Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System (GBHGIS)

Historical gazetteers

Conventional historical GIS systems are designed mainly to present spatial patterns, but maybe the biggest requirement of most researchers and "life-long learners" for information that is both historical and geographical is simply finding out where places were, especially when placenames have changed. A slightly more specialised requirement in the heritage sector is for name authorities, which define the preferred version of placenames which should be used in catalogues, but also list the various alternate names which cataloguers may come across.

The Great Britain Historical GIS is intended as an on-line name authority for British administrative units.  To achieve this, we have computerised the main published authorities identified by the National Council on Archives' Rules for the Construction of Place Names.

The best known global placename thesaurus is the Getty Research Institute's Thesaurus of Geographical Names, although this is organised as a strictly hierarchic thesaurus and provides no maps.

The Alexandria Digital Library provides an alternative on-line gazetteer service. This is in fact an implementation of their gazetteer content standard and service protocol, which the GBH GIS project aims to support.

Other historical gazetteers for Britain:

  • Association of British Counties' Gazetteer of British Place Names - dedicated to the restoration of the ancient county system
  • GENUKI Church Database - a specialised facility for genealogists, but with basic information on most parishes
  • Scottish Archives Network Gazetteer of Scottish Places - the GBH GIS systems's coverage of Scottish units is based on the SCAN gazetteer but with extensive additions
  • The Gazetteer for Scotland - a brand new descriptive gazetteer on-line, describing the towns, villages, bens and glens of modern Scotland

If you just want to find modern places in Britain, try these commercial sites: