U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Domestic Names

The BGN's Domestic Names Committee provides information relating to domestic names; new name and name change proposals; the principles and policies by which it reviews name proposals; past and pending cases; and meeting agenda. 

User Notice – October 27, 2021

The Domestic Names Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) has been redesigned and is currently available. We are working on the help documentation and will have that posted within the application soon. Users will still be able to search and retrieve records and view the location on a map. Users will be able to select the best search type for their needs and download the results. The summary page for each record will include the location displayed on a map along with each point. Users will have the ability to select several options for map backgrounds to assist with location. 

Users may access our previous data, current as of August 25, 2021, by downloading one of the National, State or topical text files available at Download GNIS Data. These files do contain administrative names data.

Downloadable Files:

The location of GNIS download files will eventually be moved to ScienceBase and users can choose to download the text files we continue to create as well as a new geodatabase file that can be used with ArcMap. Until we move to ScienceBase, users will be able to download the text files from the BGN website.

Data Content:

Since GNIS staff has been unable to maintain Domestic administrative names for quite some time (since October 1, 2014), these records will be archived from GNIS database and will longer be available through the GNIS search application. The following feature classes will be archived: Airport, Bridge, Building, Cemetery, Church, Dam, Forest, Harbor, Hospital, Mine, Oilfield, Park, Post Office, Reserve, School, Tower, Trail, Tunnel, and Well. 

Natural features, populated places, canals, and reservoirs remain under the purview of the Board on Geographic Names and the Civil, Census, and Military features will also be maintained via an agreement between the Census Bureau and USGS. These remaining feature types will continue to be maintained and distributed through the GNIS search application and the bi-monthly distribution files.

The administrative names data will be archived into separate files that can be downloaded from ScienceBase. We will no longer update the file once records are archived. All the information pertaining to the records will be available for download in the same format we use for the other text files. We will create a main names file, in the same format as the National file and an AllNames file (includes official and variant names).

Some administrative names are managed by other data themes of The National Map and are available for download from The National Map at (https://apps.nationalmap.gov/viewer Click Data Download).

For all new proposals, please use the pdf proposal form. If you have questions, please send them to BGNEXEC@usgs.gov.

About GNIS:

The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is the Federal and national standard for geographic nomenclature. The U.S. Geological Survey's National Geospatial Program developed the GNIS in support of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names as the official repository of domestic geographic names data, the official vehicle for geographic names use by all departments of the Federal Government, and the source for applying geographic names to Federal electronic and printed products.

The GNIS contains information about physical geographic features of many types in the United States, associated areas, and Antarctica, current and historical, but not including roads and highways or cultural features. The database holds the Federally recognized name of each feature and defines the feature location by state, county, USGS topographic map, and geographic coordinates. Other attributes include names or spellings other than the official name, feature designations, feature classification, historical and descriptive information.

The GNIS Feature ID, Official Feature Name, and Official Feature Location are American National Standards Institute standards as specified in ANSI INCITS 446-2008 (Identifying Attributes for Named Physical and Cultural Geographic Features (Except Roads and Highways) of the United States, Its Territories, Outlying Areas, and Freely Associated Areas, and the Waters of the Same to the Limit of the Twelve-Mile Statutory Zone). The standard is available at the ANSI Web Store.


US BGN Executive Secretary, Domestic Names