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Geography : Finding Places

This guide will help you discover resources of all types for the academic field of Geography and many of its subdisciplines with particular reference to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Place names are important because they identify features, such as administrative areas (cities, counties, states, countries) and physical features (rivers, lakes, valleys and mountains). They can be a record of a region's history and a means of establishing government authority or national identity.

This guide has been prepared to provide links to Internet resources that can be used to locate places in the United States or the World. Please contact me to provide information on additional resources or corrections.

Other Interesting Resources

United States Place Names

Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) - GNIS contains information about over 2,000,000 geographic features shown on United States topographic maps. Each entry includes location information (State, county, and geographic coordinates) as well as the type of feature and the name of the topographic map that shows the feature. The database is produced by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names and the U.S. Geological Survey.

U.S. Gazetteer - The U.S. Gazetteer, produced by the Census Bureau, is a list of United States place names for populated places from the 1990, 2000 and 2010 Censuses. It includes information on places, counties, county subdivisions and zip code tabulation areas. The latitudes and longitudes given for places in these files are the center of population for that place, and may differ from the location given in the GNIS.

World Place Name Resources

GEOnet World Place Names Server - A database of World place names developed from the country gazetteers that were once published by the Defense Mapping Agency (now the National Imagery and Mapping Agency) and its predecessors. It contains place names for over 5 million features throughout the World.

JewishGenGazetteer - The JewishGen Gazetteer contains the names of one million localities in 54 countries in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Undersea Feature Names - Gazetteer of Geographic Names of Undersea Features from the British Oceanographic Data Center.

Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names - The Getty Thesaurus provides information on place names related to art, architecture, art history and related subjects, such as history and archaeology.