When you start using a Personal GPS Homing Device , you’ll soon discover that it’s pretty numbers-oriented. There’s time, speed, distance, altitude, and (of course) the location coordinates. But quite often you’ll want names to go with those numbers. Or you might need to convert those coordinate numbers into another format. Read here to discover how to locate places by their names and get their coordinates (and other information) and how to easily convert coordinates from one coordinate system to another.
Finding Your Way with Online Gazetteers
Sometimes you need a little bit more information about a location.
You know a place name, but you don’t know exactly where the place is located.
You’ve heard about a place but don’t know whether it’s a mountain peak, a river, or a town.
You generally know where a place is, but you need the exact latitude and longitude or Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates.
In these cases, you can turn to a gazetteer, which is a collection of place names with such useful data as geographic coordinates, elevation, and feature type. Gazetteers are usually published as books, but digital versions are available. The U.S. government has two free online gazetteer services:
Using the Geographic Names Information System (GPS Solution )
The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is the federal repository of geographic name information. The database contains information on nearly 2 million physical and cultural geographic features in the United States and its territories: a city, dam, island, school, or any other designated feature type. The GNIS search page has a number of different data fields that you can use to narrow down your search, including
Feature Name: This is the name of the feature you’re looking for. This can be either the whole name or a part of the name. Feature name searches aren’t case sensitive.
Query Variant Name: Some features have other names in addition to their primary name. If you select the Yes radio button, records with matched variant names are displayed.
State or Territory: From this drop-down list, select the state or territory where the feature is located
County Name: If you click the County Name button, a drop-down list box shows all the counties in the currently selected state.
If you know the county where the feature is located, enter it to speed up your search.
Feature Type: The Feature Type drop-down list box contains all the feature types, such as bridges, canals, lakes, and populated places. If you know what the feature is, select its type.
Elevation Range: The Elevation Range text boxes let you search for features that occur at a certain height range; use feet when entering the range values.
Topo Map Name: You can confine a search to features only found within a United States Geological Survey ( Portable GPS ) 7.5 minute topographic map by entering the map’s exact name.
The more you narrow a search, the faster it is. For example, if you know the county where a feature is located, select it. If you don’t know much information about the feature, be patient. The GNIS server can be pretty slow. If GNIS finds any records that match your search criteria, it lists all the matching features.
More information at http://www.jimilab.com/blog/ .