Sorting out London, England [5 April 2015]
I have been updating places in London, England. This has turned out to be a much bigger job than I ever expected.
The United Kingdom went through a major reorganization of municipalities in 1974. Wikipedia invented its encyclopaedia since then and many articles about places have been written taking the present organization as the setup which has always been there (particularly in their introductory paragraphs). Here in WR we have the 1900-rule—we should describe places as they were in 1900—because this helps to direct our users to the sources that were present when their ancestors were (hopefully) registering their BMDs and being present for censuses. Users with London ancestors (using the term to mean London as it is now) can have a lot of work to do to sort out just where their people were living in the past two centuries and we ought to be helping them to reach sources for the various places and eras.
Prior to 1889 present-day London was divided between the counties of Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and Surrey. Even the City of London was considered to be in Middlesex. In 1889 there was a primary merger when the administration of inner boroughs got together for certain governing operations but not all. This grouping became the "County of London" in 1900 (i.e., getting this reorganization to legislation took 11 years!) and included 28 boroughs (Wp County of London#History#Local Government). This arrangement lasted until 1965.
In 1965 the County of London was replaced by "Greater London" as the government for the whole of London. This covered a great deal more of the surrounding counties and some of the County of London area was redistributed. Greater London is still in operation today. The map in Wikipedia on the page referenced above can be confusing because both the County of London and Greater London have a wiggly boundary. A glance at the map and the accompanying table may lead to the assumption that there was no change in size between one and the other. I wish I could find a map with the boroughs of both the County and Greater London on it to reprint in WeRelate.
Now, what's happened in WeRelate?
- The whole list of post-1965 London Boroughs did not exist until the other day when I completed it. (Many of the London borough pages are currently "UNDER CONSTRUCTION".)
- We don't have a type of place called "London Borough". Currently I am calling them Borough (Metropolitan), but that can cause confusion with a number of places from the County of London era which were smaller metropolitan boroughs.
- A lot of places have found their way into the Greater London page and then been duplicated in their county page without a link between them.
- Many places are noted as being in both Greater London and in one of the original counties with no dates.
- A lot of places are described as districts in Greater London (because that's what Wp has called them—forgetting that outside the capital the present administrative level below county is named "district"). Currently in our Greater London list a district could be a park, a housing estate (subdivision in North American parlance), or a lot of other things—"area" would be a far better undefined term.
What am I doing to fix the problems?
- I am currently taking everything out of the Greater London page except the London Boroughs. If entries eventually go back in, I hope the organization of the page will remain clear.
- For each place, back in its county, I indicate what London borough it is now located in as a "See also" place. I also add any other administrative body which, over time, it was under, such as a County of London borough or a county municipal borough—with dates of existence.
- I am building up Place-Categories so that, eventually, the municipalities will be listed in a sort of "family tree".
- In the "What links here" list for a place we find other pages that might reference that place: source pages and person places. The sources in this list will carry over to the Place-Categories ONLY IF the place in the source and the place page are spelled the same (down to the last hyphen, period and apostrophe). This has led to making a lot of edits to the names of places on the source pages as well as a lot of redirects.
- Would it be possible for lists of sources on "What links here" lists to precede the persons and families? Currently they appear to be ordered chronologically as they were originally entered. Last night I found one list of sources which started at about line 125.
- A discussion with User:DataAnalyst the other week ended up with both of us discovering that putting a different placename in the "alternate places" box does not automatically lead to it being redirected to the place titled on the page. The hyphen problem comes along again here. Harrow on the Hill and Harrow-on-the-Hill are one and the same place, but we must tell that to our database by means of a redirect. The importance of these variations to users is much greater than how a place was spelled in the Domesday Book of 1086. Are we really tracing our ancestors back that far?
- Identically named places. There are plenty of these and they ought to be differentiated. That means giving each of the duplicated places a name with a better description, not just one of them. Warning users in a prominent way on the place pages that the other place exists is important too.
- Hamlets. Sometimes hamlets grow into civil parishes with a form of local government—that's fine. But some hamlets are just small settlements within another parish; the name of the hamlet is no more important than a street name in a town. Town street names ought to be entered in the description box alongside the placename. Shouldn't these tiny settlements have the same treatment?
Please, folks. I am writing this to help to improve WeRelate. I may have thought more about these niggles than perhaps you have. But I hope you don't mind my sharing them with you. Currently many London pages are a bit of a mess--renovation is like that, even in genealogy. /cheers, --Goldenoldie 15:32, 5 April 2015 (UTC)