To improve coverage and handling for historic names the GeoNames alternatenames table has two new fields ‘from‘ and ‘to‘. The two fields allow adding a string describing the period when the name was used. The main use case is for historic names but current names may also have the ‘from‘ field filled to indicate since when the current name is in use.

So far the fields only contain years. The data type string, however, allows to express other information as well. Like ’14uu’ to express the fourteenth century or ‘197u’ to describe the seventies. We don’t want to invent our own standard to describe uncertainty and will use the ISO 8601 standard once it will be published. The ISO 8601 will supersede the library of congress Extended Date/Time Format (EDTF ) draft.

Some examples:

Jakarta has the following alternatenames with the fields filled:

  • Sunda Kelapa 397-1527
  • Jayakarta 1527-1619
  • Batavia 1619-1949
  • Djakarta 1949-1972
  • Jakarta 1972-

The German city Chemnitz was called Karl-Marx-Stadt from 1953 till 1990. Mumbai was called Bombay in English till 1995.

To export the two new fields a new file alternatenamesV2 is now available in the download directory. The file is the same as the now obsolete file alternatenames, with two additional columns. The two files will exists for some time in parallel to allow users to change their import scripts.

Link: http://www.loc.gov/standards/datetime/

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