Taking the Bull by the Horns

I’ve put the matter off too long and the time has come that I must revisit how I address the residents of Greater London. While it isn’t apparent to the average user, the backend database, in Family Tree Maker 2019, that lists where records are from has been a hot mess. Some of which was created by yours truly as I started incorporating the records of Ian Henry Babb. My lack of knowledge of the locations led to hap hazard labeling of the locations.

I’ve avoided it for a long time. But now, with the work I’m trying to conduct on Thomas Babb mariner (1620) I find it necessary to fix this longstanding problem. Part of my ability to produce results is my insistence on a strict geographic code. I label things by where they are now and make a note as to what they were at the time they were recorded. That all went out the window when I started the UK tree and I didn’t initially realize my error. The day of reckoning is at hand.

The City of London, its ancient core and financial centre, was founded by the Romans (around 47-50 AD) as Londinium and retains its medieval boundaries.[note 1][10] The City of Westminster, to the west of the City of London, has for centuries hosted the national government and parliament.

Since the 19th century,[11] the name “London” has also referred to the metropolis around this core, historically split between the counties of MiddlesexEssexSurreyKent, and Hertfordshire,[12] which since 1965 has largely comprised Greater London,[13] which is governed by 32 boroughs.

Yet, record keeping and boundaries are a sheer mess for Genealogists. Records are recorded in places that no longer exist or have change names over time.

In the not too distant future London will be celebrating the beginning of its 3rd Millenium. Wrap your head around that! Throughout its history it has steadily grown and today encompasses 1/4 of all Brits as residents.

While it has grown it has swallowed up whole cities and even counties. The lines have been redrawn and divided so many times that it is hardly recognizable from what it was at the time of the original record.

How to fix it

I’ve spent several years thinking about how to fix this problem and never settled on an acceptable solution. I stumbled upon it last week, while trying to label a record.

I’ve been unhappy with the way Family Tree Maker (FTM) organizes records beyond the place names it has in its database. In the US I don’t encounter this problem. But we are a mere 403 years old, which is well short of the 1976 Years that London has under its belt.

The problem is thus: When you define a new place name in FTM it doesn’t organize it in the same way that it does when it knows the location. It I was to input Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA, the program knows how to organize it hierarchically and place all the records in a proper order for easy searching.

However, when I add something with what it calls “Historical Place Names” it has an opposite effect and sorts them from the first name to last in the list. For example, if I was to enter “Portland Place, Marylebone, London, England” It would first sort hierarchically on England then London. After that it sorts of Portland Place as the next filter, which is completely a$$ backwards.

The Breakthrough!

I finally realized that I could simply enter the data in a different pattern in order to get the search results I need to be able to make the magic happen. For example, I now enter “City of Westminster, Marylebone, Portland Place, London, England”.

While it is out of whack organizationally (at least in my head), it works!

So, over the course of the last several days, I’ve gone through every Greater London based location and updated it according to my new methodology.

However, there is one more piece to this puzzle. Seeing the large number of Babbs that were attracted to London, I knew that I needed to be able to decipher where in the city they were located so that I could track migration patterns and see where family units were located.

So, I decided to follow suit from the hierarchy setup in 1965. I organized the records along the boundaries of the Borough system they use and looked up every single location in an effort to correct my previous errors and finally create a manageable system for partitioning this massive place that already has 2000+ Babbs in our tree.

I’m pleased with the outcome, but it’s been 3 days of intense work trying to restore sanity to this process. It now looks that I can identify at least 279 descendants of Thomas Babb mariner (1620).

If you are a London Babb and haven’t spoken to me yet, we need to fix that! Please reach out by commenting on this article. That will send me a private message where I can start up a conversation with you in a manner that won’t jeopardize your personal information. Your comment won’t appear on the article, and I don’t approve comments that contain personally identifiable information.


Along this journey I have updated more than 2000 place names and reduced the total places by more than 200 (about 7% overall).

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