Reference from Coast to Coast - What county is this city in?

Megan Culich Butman, Reference Librarian
Katten Muchin & Zavis, Chicago

Editor's Note:  Please see the reader comments below regarding incorrect information on divorcesource.com, which is referenced in this article.

(Archived March 15, 1999)

Q - What county is this city in?

Welcome to Reference From Coast to Coast: Sources and Strategies, a new monthly column written by the KMZ librarians. Headquartered in Chicago, Katten Muchin & Zavis has reference librarians in Washington DC, Chicago and Los Angeles. There are eight professional librarians who are assisted by a great support staff. The KMZ librarians field questions and participate in research in a myriad of subject areas. This column will highlight some of our favorite reference sources and research techniques in the hope that sharing information  will help you in your day to day jobs. We welcome all of your comments and questions, and would particularly like feedback on sources and strategies that YOU use for research on our column topics. 

Please send comments to Sue Taylor, at staylor@kmz.com.

A - Sometimes I feel like I get this question daily. American Map Corporation's Business Control Atlas is a great resource. However, there are two Web sites are also helpful, and eliminate having to "chase down" this valuable book. One is easy to remember, and one is easy to use.

The one with the easy site address is http://www.divorcesource.com. Patrons may say "I said county not custody."  But really this is a good site. Select a state and then chose "what county is a city in?"  This will lead to a list of cities in the chosen state in alphabetical order. This is helpful for finding cities like Oconomowoc, WI., (I'm from Wisconsin so I can spell and pronounce it!) where spelling is difficult. The only problem with this site is that it takes at least three steps to get the answer.  [See reader & author comments concerning this site's reliability.]

A much faster site is http://www.mit.edu/geo. This site gives a template to insert a "place name."  The site gives examples of acceptable ways of entering a location. Once the request is submitted a table appears that gives detailed geographic information about the city. It displays both the county and state of the selected city as well as the population, elevation, and latitude/longitude. This site address is more difficult to remember, but once there it only takes one step to get your answer. Both these sites take longer to search than a quick look in the Business Control Atlas. But, they are good alternatives when the book is unavailable.

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Reader Comments

Date: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 11:40:28 -0600
From:mbutman@kmz.com
To: law-lib@ucdavis.edu
Subject: Incorrect city/county info

I am the author of the LLRX column. I have used and tested this site and have found it to be correct most of the time. Thanks for catching some of its problems. I will be more cautious when I use this site! Just a few things to remember: the other site I mentioned in my article (www.mit.edu/geo) is the Geographic Nameserver Datatbase from MIT and will probably have less problems with accuracy. Also, I did mention in my article that none of these sites replace a good reference book. Finally, the thing to remember is "you get what you pay for" and always read the disclaimers from the site itself. I have included the disclaimer from Divorcesource.com.

Divorcesource.com is provided to you free of charge, "as is."   Divorcesource.com uses its best efforts to manage the site, but is not responsible for the results of any defects that may be found to exist in the cause of lost profits or other consequential damages that may result from such defects. Do not assume Divorce Source is error free.


Date: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 04:09:47 -0800 (PST)
From: Lex Libra <njrmm@yahoo.com>
Subject: INCORRECT county/city info!!

This site [divorcesource] contains INCORRECT information. Do not trust it!
I put in my home town (Verona, NJ) and it came back as Sussex County. Verona is in Essex County.
While viewing that info, I noticed that W.Caldwell and W. Orange, both also in Essex County, have been placed in two OTHER counties!!! (When shown using the abbreviation for West as W. the counties are incorrect. When they spelled out West, they were matched w/the correct county. All this appears on the same screen.)
If I found THREE errors in one quick glance, heaven knows how many more there may be. You don't look up places you know...you'll be searching for info you don't know...if it's wrong, you won't know until it's too late.
The USPS zip code site gives the county when you search for a street address. They seem to know where Verona is.

Rita Bronnenkant
Reference Librarian
Gibbons Del Deo
Newark NJ


From: Neela Taub <ntaub@pli.edu>
To: 'Lex Libra' <njrmm@yahoo.com>, law-lib@ucdavis.edu
Cc: cchick@netcom.com
Subject: RE: INCORRECT county/city info!!

Having done my own check of this site, I think that you may have caught one of the few mistakes for NJ. Note that it does not abbreviate any of the "directional" names which is probably why those came up in error when abbreviated. However, I can't explain the Verona issue.
However, I checked Pleasant Valley, NY and it only lists the one in Dutchess County. When they were naming NY towns, people weren't terribly creative and I know of at least 4 counties that have a Pleasant Valley.
So I think this is a case of Let the Searcher Beware....
My two cents.

Neela R. Taub
Practising Law Institute
ntaub@pli.edu
212-824-5732
212-824-5982 (fax)


Date: Wed, 3 Mar 1999 10:02:58 -0600
From: Teaney, Carol <crteaney@LASHLYBAER.com>
To: Neela Taub <ntaub@pli.edu>
Subject: RE: INCORRECT county/city info!!

I checked on Illinois towns. The first three out of four I checked were incorrect. There are also several omissions. I would not be confident in recommending this source either.

Carol R. Teaney
Librarian
Lashly & Baer, P.C.
714 Locust Street
St. Louis, MO 63101
314-621-2939
crteaney@lashlybaer.com <mailto:crteaney@lashlybaer.com>
The opinions expressed here are my own and not those of my employers.