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The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names ® (TGN), the Art & Architecture Thesaurus ® (AAT), the Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), the Cultural Objects Name Authority ® (CONA), and the Iconography Authority ™ (IA) are structured resources that can be used to improve access to information about art, architecture, and material culture. They are not simple 'value vocabularies,' but unique, rich knowledge bases in themselves. Through rich metadata and links, the Getty Vocabularies provide powerful conduits for knowledge creation, research, and discovery for digital art history and related disciplines.

  • Cataloging: For some users, the Getty Vocabularies are utilized as data value standards at the point of documentation or cataloging, to promote consistency in assignment of a term or to provide options among multiple terms referencing the same concept. The Vocabularies provide preferred names/terms and synonyms for people, places, and things. They also provide structure and classification schemes that can aid in documentation.

  • Linking: For other users, the Getty Vocabularies are used in linking, in order to reference the unique identifier of the Vocabulary record, or to otherwise reconcile their data.

  • Retrieval: For other users, the Getty Vocabularies aid in retrieval and discovery, utilizing synonymous terms, broader/narrower contexts, and other rich contextual data in search assistants, in database retrieval systems, and more broadly in a linked environment. The Vocabularies are rich knowledge bases that contain dozens of fields of rich contextual data about each concept, and semantic networks that highlight links and paths between concepts.

  • Research tools: For other users, the Getty Vocabularies are used as look-up resources, valuable because of the rich information and contextual knowledge that they contain.

    In order to meet the needs of these various user communities, the Getty Vocabularies are made available in several ways.

  • Data files: Releases include Linked Open Data (LOD) (JSON, RDF, N3/Turtle, N-Triples for GVP and Linked.Art), XML, Relational Tables, Web Services APIs. These files are used by developers or incorporated in various tools by vendors or others. These releases may be transformed to comply with other formats, such as the MARC format used for ULAN and TGN in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF®). Some of these releases contain simplified versions of the data, while others contain the full, rich data sets, providing versions to meet the requirements of various developer communities. The AAT, TGN, and ULAN are available as LOD, relational tables, and XML. AAT, TGN, ULAN, CONA, and IA are available through APIs. The data file releases are refreshed periodically throughout the year. The Getty Vocabularies are published under The Getty Vocabularies are published under the Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) 1.0.

  • Online Search: The five Getty Vocabularies' online search pages are consistently the top sites visited at the Getty Research Institute Web site each month. Using these search tools, catalogers copy-and-paste Vocabulary terms and IDs as part of their daily workflow. Researchers use the search to locate rich information about the Vocabulary concepts. In the results displays, for each concept the data fields are presented in a logical full-record display for end users, as well as in hierarchical views. The online search data is refreshed monthly.

    Various releases or utilizations of the Getty Vocabulary data may contain more or less of the full, available data for each Vocabulary record, depending upon the purpose of the release. An implementation that intends to ask complex queries using the Vocabulary data would require the full available data. In another example, if a developer only needs to link to the unique identifier for the concept, perhaps a streamlined data set would be more appropriate; e.g., the ULAN data (and soon TGN data also) that is included in the VIAF is a subset of the full data available, which is streamlined and parsed to fit the particular requirements of MARC.

    Target audience: The five Getty vocabularies are intended to provide terminology and other information about the objects, artists, concepts, and places important to various disciplines that specialize in art, architecture, and other material culture. The primary users of the Getty vocabularies include researchers in art and art history, museums, art libraries, archives, visual resource collection catalogers, conservation specialists, archaeological projects, bibliographic projects concerned with art, and the developers and information specialists who are dealing with the needs of these users. In addition, a significant number of users of the Getty vocabularies are students or members of the general public.

Comprehensiveness and updates: TGN is a thesaurus. TGN is not a geographic information system (GIS), although it may be linked to existing major, general-purpose, geographic databases and maps. While most records in TGN include coordinates, these coordinates are approximate and are intended for reference ("finding purposes") only (as is true of coordinates in most atlases and other resources, including NGA (formerly NIMA) databases).

TGN is not comprehensive. TGN is intended to aid cataloging, research, and discovery of rich information about visual works and related topics. The focus of TGN is on historical places, although enough information about the modern world is included to give context to historical places and to allow documenation and discovery of visual works. TGN includes names and associated information about places. See Scope and Structure below.

TGN is a compiled resource. TGN grows through contributions. See the online list of over 300 Contributors. Some recent and historical contributors to TGN and the other the Getty Vocabularies include projects and departments at the Getty Research Institute (including the Provenance Index, Special Collections, Photo Archive, the Library, the Florentine Codex initiative, and other scholarly research); the Getty Conservation Institute; the J. Paul Getty Museum; Academia Sinica of Taiwan; Centro de Documentación de Bienes Patrimoniales, Chile; Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD); the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Preussischer Kulturbesitz; Built Works Registry; Witt Computer Index and the Courtauld Institute; Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, Columbia University; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Grove Art; Indiana University slide library; Victoria and Albert Museum; Bibliography of the History of Art / Bibliographie d'Histoire de l'Art; Foundation for Documents of Architecture, Washington, DC; the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione, Rome; the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN); Canadian Centre for Architecture / Centre Canadien d'Architecture; Frick Art Reference Library; the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art; National Art Library in London; Census of Antique Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance; the Mystic Seaport Museum; the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin; and the Bunting Visual Resources Library at the University of New Mexico.

As of this writing, the TGN database contains 3,013,158 place records (5,316,461 names).

Minimum record: A minimum TGN record contains a numeric ID, a name, a place in the hierarchy, and a place type. However, the data model includes dates, relationships, and other rich data. Most records include coordinates. TGN focuses on the historical world and places necessary for cataloging and discovery of visual works. It is not intended to be comprehensive. Current areas of TGN development include 1) adding archaeological sites, lost sites, and other historical sites, particularly Pre-Columbian places and places in Asia, Middle East, Africa, and others, and 2) building hierarchies for historical nations and empires.

Contribute to the Getty Vocabularies: Read about Contributions.

Mission and History of TGN

Mission: The mission of the Getty Vocabulary Program (GVP) is to produce rich, structured, authoritative vocabularies, in compliance with international standards, that provide a powerful conduit for inter-related, linked, and meaningful research, discovery, and understanding of the visual arts and their various histories, in collaboration with the international community, and utilizing training and outreach to inform the field. One of our primary goals is to broaden and enrich the scope and coverage of the Getty Vocabularies to become ever more multilingual, multicultural, inclusive, and representative of the subjects and priorities of the GRI, the Getty, and global art history.

History: The development of TGN was informed by an international study completed by the Thesaurus Artis Universalis (TAU), a working group of the Comité International d'Histoire de l'Art (CIHA), and by the consensus reached at a colloquium held in 1991, attended by the spectrum of potential users of geographic vocabulary in cataloging and scholarship of art and architectural history and archaeology.

Work on the TGN began in 1987, when the Getty created a department dedicated to compiling and distributing terminology, at that time called the Vocabulary Coordination Group. The AAT was already being managed by the Getty at that time, and the Getty attempted to respond to requests from the creators of art information for additional controlled vocabularies for artists' names (ULAN) and geographic names (TGN).

TGN was always intended for use in the domain of visual works and art history. Its original name was Thesaurus of Art-historical Places (TAP). The initial core of the TGN was compiled from thousands of geographic names in use by various Getty cataloging and indexing projects, enlarged by information from U.S. government databases, and further enhanced by the manual entry of information from published hard-copy sources. The TGN grows and changes via contributions from the user community and editorial work of the Getty Vocabulary Program.

The basic principles under which the TGN is constructed and maintained were established by the AAT and also employed for the ULAN: Its scope includes terminology needed to catalog and retrieve information about the visual arts and architecture; it is constructed using national and international standards for thesaurus construction; it comprises a hierarchy with tree structures corresponding to the current and historical worlds; it is based on terminology that is current, warranted for use by authoritative literary sources, and validated by use in the scholarly art and architectural history community; and it is compiled and edited in response to the needs of the user community.

TGN was founded under the management of Eleanor Fink (head of what was then called the Vocabulary Coordination Group, and subsequently Director of the Art History Information Program, later called the Getty Information Institute). TGN has been constructed over the years by numerous members of the user community and an army of dedicated editors, under the supervision of several managers. Technical support for the TGN was provided by the Getty. TGN was first published in 1997 in machine-readable files. Given the growing size and frequency of changes and additions to the TGN, hard-copy publication was deemed to be impractical. It is currently published in both a searchable online Web interface and in data files available for licensing. The data for the TGN is compiled and edited in an editorial system that was custom-built by Getty technical staff to meet the unique requirements of compiling data from many contributors, building complex and changing polyhierarchies, merging, moving, and publishing in various formats. Final editorial control of the TGN is maintained by the Getty Vocabulary Program, using well-established editorial rules.

Currently, Patricia Harpring is Managing Editor of the Getty Vocabulary Program, within the Getty Research Institute's Research and Knowledge Creation section, led by Nancy Um. Editors are Jonathan Ward, Robin Johnson, and Antonio Beecroft. The technical team is located in the Getty Digital division; team members include Lily Pregill, Gregg Garcia, and David Newbury.

How does TGN compare to other geographic resources?

All five of the Getty Vocabularies, when compared to other resources covering similar topics, are unique in the following ways: In their global coverage of defined domain of visual arts, in citing published sources and contributors, in allowing interconnections among historical and current information, in accommodating the sometimes debated and ambiguous nature of art historical information, and in allowing complex relationships within and between Vocabularies. Below is further comparison of TGN and other resources dealing with geography.

What is a gazetteer?
It is about names: A gazetteer is a geographic dictionary or directory, typically used in conjunction with maps or atlases. A digital gazetteer is an automated version of such a geographic name list or dictionary.

What is GIS (Geographic Information System)?
It is about spacial coordinates: GIS are combined software and hardware systems that relate and display collected information concerning phenomena associated with location relative to the Earth. A GIS focuses on the capture, storage, manipulation, analysis, management, and presentation of geographic or other spatial data. With a GIS, among other things, you can create maps and insert statistical data in a visual way. The design of GIS and standards that govern them are in the realm of science; however, the implementation of GIS can be very useful for art history and related disciplines. TGN can and should be linked to and used with GIS. For an example of TGN applied to a GIS mapping implementation, see the Silk Road presentation by Marcia Zeng and Tao Hu. Further discussion of the use of TGN data is found in a blog on the Silk Road by Jon Ward.

What is a geographic thesaurus?
It is about semantic relationships: TGN comprises a rich dataset in the form of a geographic thesaurus. As a thesaurus, TGN is a semantic network of unique concepts, focused on geographic places, both administrative entities and physical features. TGN focuses on the historical world and the portion of the modern world necessary to give context to historical places and facilitate cataloging and discovery of visual works. Both extant and lost places may be included. As a thesaurus, TGN has the following three relationships: equivalence (synonyms), hierarchical (whole/part), and associative (various types of other relationships). TGN is polyhierarchical and multilingual.

TGN uses coordinates from USGS/USBGN and NGA/NIMA (see below), and others from various sources. Geographic coordinates in TGN use the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84), as is used by most GIS, atlases, and other geographic resources; the combination of coordinates, place type, and names should allow TGN to be linked to GIS.

Each record (place concept), name, and much other information in TGN are identified by persistent, unique numeric identifiers, which is critical in maintaining and linking data.

Further aiding linking is the concordance of unique IDs of other resources in TGN: In addtion to the TGN IDs, TGN usually records the NGA/NIMA and USGS/USBGN unique IDs for any place records derived from these sources, which would allow quick matching not only to NGA/NIMA and USGS/USBGN, but to any other resources that use them as original sources. Library of Congress identifiers may also be included.

How is TGN unique?

  • Audience: Although it could have broader application, the target audience for TGN are those concerned with indexing, research, and discovery of art, architecture, and other cultural heritage information. It is very popular in this community. When considering only one implementation of TGN, the online search interface, TGN and the other Getty vocabularies are consistently among the most popular online resources each month at the GRI. TGN is also among the top resources accessed through data file releases; it is implemented in various user interfaces, for which we cannot track usage.
  • Focus on names and historical information: TGN includes multilingual, multicultural, historical, archival, inscribed, and other types of names and information for a place; dates for names, dates for relationships, and dates for place types may be included.
  • Focus on hierarchical links: TGN includes modern and historical hierarchies, including polyhierarchies (e.g., Siena is part of modern Italy and also was part of the historical confederation of cities, Etruria).
  • Standard-based: TGN's content and structure are based on ICHIM TAU and compliant with NISO and ISO standards for thesaurus construction; TGN contains minimum fields for mapping to several ISO and NISO geographic standards. See History above.
  • Scope: TGN includes information for administrative and physical, modern, historical, and lost places (e.g., the lost island Antirhodos), not only extant places.
  • Links within TGN: In addition to hierarchical links, TGN includes associative relationships between TGN records (e.g., distinguished from, ally of, capital of, successor of)
  • Links outside TGN: TGN data includes place types, which are controlled terms describing TGN entities (e.g., nation, empire, caliphate, inhabited place, village, archaeological site, cave dwelling, former island, peak). Place type terms are linked to AAT; ULAN, CONA, and IA are linked to TGN. Since TGN includes IDs for Library of Congress authorities, NGA/NIMA, and USGS/USBGN, TGN records may be linked to these and other outside resources. Coordinates are taken from and compatible with USGS/USBGN, NGA/NIMA, and others, which would allow ease of linking between these resources.
  • Authoritative information: TGN includes references to the published sources and the contributing institution for all information, in keeping with the tenets of scholarship and allowing the user to judge the authoritativeness of the data.
  • Open and fee-free: All releases of TGN are available under Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-By) 1. TGN grows regularly through contributions and through other open resources; most TGN releases are refreshed every two weeks.

What are geographic datasets?
They are collections of data: Geographic datasets contain information about geography, usually geographic names and coordinates, plus various other data depending upon the resource. Geographic datasets may be used to build, or themselves are extracted from, thesauri, GIS, and other implementations.

Among geographic datasets other than TGN's, the following three are well known, available openly and free of charge. The first two, NGA/NIMA and USGS/USBGN, have provided the core data for the names and coordinates of modern places in TGN since 1987; historical names and other information in TGN were derived from a wide variety of other resources.

NGA/NIMA: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), formerly National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) makes available openly and without charge a large geographic database for modern places of all nations outside the USA. The public search interface of NGA/NIMA data is called GeoNames, at It includes places in the modern world, with some examples of archaeological sites; it very rarely includes historical names; it typically includes names in English and in the vernacular language of the place.

USGS/USBGN: The United States Geological Survey compiles a dataset created by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for places within the USA. It is available openly and free of charge. Its public search interface is also called GeoNames, at It includes places in the modern world, with some examples of archaeological sites; it may include historical names; names are in English.

GeoNames: Another geographic data resource that is called "GeoNames" is a geographic database compiled and founded by the Swiss independent software engineer Marc Wick in 2005, It comprises in large part USGS/USBGN and NGA/NIMA data.  It is available openly and free, with a premium version available for a fee. Given its sources, includes almost exclusively only modern places, not historical or lost places. It includes some names in multiple languages, so far as these are included in its sources, such as NGA/NIMA, USGS/USBGN, or others.

Scope and Structure

Scope: TGN is not comprehensive; although coverage is multilingual and global, the scope is tailored to the needs of the Getty Vocabularies' core audience. The temporal coverage of TGN ranges from prehistory to the present. The scope of TGN includes names, relationships, place types, dates, and coordinates for places required to catalog, discover, and retrieve rich information about art, architecture, and other visual cultural heritage, including related disciplines dealing with visual works, such as archaeology and conservation. Visual works include not only works classified as art according to Western aesthetics, but also utilitarian and ceremonial works. For works' information, TGN is used for current location, creation location, discovery location, and subject depicted; for people in ULAN, TGN is used for places of birth, death, and activity. TGN is linked to CONA and IA as well. Development in TGN focuses on the historical world, although as much of the modern world as is necessary for giving context to the historical world and for cataloging and discovery of visual works is included.

Types of places included in TGN are inhabited places (cities, towns, villages), nations, empires, archaeological sites, named general areas, tribal areas, lost settlements (historically documented, but the precise location is unknown), and physical features. Names that reference a built work may be included, when the name serves as a place name; if it is also serves as a built work name, you may record it in CONA and link to TGN (places and built works have different attributes, thus are recorded in separate Vocabularies). Sizable areas within inhabited places may be included if they serve as place names, such as districts, neighborhoods, squares, and large parks. Street addresses are not included. Settlements that were planned but never built may be included, but legendary and fictional places are not included; they may be included in IA.

Various types of names for places are included. Records for modern places often include historical names; places may have various historical names that change over time. Alternative place names are included, such as indigenous names and official names. Codes and official abbreviations may be included in the name field; for example, ISO codes for nations are included. See the discussion of fields below for more information about flags used to denote codes. Names in multiple languages may be included. Various transliterations may be included. Misspellings may be included, provided they are found with some frequency in published sources, and therefore are useful for retrieval. Names that are considered "pejorative" or "avoid use" may be flagged.

What is excluded in TGN? While TGN includes lost settlements that have warrant in historical documentation, excluded are names of imaginary or legendary places that did not exist. These places may be recorded in the Getty Iconography Authority (IA). Generally, excluded also are names for underwater features and other physical features that are not required for cataloging and discovery of visual works or for creating historical hierarchies. Given that TGN is not comprehensive and is optimized for the domain of visual arts, many places found in generic GIS are excluded in TGN. Also, locally used abbreviations and names found in only one archival source are excluded. Street addresses are generally out of scope for TGN; if you require controlled street address as location identifiers in your local data, we advise that you use a local authority. The names of built works are generally out of scope for TGN, although they are occasionally included when used as a place name. Record built works in CONA. Overall, records that lack the minimal information for a TGN record are excluded (i.e., name, place type, broader contexts, warrant); see guidelines for contributions for more information regarding minimum contribution requirements.

Structure: TGN is a structured vocabulary containing names and other rich information about places. Names for a place may include names in the vernacular language, English, other languages, historical names, names and in natural order and inverted order. Among these names, one is flagged as the default preferred name.

TGN is a unique thesaurus, compliant with ISO and NISO standards for thesaurus construction; it contains hierarchical, equivalence, and associative relationships. Note that TGN is not a GIS (Geographic Information System). While many records in TGN include coordinates, these coordinates are approximate and are intended for reference only.

The focus of each TGN record is a place. In the database, each place record (also called a subject) is identified by a unique numeric ID. Linked to the record for the place are names, the place's parent or position in the hierarchy, other relationships, geographic coordinates, notes, sources for the data, and place types, which are terms describing the role of the place (e.g., inhabited place and state capital).

More about scope and structure: The TGN is a hierarchical database; its trees branch from a root called Top of the TGN hierarchies (Subject_ID: 1000000). Currently there are two TGN facets, World and Extraterrestrial Places. Under the facet World, records for places are arranged in hierarchies generally representing the current political and physical world, although some historical nations and empires are also included. There may be multiple broader contexts, making the TGN polyhierarchical.

Information in the Record (Fields)

Click on field names to go to the full Editorial Guidelines on a given field. Fields marked "required-default" are filled with default values when contributors do not supply the data. The following is a partial list of fields. For the full set of fields, see Editorial Guidelines and Data Dictionary.

  • Language: Most fields in TGN records are written in English. However, the structure of the TGN supports multilinguality insofar as repeating fields for names and scope notes may be written and flagged in multiple languages. The overall record-preferred name is written in the Roman alphabet. All data is in Unicode.

  • Diacritics: The TGN names and other fields contain dozens of different diacritics, expressed in legacy data as codes (e.g., $00) in the data files. The TGN is released in Unicode.

  • Fields: The TGN fields (i.e., discrete pieces of data) are described below. Data dictionaries for the licensed files are available at

  • Subject ID (required-default)
    Unique numeric identification for the TGN record. Each record for a place in the TGN database is uniquely identified by a numeric ID that serves to link the names and all other pertinent information to the place record. The ID is generally permanent. Occasionally an ID may change due to the record being merged with another record; in such cases, the new IDs are included in the licensed files, and a mapping between defunct and new IDs is provided to implementors.


  • Record Type (required-default)
    Type designation that characterizes the TGN record. Record types include the following:

    Administrative: Refers to places defined by administrative boundaries and conditions, including inhabited places, nations, and empires.

    Physical: Refers to physical features, defined by their physical characteristics on planet Earth or another moon or planet, including mountains, rivers, and oceans.

    Both: Used in legacy data for places that were considered both administrative and physical. Given that no place is really both administrative and physical (even though certain geographic resources such as atlases may combine two entities in one entry), it is current policy to avoid flagging a record with this flag.

    Hierarchy Name, Guide Term, and Facet: Record types used to organize the hierarchies.


  • Label (required-default)
    Brief text identification of the place, concatenated from the preferred Name, parent string, and preferred Place Type. Whereas the Subject ID identifies the place in the database, the Label serves as an easily legible heading to identify the place for end-users. In the TGN Online display (an entry in a results list display is illustrated below), the Label is displayed with the hierarchy icon (to the left of the Label) in order to permit the end-user to go to the hierarchy to browse for places.


    Note that the above Label illustrates the parent string in descending order, which is useful to allow sorting among homographs in results lists. For other displays, it will be more user-friendly to display the parents in ascending order.

  • Note
    Called the Descriptive Note, a note that describes the history, physical location of the place, or the importance of the place relative to art and architecture. Many, but not all, TGN records include a note The example below is for the Roman Empire.


  • Sources for the note
    A controlled reference to the sources used for information in the Descriptive Note, typically published sources. All information in the note must derive from an authoritative source. Notes must be based on facts and scholarly research. See Editorial Guidelines.
  • Contributor for the note
    A controlled reference to the institution or project that contributed the Descriptive Note.

  • Language of the note
    The language of the Descriptive Note. Legacy data contains notes primarily in English, however the Descriptive Note is a repeating field and may be translated in other languages.

  • Coordinates
    Geographic coordinates indicating the position of the place, expressed in degrees/minutes and decimal fractions of degrees. Latitude (Lat.) is the angular distance north or south of the equator, measured along a meridian. Longitude (Long.) is the angular distance east or west of the Prime Meridian at Greenwich, England. Bounding coordinates and elevation may also be included (as in the example for Great Lakes Region below).


    NOTE: TGN is not a GIS: it is a thesaurus. While many records in TGN include coordinates, these coordinates are approximate and are intended for reference ("finding purposes") only.

    Geographic coordinates in TGN typically represent a single point, corresponding to a point in or near the center of the inhabited place, political entity, or physical feature. For linear features such as rivers, the point represents the source of the feature.

    Coordinates are expressed in degrees and minutes (as are used in atlases); they are also expressed in decimal fractions of degrees. In decimal fractions, west longitude and south latitude are expressed as negative numbers (as in the example for Rio de Janeiro below).
  • The primary sources of coordinates in TGN are either of the two large U.S. government databases, USGS/USBGN (United States Geological Survey (USGS) and NGA (formerly NIMA; National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

    So far as is possible given that TGN is compiled from various contributors, coordinates in TGN are compliant with following standards: ISO 6709 Standard representation of geographic point location by coordinates, using the WGS 84 (revised 2004) coordinate reference system.



  • Names (required)
    Names and appellations referring to the place, including a preferred name and variant names. All names in a record (i.e., all names linked by a single Subject ID) are considered equivalents (i.e., synonyms). A TGN record may contain the vernacular and English names of the place, variant names in other languages, and historical names. One name is flagged as the preferred name, which is the indexing form of the name most often found in scholarly or authoritative publications. In the example below, all names refer to the same place, Munich, Germany.


  • Term ID (required-default)
    Numeric ID that identifies the name in the database (e.g., in the example above, Munich has the following Term_ID: 140499). Term IDs are unique; homographs have different IDs. The Term_ID may be hidden from end-users.

  • Sequence Number (required-default)
    Display order of the names. Names are arranged in a particular order by the editors. The preferred name is positioned first in a list of names for the place, with the preferred English (if any) and other commonly-used current names at the top of the list. Historical names appear at the bottom of the list, sorted in reverse chronological order, if applicable (see the example of Alexandria, Egypt below).

    Implementers should sort the names by the Display_order number, which is included in the data files, but typically hidden from end-users.

  • "Noted" among homographs
    In order to aid linking in an open environment, for certain places having names that are homographs, the place is flagged through Comment Flag as "Noted" when it is the place to which most references will refer if no broader context, place type, or coordinates is included in the reference. For example, if a resource refers to a place named London, it can be assumed that London, England is in most cases intended if no broader context is included. London (England) is flagged as "noted" in TGN to aid in such matches.

  • Flags for the Names
    In the TGN data, there are various flags associated with each name. In displays for the end-user, some of the flags may be suppressed. For example, in the display below, the Vernacular flag is displayed as a capital letter "V" in parentheses following the name; the "V" is linked to an explanation of what the flag means.

    Preferred Flag (required-default)
    Indicates the record-preferred name. The flag preferred following a name indicates that the name is the so-called preferred name for the record. (The flag non-preferred is hidden in the display.)

    Each record has one and only one default preferred name, flagged in order to provide a default name for the hierarchical and other displays (see also Language of the Names below). The preferred name is the name most commonly used in the vernacular (local) language (as in the example below, transliterated from Arabic).


    The preferred name for physical features is the inverted form of the name, when applicable. This is the indexing form of the name that would be preferred in alphabetical lists.


    Display Name Flag (required-default)
    There may be a name flagged Display, meaning that this name should be used in horizontal displays (such as a label or results list) where confusion may result from using the preferred name. For example, when the name of a city is the same as the name of a county, the name of the county should include the word county for clarity in a horizontal display. In the example below, Los Angeles county is a display name, meaning that this name should be used in a horizontal display when it is a parent with the name of the city, as in the following: Los Angeles (Los Angeles county, California, United States). Implementors may employ an "if-then" algorithm to find the display name for horizontal displays (e.g., if name has Display=yes use it, if none, use record-preferred name).

    If the name is flagged Index, this is the name that should be used in alphabetical lists and hierarchical displays. The Preferred Name is the default Index Name, even though in TGN data it is often not flagged Index.

    Y = Yes (i.e., this is the Display Name)
    I = Index
    NA = Not Applicable


    Other Flags
    Indicates various characteristics of the Name. For definitions, see the Editorial Guidelines.

    O = Official name
    P = Pseudonym
    PN = Provisional name
    S = Site name
    A = Abbreviation
    ISO3L = ISO 3-letter code (International Organization for Standardization)
    ISO2L = ISO 2-letter code (International Organization for Standardization)
    ISO3N = ISO 3-number code (International Organization for Standardization)
    ISO2N = ISO 2-number code (International Organization for Standardization)
    USPS = US Postal Service code
    FIPS = FIPS code (Federal Information Processing Standards)
    NA = Not Applicable


    LC flag
    Also called the AACR Flag, it flags names that correspond to Library of Congress Subject Headings preferred entry. If this flag is Yes, the unique identifier for the LOC authority record (e.g., n 79027120) should be included in the Page field for the Source Library of Congress.

    NA = Not Applicable
    Y = Yes

    Term Type flag (required-default)
    Indicates the type of name or term. Currently in TGN, the flag is set to N/A.

    Historical flag (required-default)
    Indicates if the name is current or historical.

    C = Current
    H = Historical
    B = Both current and historical
    U = Unknown
    NA = Not Applicable
    LU = Local use

    A special flag is Local Use, intended for names that are from local or archival sources, found in an inscription on an art work, etc. Local Use names are not recommended for inclusion in search and retrieval in a broader linked environment.


    Vernacular flag (required-default)
    Indicates if the name is in the vernacular (local) language, or some other language. There may be multiple vernacular names. See also Language of the Names below.

    V = Vernacular
    O = Other
    U = Undetermined

  • Part of Speech (required-default)
    Indicates the part of speech applicable to the name. Most proper names in TGN are noun form, however adjectival forms are flagged when appropriate (e.g., Florentine for a name in the record for the city of Florence, Italy).

    U = Undetermined
    N = Noun
    A = Adjectival
    B = Both

  • Dates for the Names
    Dates comprise a Display Date, which is a note referring to a date or other information about the name, and Start Date and End Date, which are years that delimit the span of time referred to in the Display Date. Start and End Dates index the Display Date for retrieval, but are hidden from end-users. The dates refer to usage of the name, not necessarily tied to the dates of existence the place.


    Start and End Dates are years in the proleptic Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar produced by extending the Gregorian calendar to dates preceding its official introduction. Dates BCE are expressed as negative numbers. If the name is currently used in literature to refer to the place, the End Date is 9999.

  • Language for Names (required-default)
    Languages for the names may be included.

    In legacy data and ongoing practice, if the vernacular language for a place is not English and there is an English name for the place, the English name will be included and flagged (as noted below).

    TGN records may include names with other language designations. A single name may have multiple language designations because it may have the same spelling in multiple languages. To form hierarchies or other displays using a name in a given language, such as the English name, an "if-then" algorithm could be employed (e.g., if name is English-preferred, use it; if none, use record-preferred).


    Languages are derived from a controlled list, which includes the name of the language and a numeric code (e.g., French / 70271) linked to AAT <languages and writing systems by specific type>.

  • Preferred flag for language (required-default)
    A "P" following the language in the examples indicates that this is the preferred name in that language. In the TGN, the preferred name (descriptor) is by default the preferred name in the vernacular language. Due to legacy practice, if there is an English equivalent, it will be flagged. For example, the preferred English spelling is marked with a "P" (English -P) in the example above. Any language may be flagged, although currently more names in English exist than for other languages. For a given language, there is only one preferred name, although there may be multiple non-preferred names in that language.

  • Language status (required-default)
    Flag indicating loan words. Values are Undetermined, NA, Loan Term, Literal translation, Translation N/A. For example, the English name Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula is a literal translation of the original Spanish name for Los Angeles, California. Given that most geographic names are not translated into other langauges, this flag is most often set to NA in TGN.

  • Qualifier
    A qualifier is a word or phrase used to distinguish between homographs or other confusing names. In the TGN data files, the Qualifier is stored in a separate field, associated with the Language designation for the name. Currently, qualifiers are used in the TGN only when the Label string is not enough to disambiguate places with similar or identical names.

  • Contributor for Name (required-default)
    A reference to the institution or project that contributed the name.

  • Preferred Flag for Contributor (required-default)
    Flag indicating when the name is the one preferred by the contributor. A contributor may contribute multiple names, but prefer only one. Values: Preferred, Non-preferred

  • Sources for Names (required)
    A link to a controlled reference to the source that was used as warrant for the name, including a published hardcopy source, authoritative databases, an unpublished but authoritative database, authoritative online sources such as museum or university Web sites, verbal scholarly opinions, and other types of sources.

  • Page Number for Name Source (required)
    A reference to the volume (if applicable) and page number where the name was found in the source. It may also include other information describing the precise place in the source where the name was found (e.g., a URL for an online source). Include any unique indentifiers for a record in another resource, such as LOC control numbers or the numeric reference in NGA/NIMA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency data).

  • Preferred Flag for Source (required-default)
    Flag indicating whether or not this name is the entry-form or otherwise preferred form of the name for this person or corporate body in the source.

    Alternate preferred

  • Parents (required)
    Hierarchical Positions / Parent ID. The hierarchy in the TGN refers to the method of structuring and displaying the places within their broader contexts. Place records in the TGN typically have a whole/part relationship (rather than genus/species relationship). Hierarchies are built by using the Parent_ID, which is linked to each Subject_ID; the Parent_ID is hidden from end-users.

    For end-users, the Hierarchical Position is typically indicated in a display that shows broader contexts or parents of the concept. In a vertical Hierarchy Display, whole/part relationships are indicated with indention, as in the example below. (See also Place Types below for further discussion of the main political and administrative divisions of the hierarchy.)


    In horizontal displays, the parents should be included in either ascending or descending order. Displaying parents in descending order is helpful to allow sorting among homographs in a results list (as illustrated below), while displaying parents in ascending order is more user-friendly in other displays.


  • Multiple parents
    The TGN is polyhierarchical. Each Subject_ID may be linked to multiple Parent_IDs. If there are multiple parents, one is marked as preferred. In displays, the preferred parent is listed first or otherwise designated. The example below illustrates the display of parents in a Full Record Display for Bermuda.


    Unusual or complicated relationships of inhabited places to their parents are represented in the TGN hierarchy through the polyhierarchy. When a place has different political and physical parents, the polyhierarchy is employed (as in the example above). If the area of an inhabited place crosses administrative boundaries (e.g. as happens in the USA when a city belongs to two counties), the inhabited place appears under both administrative subdivisions. Likewise, if jurisdiction over an area is disputed between two nations, that area would appear as part of both nations. In the full hierarchical view, it is recommended that implementers indicate relationships to non-preferred parents with an "[N]", as illustrated below.


  • Physical Features Crossing National Boundaries: In the TGN, if a physical feature crosses a boundary, it is placed under the next highest level in the hierarchy. In other words, the river or mountain range is placed under the level of the hierarchy that entirely contains it. For example, the Amazon river crosses national boundaries, so it is placed under the next highest level, the continent of South America.


  • Sort order in the hierarchy (required-default)
    Siblings in the hierarchies are usually arranged alphabetically. However, they are sometimes arranged by another logical order based on the field Sort_order; for example, children may be listed in chronological order, as illustrated below.


    For siblings at any level, implementers should build displays using the Sort_order, followed by an alphabetical sort. (In an alphabetical display all Sort_order designations are "1," and will therefore be sorted alphabetically in the second sort.) The Sort_order number is hidden from end-users.

  • Historical flag for the Parent (required-default)
    Historical Flag: Current or Historical parents. Indicates if the link between the child and its parent is current or historical. Most relationships in the TGN are flagged Current; if the flag is Current, it is generally not displayed to end-users unless there is a Display Date. If the flag is Historical, it is displayed (e.g., "H" in the example below).

    C = Current
    H = Historical
    B = Both current and historical
    U = Unknown
    NA = Not Applicable


  • Dates for relationship to parent
    Dates comprise a Display Date, which is a note referring to a date or other information about the link between a child and its parent, and Start Date and End Date, which are years that delimit the span of time referred to in the Display Date. Start and End Dates index the Display Date for retrieval, but are hidden from end-users. The example below illustrates a historical relationship between Nubia and historic Egypt.


    Start and End Dates are years in the proleptic Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar produced by extending the Gregorian calendar to dates preceding its official introduction. Dates BCE are expressed as negative numbers. If the relationship extends to the current time, the End Date is 9999.

  • Relationship Type for Hierarchy (required-default)
    Indicates the type of relationship between a hierarchical child and its parent, expressed in the jargon of controlled vocabulary standards. An example of a whole/part relationship is Tuscany is a part of Italy (TGN). An example of genus/species relationship is calcite is a type of mineral (AAT). An example of the instance relationship is Rembrandt van Rijn is an example of a Person (ULAN). Most hierarchical relationships in TGN are Whole/Part.

    G=Genus/Species (generic) or BTG
    P=Whole/Part (partitive) or BTP
    I=Instance or BTI


  • Place Type (required)
    Words or phrases describing a role or characteristic of the place (e.g., inhabited place, cultural center). Places in the TGN can be either physical or political entities. They include physical features such as continents, rivers, and mountains; and political entities, such as empires, nations, states, districts, townships, cities, and neighborhoods. The place type in the TGN is a term that characterizes a significant aspect of the place, including its role, function, political anatomy, size, or physical characteristics.

    Place types are indexing terms controlled by the AAT. The example below illustrates place types for Marakesh, Morocco.


  • Place types for main political divisions: Place types are used to mark the significant administrative levels of the hierarchy. Given that there is no predictable number of levels in the TGN hierarchy, certain place types are used in order to allow some users to create hierarchies that have a set number of levels, when necessary (i.e., some users have systems that require a set number of levels). These designations are intended to work with inhabited places, but not necessarily with physical features. The place type is either the preferred place type or the place type in position number 2: See also the discussion Hierarchical Positions above. The divisions are the following, in descending order:

    • continent - (preferred place type)
    • primary political unit - (place type in positon #2, for nations, empires, etc.)
    • first level subdivision - (place type in positon #2)
    • second level subdivision - (place type in positon #2)
    • inhabited place or deserted settlement - (preferred place type)


  • Preferred flag for Place Types (required-default)
    One place type is flagged preferred for each place, to provide a default when creating displays. Preferred following a place type (as seen in the examples) indicates that this is the place type that should appear with the place in displays.

  • Historical flag for PlaceTypes (required-default)
    Indicates when a place type is historical or currently applicable.
  • Sequence Number (required-default)
    Display order for Place Types. Place types are arranged in a particular order by the editors. Implementers should sort the names by the Display_order number, which is included in the data files, but typically hidden from end-users.

  • Dates for Place Types
    Dates comprise a Display Date, which is a note referring to a date or other information about the place relative to the place type (e.g., for the place type inhabited place for Delhi, India below), and Start Date and End Date, which are years that delimit the span of time referred to in the Display Date. Start and End Dates index the Display Date for retrieval, but are hidden from end-users.


    Start and End Dates are years in the proleptic Gregorian calendar. Dates BCE are indexed with negative numbers. If the place type is still applicable to the current place, the End Date is 9999.

  • Related Places
    Associative relationships to other places in the TGN, particularly any important ties or connections between places, excluding hierarchical whole/part relationships. The example below illustrates related places in the record for South Sea Islands.


    Each reference comprises a relationship type plus a link to the related entity. For end-user displays, the related entity should be represented by the preferred name, place type, parent string (simply World in the examples above), and subject ID for the related place.

  • Relationship Type
    A term or phrase characterizing the relationship between the place at hand and the linked place. In the example above, the Relationship Type in the record for South Sea Islands indicates that in TGN this place is distinguished from Oceania and the Pacific Islands. Relationship Types are reciprocal (that is, linked to both records), drawn from a controlled list that comprises the controlled phrase and a numeric code, as illustrated below. The codes are hidden from end-users.


    Focus Entity

    Related Code


    distinguished from



    ally of



    successor of



    predecessor of


  • Historical flag for the Related Place
    Indicates if the link between the related places is current or historical. Generally, if the flag is set to Current, it is not displayed to end-users; if it is set to Historical, it is displayed (as in the example for Florence, Italy below).

    C = Current
    H = Historical
    B = Both current and historical
    U = Undetermined
    NA = Not Applicable

  • Dates for the Related Places
    Dates comprise a Display Date, which is a note referring to a date or other information about the relationship between the two places, and Start Date and End Date, which are years that delimit the span of time referred to in the Display Date. Start and End Dates index the Display Date for retrieval, but are hidden from end-users. The example below illustrates a related place in the record for Florence, Italy.


    Start and End Dates are years in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.

  • Contributors (required-default)
    The institutions or projects that contributed information to the TGN record. In order to give due credit to the contributing institution, it is required that implementers display a reference to the contributor to end-users.

    References to contributors are drawn from a controlled list comprising a numeric ID, a brief name, and a full name. The end-user must have access to the brief name and the full name. The Brief Name is the initials, abbreviations, or acronyms for the contributing projects or institutions (in square brackets in the display below). Contributors may be linked to the record in three ways: with the names, with the record as a whole (subject), and with the note (scope note). In the example below, end-users may click on the initials of the contributor in the Full Record Display, which produces a fuller description of the contributor name.


  • Sources (required)
    The TGN record generally includes the bibliographic sources for the names. Most names were found in authoritative publications on the given topic or in standard general reference works, including dictionaries and encyclopedias. In order to give due credit to published sources, it is required that implementers display a reference to the published source to end-users.

    References to sources are drawn from a controlled list comprising a numeric ID, a brief citation, and a full citation. The end-user must have access to the brief citation and the full citation. Sources may be linked to the record in three ways: with the names, with the record as a whole (subject), and with the note (scope note). In the example below, end-users may click on the brief citation in the Full Record Display, which displays a full citation for that source.


  • Page Number
    A reference to a volume, page, date of accessing a Web site, or heading reference in a source (as seen following the brief citation (in black following the blue citations in the above example).

  • Revision History
    The editorial history of each TGN record is captured in the Revision History, which identifies when records and names have been added, edited, merged, etc. The Revision History is included with the data releases, but hidden from end-users. This information allows implementers to update the TGN in their system with each new release.

Sample Record


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Revised 5 March 2023

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