The comments to my last post on geographic naming raise a number of issues. The two main questions deal with changes in political subdivisions over time and the need to identify the location of local records. In the western states, where I live, there is not really much of a challenge, but in the eastern states and, of course, in Europe, place names may have change dozens of times. These changes are really an opportunity to become familiar with local history.
I suggest that the proper methodology for approaching geographic naming issues begins with a thorough examination of historical maps. It is important to identify the physical location of the event, independent of the changing place names. Just like a real estate title examiner who must follow the chain of ownership, to make progress in finding genealogically significant records, you must have a clear chain of jurisdictions. Recognizing that as the jurisdictions changed, i.e. from village to township to county, the repository for the local records may also have changed. Particularly, with county splits, some of the records may have remained in the parent county and some of the records may have gone to the newly created counties. That is, unless all of the records stayed in the parent county or were sent to a central repository, such as the state archives.
European jurisdictions have the additional challenges of wars and annexation. Not only do place names change, but the language spoken and the country may have also changed over time. Language and population movements occur in the U.S. also, but on a much smaller scale and over a much shorter time period.
The main reasons for using the name of the place at the time of the event, is not only to be historically accurate but to give the best opportunity for identifying the present location of local records. Most current lineage linked database programs (like RootsMagic, Legacy, Ancestral Quest, Family Tree Maker and others) have an option to record alternative events which could include adding another location for an event. If that feature is not available in the program you are using, then you may have to result to notes explaining the changes in the place name.
One comment questioned using an obscure place name that was used for a limited time period and concluded that the issue might be ignored and the current location name used. I disagree. Not only is it important to preserve the historical accuracy of the records, but place name changes may reflect other social and political issues that should be recorded as part of the family history. How many times have you searched for a location, only to find that the name is no longer used. If you ignore the original place names in favor of standardized naming, you lose valuable historical connections to the original population of the area.
There are many good arguments for standardizing place names, when the place name is subject to standardization, but not when the standard name obscures the actual place and history.