County or no county?

“Shouldn’t you be listing the county on the lineage society application?”

This question has been coming up a lot recently as I’ve been preparing applications. Under the current guidelines for most societies, the answer is yes – but only if the document lists the county.

Here’s the reasoning.

The listing of counties was standard up until 5-6 years ago, if I’m remembering correctly. Most states use a county system, so it made some level of sense to require counties be included. If someone has been preparing applications for a while, they may still teach or use this method by default.

However, societies now discourage automatically listing counties for the one simple reason: it’s very easy to list the wrong county. County borders change, so the county for that location in 1785 may not be the county today. Some states have completely discontinued their county system. If you list today’s county, you’re making it harder for future researchers by pointing them in the wrong direction.

If the document lists a county on it, feel free to use it. The notation was created at the time and should reflect the existing system. Otherwise, please skip adding the county to your application!

Published by Bryna O'Sullivan

Proprietor of Charter Oak Genealogy, Bryna O'Sullivan specializes in assisting clients with lineage society applications and with French to English genealogical translations.

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