Does the Geographic Names Information System Database contain entries for obsolete names and historical 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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Can I add new entries to the Geographic Names Information System for manmade and administrative features, such as churches, cemeteries, schools, shopping centers, etc.?

Suggested corrections and additions to the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) data are accepted from any source for review. Upon validation, they will be committed to the database. For manmade and administrative features, submit the official name of the feature with its precise location in geographic coordinates (latitude/longitude), the...

How can I propose a name change for a natural feature?

Proposals to change the name of a natural feature can be submitted to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names . There must, however, be a compelling reason to change it. The Board is responsible by law for standardizing geographic names throughout the Federal Government and discourages name changes unless necessary. Further, changing a name merely to...

How can I name an unnamed natural feature?

Proposals to name an unnamed natural feature can be submitted to the Board on Geographic Names (BGN). The BGN is responsible by law for standardizing geographic names throughout the Federal Government, and promulgates policies governing issues such as commemorative naming, derogatory names, and names in wilderness areas. Please note that no...

What is the difference between "mountain", "hill", and "peak"; "lake" and "pond"; or "river" and "creek?"

There are no official definitions for generic terms as applied to geographic features. Any existing definitions derive from the needs and applications of organizations using those geographic features. The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database utilizes 63 broad categories of feature types defined solely to facilitate retrieval of...

How can I acquire or download Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) data?

Download Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) data using the U.S. Board on Geographic Names website . Query the database for official geographic feature names, their location attributes, variant names, and other data. Display, print, and download up to 2,000 records from a query. GNIS data can also be downloaded via the National Map Viewer...

What is the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)?

The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) was developed by the U.S.Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN), which maintains cooperative working relationships with state names authorities to standardize geographic names. GNIS contains information about the official names for places, features, and...
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Date published: August 27, 2019

New names at Newberry drawn from CalVO geologist's mapping

In June 2019, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved twenty-five new formal geographic names at Newberry Volcano in central Oregon. The names were proposed by Julie Donnelly-Nolan, a Research Geologist with the Volcano Science Center of the USGS in Menlo Park, CA.

Date published: July 4, 2017

Mapping Yorktown

If urban legend is correct, the world turned upside down on October 19, 1781. The Patriots defeated the British at the Siege of Yorktown, paving the way for American Independence and starting an enduring trend for town names.

Date published: August 12, 2016

Highest Point East of Rockies Gets New Name

Black Elk Peak replaces Harney Peak in federal records

Date published: September 1, 2015

Old Name Officially Returns to Nation's Highest Peak

The story of America is told by the names on the land. When you hear names like Kentucky and Kennesaw, Klamath and Kodiak, your mind immediately starts to turn over all manner of associated thoughts of what you may have experienced or learned or even what you may imagine about that place.

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Alaska Surveying
April 25, 2016

Alaska Surveyors Circa 1924

Alaska surveying crew circa 1924 using alidade and plane table; transportation by dogsled. USGS photo files.

Shaded relief and geographic names features from 2005 US Topo for Denali, Alaska
December 31, 2015

Shaded relief and geographic names features from 2005 US Topo for Dena

Shaded relief and geographic names features from 2005 US Topo for Denali, Alaska

Example geographic names data

Example geographic names data

Example geographic names data. In support of the United States Board on Geographic Names, the USGS maintains the Federal authoritative source of official geographic feature names, known as the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). USGS topographic maps and The National Map Viewer display selected feature names, including physical and cultural features such

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