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Does the Geographic Names Information System database contain entries for obsolete names and geographic features that no longer exist?

Yes, The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) actively seeks names of features that no longer exist. The term "historical" as used in the GNIS specifically means that the feature no longer exists on the landscape. An abandoned ghost town, for example, still exists so it is not historical. Historical features have no reference to age, size, condition, extent of habitation, type of use, or any other factor. Most historical features are (or were) man-made, but can be natural features such as shoals that were washed away by a storm or a hill leveled by mining activity.

There are more than 100,000 historical entries in the database. To search for them, type the word "historical" (along with other name words if desired) in the name field. Narrow the search further by selecting State, County, and/or Feature Class. For performance reasons, queries will not return more than 2,000 records.

The database also contains many variant names, which are historical names that are no longer used for features that still exist. Each geographic feature can have only one official name, but GNIS might list numerous variants.

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