say 'America' when they mean 1) USA 2) North America 3) North & South America ...As a Canadian, I find this both confusing and annoying - so the USA tag should definitely NOT be 'America'. Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 5:25
  • 1
    @canadian-girl-scout: that's why I said "with the aim of being useful, rather than totally accurate". "I think my great-uncle went to America" is going to be common usage, so the America tag could point to the proper USA tag (not the other way round!). "United States" could also point to USA, even though there are other United States (Mexico, historically Brazil etc). The aim of synonyms is to change common, but sometimes wrong, usage into a standard and more correct tag. Getting Americans to understand England is not the same as UK or Great Britain will be a challenge though.
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 0:21
  • And abbreviations are a whole different problem. When I switch my GPS to an Australian voice (it's clearer) and then drive not far from Seattle, it says "now driving on Western Australia Twenty". The abbreviation WA isn't only in one country (nor is NT).
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 0:30
  • York is a city, Yorkshire is an historic county (abbreviated as Yorks) - but I get your point.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 4:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .