Domestic (United States and its possessions and territories and Antarctica).
The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is the file in which decisions of the Domestic Names Committee, United States Board on Geographic Names, are recorded. It is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey and located at URL:
- Load GNIS
- Choose U.S. and Territories or Antarctica
- Key as much of the feature name as is reasonable to get a useful response (search is automatically left match). Please note that the general principle for domestic names is to omit the generic apostrophe. Including the apostrophe produces results different from excluding it.
- After Query Variant Name Also? to the right of the feature name, click on the button for yes
- Under State or Territory Name, click on down arrow and then click on appropriate name
- May add county name (do not include the word county) and feature type, but results will not show conflicts in other counties or with other features
- Click on Send Query
- Interpret results
- If five (5) or fewer records are retrieved, scroll through results to find appropriate feature; click on show feature details to retrieve a fuller record that may show historical information and/or variant names
- If more than five (5) records are retrieved, scan the list for the appropriate feature; click on the entry for a fuller display
Foreign (Geographic names other than the United States and its possessions and territories and Antarctica).
The GEOnet Names Server (GNS) is the file in which decisions of the Foreign Names Committee, United States Board on Geographic Names, are recorded. It is a product of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (formerly Defense Mapping Agency) and located at URL:
- Load GEOnet Names Server page
- Click on Access GNS
- When loaded, click on GNS search under Queries in blue field to the left
- If the name being searched is likely to have non-Latin set diacritics, choose UNICODE
- Under General Information input feature to be searched
- Scroll down the list of countries and click on the name of the country in which the feature is located
- Scroll down to Sort order and verify desired order (default is feature) Clicking on the button for Name results in an alphabetical arrangement of results
- Scroll to Database Search button and click on it
- When the search results appear, find the feature searched and click on the name. This will display the BGN approved form of name as well as any variants associated with that name.
- To close the search results screens, click on the X box in the upper right corner
- Interpret results
- If there is a need to determine which feature is which by the first order administrative unit in which it is located (code under Area column), click on the code and a window will open providing the name of the first order administrative unit in which the place is located (a feature coded as [Country code] 00 has not been associated with a first order administrative unit and some other source will need to be used to determine that information.
- Be certain to log out from the search page after having finished searching.