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Tips and Tricks

Here at The National Map Corps, we have many tips and tricks that we use for editing! Below are a few that we use on a regular basis.

Facebook as an Authoritative Source

"On-the-ground" Views are Priceless

Moving Points a Long Distance

Deleting Duplicate Points

Schools & Symbols:  Which Type of School Is It?

Other General Resources


Facebook as an Authoritative Source

A Facebook page sometimes serves as an authoritative source.   

  • Before using information from a Facebook page, make sure it is an official page and not one that is automatically generated. 
  • See the newsletter article titled Social Media as an Authoritative Source (July 2020) for more on when it's appropriate to use social media to update points.

"On-the-ground" Views are Priceless

Use a commercial mapping service with “on-the-ground” views to virtually walk the street and inspect signage and/or building facades. Doing so will also help indicate which building (or parcel) the point should be centered on.   

You can use these "on-the-ground" views to help identify an assortment of information about structures, including (but not limited to): 

  • Vacant Buildings - Often when a structure has relocated or ceased operation, the buildings will have signage for real estate brokers in front. Other indicators of a vacant building include boarded-up windows and/or overgrown vegetation.  
  • Cemetery Names – Scrolling down the street to catch a glimpse of cemetery gates might shine a light on the cemetery's official name via signage near the gates or a plaque posted on the gate's posts.   
  • Fire Stations - Fire stations are easy to spot from their wide driveways, large garage doors, and the occasional flag pole. If you're lucky, some fire trucks may even be visible. 

When using “on-the-ground” imagery, be sure to verify the date of the imagery capture; the more recent the capture date, the more reliable it is. 

Moving Points a Long Distance

When a structure relocates, move the point to the new location rather than deleting and recreating it. Deleting the point also deletes important information attached to it, such as a GNIS ID.  

  • See the article titled Moving vs. Deleting Points (March 2017). 

Deleting Duplicate Points 

When a single structure has duplicate points and both points have a GNIS ID, delete the point with the higher GNIS ID. (e.g., If point A has the ID 12345, and point B has the ID 56789, delete point B).  

  • If one point has a GNIS ID and the other doesn’t, delete the point with no GNIS ID.  
  • If neither point has a GNIS ID, then either one can be deleted.  


Schools & Symbols:  Which Type of School Is It? 

Schools can be tricky since there are so many different categories a school can fall into. A school's category is determined by the grade levels offered at that school. See our Structures List for more detail about what each category does and does not include.   

  • As a rule, if a school's official name contains the words "elementary," "middle" or “high,” that is how the school should be labeled. 
  • NOTE: it is always a good practice to confirm which grades a school offers. This is done by looking at individual pages on a school's website. Reliable pages include: 
  1. academic curriculum 
  2. student hand-book 
  3. teacher directory (if the teachers are listed by school and grade) 
  4. school supply lists 

Private schools may differ from public schools regarding grade levels offered. Many private school systems combine elementary and middle schools into one entity, making it a K-8 (or General) school. 

  • Always confirm which grades a school offers, especially with private schools. 
  • If a school website does not provide information on grade levels offered, NCES is a good alternative (though school websites are preferred). 
  • When editing schools, a title that indicates it is private is a cue to research and confirm that the point's symbol matches the grade levels offered. 
  • See our School Icons Decision Tree for which school symbol goes with which grade level combinations. 
  • When in doubt, the general school icon should be used. 

Here are some additional Q&A posts regarding schools:  

Other General Resources 

Additional resources for tips and tricks are our newsletters and authoritative sources pages. 


Here is just a sampling of the tips and tricks you’ll find in articles:  

Authoritative Sources 

When doing research on a structure and comparing various online sources, a key question to ask yourself is “Who created the website containing this information?” The answer to this question will provide insight into whether or not it is authoritative.