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titleThe Guidelines define School as follows:

A building or building complex used as a learning center for children grades kindergarten through high school, excluding daycares and schools that are only kindergarten and younger.

INCLUDES: Elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and private K‐12 schools. pre-schools, kindergartens, daycares, headstart programs.

What is a school? 

The guidelines are quite clear that a school is a building where children are taught in any grade from 1 through 12.

Schools are a challenging structure type because there are so many of them! Every year new ones are opening, and old ones are closing.

Where can I find authoritative lists of schools?

On this website, look in the Data Sources page for your State to see if volunteers have listed authoritative data sources for schools. 

There are three types of schools: public, charter, and private. Public schools and charter schools are regulated by State Departments of Education, and for this reason there usually are good authoritative lists of these schools on the State Department of Education websites. States are divided up into School Districts, many of which have web pages which are the most authoritative place to look for information.

Private schools are more difficult to sort out because there are no authoritative lists, and they tend to open and close more often than public schools. Here are some non-authoritative places you can look for private school information:
  • State Department of Education websites: these may have lists of  private schools, but in general they are non-authoritative because they may only include non-public schools whose school administrators have requested to be on the list.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics maintains a database of private schools. This database is a result of a voluntary survey that they send out every two years. Their website allows a search for private schools by city, county, or state.
  • The Great Schools website has an online searchable database.
  • The National Association of Independent Schools has an online searchable database.
  • The National Parochial Schools Association lists parochial schools by State.
  • Look on the Data Sources page on this website for your State to see if there are any regional or local sources of private school information

Why does the Structures database contain so many schools that no longer exist?

One original source of information for the Structures database was US Geological Survey topographic maps which were produced from about 1879 to 1992. These maps showed many of the old pioneer schools that were established as a result of the Land Ordinance of 1785. This Act of Congress caused much of the 30 western States to be surveyed and divided into townships six-miles square; in turn each township was divided into 36 numbered square-mile sections, and section No. 16 of each township was to be reserved for a schoolhouse. And many of the resulting one-room schoolhouses still existed and were mapped when the older USGS topo maps were produced.

For volunteers who are history buffs, it can be quite enjoyable to zoom in on these old school locations in the Potlatch editor, and switching over to the Aerial Imagery view, see if any sign is left of these old schools. Sometimes there is a building, sometimes a foundation, and sometimes nothing but a wheat field. A few are still even in use as schools! Those that are no longer in existence or being used as schools should be deleted from the database.

How do I handle schools with many grades?

Many schools, especially rural schools, have K-12 classes all in one building. Should these be depicted as one school, or multiple schools (elementary school, middle school, high school)? This generally is decided based on information at the school website, or, if there is no school website, then at the State Department of Education website. If these websites list separate schools at the same address, then add one structure for each school, which each structure symbol contained within the footprint of the building.



titleLaw Enforcement
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titleThe Guidelines define Law Enforcement as follows:

A building that houses police stations or sheriffs’ offices.

INCLUDES: Police stations, sheriffs' office, state trooper or highway patrol

DOES NOT INCLUDE: Police offices in shopping malls or strip malls, federal law enforcement, park police, school police, railroad police, postal inspectors, locations with administrative functions only

What is a Law Enforcement structure? 

Law enforcement structures consist of the offices of state troopers, county sheriff's, and city cops. However, if a county sheriff's deputy works out of his house in a rural area, we do not include that location as a structure point (we never capture private residences as structure points).

Where can I find authoritative lists of Law Enforcement structures? 

There are no authoritative lists of Law Enforcement structures.

The closest thing to a national list may be at the USACops website, but it is not clear where this data comes from or how complete it is. There also are lists of police stations at the Homefacts website, but again it is unclear where this data comes from or how complete it is.

The State Data Sources page of this website may have information on lists for your State; in particular, there usually is a State Patrol website which lists the State Patrol troop offices and posts for that State. County and city websites may list law enforcement offices within their boundaries.

How should I name Law Enforcement structures? 

County sheriff's offices should be named like this: Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. Police departments for smaller cities generally have only one office which should be named like this: Lakewood Police Department; but larger cities may have Precinct or Division offices which would be named like this: Denver Police Department District 1 Station (NW).
titlePrison / Correctional Facility
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titleThe Guidelines define Prison / Correctional Facility as follows:

A building or complex for the confinement of persons convicted of crimes.

INCLUDES: State or federal prisons, long-term juvenile detention facilities. Jails included only if they have long-term sentences and are a medium or maximum security facility.

DOES NOT INCLUDE: Short‐term holding facilities such as a jail at a police station or court house, sheriff’s department or sheriff’s office, half-way houses, minimum security locations, prison camps or work sites, administrative offices

What is a Prison/Correctional Facility? 

A Prison/Correctional Facility consists of federal and state prisons and juvenile detention facilities. It is important to note that city and county jails are not included

Where can I find authoritative lists of Prison/Correctional Facilities? 

The authoritative list of Federal prison facilities may be found at the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. Only Institutions, Private Facilities, and Correctional Complexes should be included -- not offices or training centers.

Refer to the State Data Sources pages on this website to find information about data sources for State prisons; in general, each State has a Department of Corrections website which lists private and public prisons in that State.

Where do I place a Prison/Correctional Facility structure point? 

If a prison has a single large building, place the point at the center of the building. If the prison does not have a distinctive single building, then place the point at the center of the prison facility.

If a prison complex has more than one named facility, each with its own separate grounds or building, then place a prison point for each facility. For example, the Florence Federal Correction Complex has three facilities (Florence Federal Correctional Institution, Florence High Security United States Penitentiary, and Florence Administrative Maximum United States Penitentiary), and therefore should have three structure points. It may be difficult to determine from aerial imagery which facility is which, but you may be able to tell from Google Street view, from an on-line facility map, or, for federal prisons, by examining the photo of the prison entrance on its webpage and comparing this to the building footprint in the satellite image. If it cannot be determined which facility is which, then place all facility points adjacent to each other near the centroid of the entire facility.

How do I name a Prison/Correctional Facility? 

Use the name of the facility as it appears on the facility website. For Federal prisons, the website uses several formats for names, but use the most commonly-used format where the prison name comes last, for example, United States Penitentiary Florence High.


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titleThe Guidelines define Cemetery as follows:

A place or area for burying the dead.

INCLUDES: Burying grounds, graves, graveyards, memorial gardens, mausoleums, and crypts

What is a Cemetery? 

The Guidelines definition of a cemetery is straightforward -- it includes places where the dead are buried. The human dead anyway -- pet cemeteries are not included. It addition to the types of features mentioned in the Guidelines, columbariums (a place for the storage of urns containing cremated remains) are also included.

Some small family cemeteries (usually historical) are included in the database, but in general more recent family cemeteries are not included. Single graves also are generally not included, unless they are the graves of famous historical figures.
Where does our Cemetery database originate?

There are two principal sources of cemetery data in the TNMC Structures database: US Geological Survey Topographic maps, and the USGenWeb project.

US Geological Survey topographic maps were produced from about 1879 to 1992 using a combination of aerial photographs and on-the-ground surveys and inventories. In addition to large more-modern cemeteries, many small cemeteries of historical significance were mapped, and these are included in our database. If you are viewing a listed cemetery location in the Aerial Imagery view of the Potlatch editor, and there doesn't seem to be anything visible there, try switching over from aerial imagery to USGS Topos, and then you often will see the notation of a cemetery on the topographic map.

Additional cemetery locations were submitted to the database by the USGenWeb Project. This volunteer project, started in 1996, fosters Internet resources for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States.

Because many historical cemeteries have been carefully documented and included in the database, please do not remove cemeteries from the database simply because they are not visible in aerial imagery. Only remove cemeteries if the imagery shows without a doubt that the landscape has been altered (for example, a shopping center now exists where the cemetery used to be), or if you have local or on-the-ground knowledge that the cemetery has been moved or destroyed.

Where should I place a cemetery structure point?

The general rule is to locate the cemetery structure point at the centroid of the cemetery area. A single point should be placed even if a cemetery has a combination of facilities (graves, mauseleums, columbariums).

Some columbarium-only facilities are located in church buildings, although their presence may be difficult to ascertain or validate; they should be represented by a point at the center of the church structure.

What are authoritative sources of information about cemetery locations?

There are no single complete authoritative sources of information about cemeteries, but there are many internet resources that together can provide a fairly complete list of cemeteries:
  • The Find A Grave website has a quite comprehensive list; you can search for cemeteries by name or county. The website gives latitude and longitude for most cemeteries.
  • The has a smaller list which can be searched by county.
  • The BillionGraves website has coordinates for cemeteries in its database, and shows the location of the cemetery on aerial imagery. You can search their database by county.
  • The USGenWeb Project archives list cemeteries by State and County. It also has cemetery lists as part of its Tombstone Transcription Project.
  • The Churches and Cemeteries website lists cemeteries by State and County.
  • Check the Data Sources page for your State on this website -- there may be local resources with cemetery locations.

What Address should be given for rural cemeteries?

Many cemeteries are located in rural areas where county and state roads do not have precise mailing addresses. You can attempt to find an address through reverse geocoding in Google Maps Classic: 
  1. Locate the cemetery on Google Maps Classic.
  2. Right-click on the road at the cemetery entrance and select "What's Here?"
  3. In the search box, Google Maps will show the latitude/longitude of the point where you clicked.
  4. In the left pane of the map window, Google will show the best mailing address it could come up with using its reverse-geocoding service. If it cannot come up with an address, it still will show the name of the nearest street, and the city and zipcode of the location.
In cases where no numbered street address seems to be assigned:
  1. If there is a road intersection nearby, put in the road names, for example, "County Road 10 and US Highway 20".
  2. If there is only a single road nearby, use only the name of the nearest road, for example, "County Road 10".
  3. If no road is nearby, leave the Address blank, and fill in only the nearest city (and zipcode, if you know it).

Why do we collect information about cemeteries?

Perhaps the original reason we started collecting information about cemeteries is that they were prominent feature types shown on USGS topographic maps. But another reason is that there are many people that are interested in history and genealogy and find this information useful. One of our volunteers says:

" a lifelong genealogist, I have been frustrated with the gap between local information about cemeteries and what is easily available in a consistent, reliable, national format. I have benefited from hundreds of thousands of hours of work by others and this is the way I am giving back."