October 8, 2018 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Ever wondered if there were any geographic features in the United States named after you or someone you know, a fictional character, a pet, a funny word, et cetera? Search the Geographic Names Information System! posted by edeezy (45 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Apparently no one in my patronomial family ever did anything worth naming a geographical feature over, but there is a drive named for us in Richardson, TX.
posted by TedW at 3:06 PM on October 8, 2018

I'm getting nuthin for my name.

So no, I don't care about the GNIS, because the GNIS don't care about me.
posted by howfar at 3:20 PM on October 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

No one in my family ever did anything worth naming a geographical feature over either*, but we do have a Supreme Court verdict because a mobster by that name was outraged when he got convicted by a jury that didn't know that the chief witness against him was operating under a plea deal for his own illegal conduct. It's not a bad court case. I like it.

*at least, not in the United States--there's an island by the same name off the coast of Tuscany, which I was breathlessly informed about by everyone I knew when an oil tanker hit it a few years ago
posted by sciatrix at 3:23 PM on October 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

Related: The reason behind missing possessive apostrophes in place names.
posted by asterisk at 3:24 PM on October 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

A colonel who used my name before I did built a house with our name on it a hundred some years ago. Nice neighborhood, too. Neato.
posted by The Potate at 3:46 PM on October 8, 2018

Despite driving within 20 miles of ZIP 19472 hundreds of times, I didn't visit the town until I was almost 60. That visit checked off 3 out of 5 in the GNIS.
posted by MtDewd at 4:02 PM on October 8, 2018

I've go some cemeteries named after me, which is nice.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:08 PM on October 8, 2018

I looked up my family name and found a cemetery and a road in North Carolina, and a boghole in Nevada. Pretty sweet. Thanks for this!

You can copy and paste the geo coordinates in Google Maps or Apple Maps to get a nice view from the sky cameras!
posted by sleeping bear at 4:16 PM on October 8, 2018

I got a dam in Mississippi!
posted by doctor_negative at 4:20 PM on October 8, 2018

I have a city in Arizona named after me. The last time I went there the hotel I was staying at gave me ice cream for being the founder of the place. It was nice to be recognized.

Me being 8 probably helped a little, too.
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:21 PM on October 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

A missing possessive apostrophe detour — the standardization by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names or something like it created the New York State place name of Fishs Eddy. I imagine English teachers crying every time I see this highway sign. The road to Fishs Eddy is paved with good intentions, I suppose.
posted by Glomar response at 4:23 PM on October 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

I got a rock. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Goose egg. Donut. Bagel.

But, there is a small plaque in front of a seat at a bar in Chicago with my name on it. An uncle whose name is substantially the same as mine earned it the hard way. Daily drinks and tips. Saw it with my own eyes. So proud. So there's that.
posted by AugustWest at 4:24 PM on October 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

There are more towns sharing my name than I knew about. Well, too small to be called towns. Villages maybe. Not that splitting hairs over the term matters since most of them are abandoned.
posted by ardgedee at 4:32 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

My name is related to an animal that early settlers liked to hunt.

You can find these animals near creeks, on top of hills, in valleys (and hollows).
Mountains are a popular place for animals to congregate as are buttes, mesas and ridges.
There's a bay and even a bayou.

Sometimes entire towns are named after them.

In short, if you live near my name, the people who got there before you weren't very creative.
posted by madajb at 4:35 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I downloaded the whole dataset (2,279,264 placenames!) and am running textgenrnn on them right now. Neither my computer nor my ability to use a neural network is as awesome as Janelle Shane's, so I'll drop her a tip.
posted by jackbishop at 4:54 PM on October 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Welp, I just learned that there was a middle school named after my great-grandfather. The name was changed due a consolidation of schools and not a discovery of some awful fact about him, which is good, I guess.
posted by drawfrommemory at 4:59 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks to this I am happy to know there is a Gettin Down Mountain. I assume it is visible from Funkytown.
posted by hilberseimer at 5:02 PM on October 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

I got a mountain!
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:06 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I knew that there was a tiny town named after my family in Nebraska, as we had made a special side trip during a family vacation to Missouri to see it (we got calendars from the bank for years afterwards, they were somewhat excited to meet people with our unusual name), but apparently there used to be a village in Minnesota as well. Ghost town now, but it appears the Nebraska one has been hanging on, though apparently the cafe and the bar must have closed and the bank is now part of First National.

(Wurprisingly, for a town that never got to much more than 300 people ever, it was the birthplace of one extremely famous actor, a notable major general, and a not very notable professional baseball player.)
posted by tavella at 5:08 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nothing under my last name, which has only existed as a product of transliteration for about 100 years. Plenty of stuff named after my mom’s WASPy maiden name. Who’d have guessed.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:13 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is really neat. My last name is relatively rare, and my understanding from my father's genealogical work is that most Americans who share my last name descend from either a family who settled in Maine or another who settled in Massachusetts.

Sure enough, of the 14 results that return when I search my last name 10 are either from Maine or Massachusetts, but that's boring. What's fascinating are the three results in Idaho and one in Utah!
posted by noneuclidean at 5:44 PM on October 8, 2018

Wasn't expecting anything, but it turns out I've got a drainage ditch that passes underneath I-69 (nice!).

This is kind of surprising to me, given that there can't be more than a dozen or two people with my last name alive in the US that I know of.
posted by schmod at 6:01 PM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

When naming your lake don't name it Blue Lake or Green Lake, there are already like 200 of each. And 200 Green Mountains, and 100 Blue Mountains. Just avoid naming things colors really.
posted by edeezy at 6:11 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I knew I'd get a lot of hits, but I've got 667 with my Scots-Irish last name, including 3 cemeteries in Arkansas alone.
posted by LionIndex at 6:18 PM on October 8, 2018

Nothing with my first and last name! I'm actually surprised. Maybe they thought it'd be too boring?

My first name predictably has over 1000 results, including five lakes in the state where I live. I googled one of them and found this:

There are at least ten different Elizabeth Lakes in California. This one is in LA County near Palmdale and is perhaps the oldest one in the state. Legend states that the Devil himself created the lake and placed one of his own pets inside it. If you swim deep enough, eventually you will find a secret passage direct to the underworld which isn't entirely far fetched, as the lake lies directly over the San Andres fault line. From this lake a horrible monster came to be.

Cool, I'll take it! (Also this might be my new favorite website?)

But really I came into this thread to register my annoyance at the fact that the 24 Divisadero bus in San Francisco stops at Elizabeth Street in Noe Valley, at which point the recorded announcement sternly announces "Elizabeth" and my head snaps up. Every. Time.
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:20 PM on October 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

Whelp, there's the Blue Horse mine in Nye, NV, and Andrea Spring in Yahvapai, AZ. There's a harbor in AK with my last name, and all sorts of features with my maiden name.

I've got a pic on my desktop of Mr. BlueHorse standing in front of the roadside sign with his middle name--Hazen, NV, elev 4004.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:45 PM on October 8, 2018

On the topic of European names there are a number of FPPs about indigenous peoples and their geographies.
posted by edeezy at 6:49 PM on October 8, 2018

Real place from my childhood, Pull and Be Damned Point (also a road). Quite pleased both it hasn't been renamed and my memory was not faulty.
posted by sammyo at 6:55 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just may be related to "Anderson Shaft"!
posted by sammyo at 7:11 PM on October 8, 2018

I got a tank! (reservoir in USGS parlance)
posted by bendy at 7:37 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I got a well in New Mexico
posted by Hairy Lobster at 7:56 PM on October 8, 2018

I have a Google Alert set up for my name. Recently I learned that one of my doppelgangers is an anthropologist teaching chimps how to gamble.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:43 PM on October 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

A park and a canyon in California. Also a dot on the map in Alabama that probably doesn’t even have a sign where I could take the obligatory picture.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:55 PM on October 8, 2018

I get eight hits for my family name as populated places. There's one strangely missing, even when I try to look it up as a beach, because it is both beach and city and is fairly well known.

Thanks, asterisk, for posting the story about the missing apostrophes (and periods!). The rationale is awfully weak sauce, though, and things will change when I become the (mostly) benevolent dictator of the world.
posted by bryon at 10:22 PM on October 8, 2018

On searching my mother's family name of Swedish origin, there are several places listed. But probably unrelated to to our family since they are in the Western US and mom's family was mainly in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Interesting to note that there is a nature preserve with the same name as my mother's sister in law. Which is ironic since they are die-hard Reagan-Trump Republicans who are absolutely opposed to such things.
posted by TedW at 4:32 AM on October 9, 2018

My MIL's hobbies include genealogy, so I sent her this link - seems like it might be cool to see if any named features line up with where she knows ancestors with those names actually lived.

I didn't EXPLICITLY ask her to do it for my family, too, but I'm not unaware that in the past after she'd gotten tired of chasing down leads for her own family history she started in on mine...
posted by solotoro at 6:41 AM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

And there it is, Whiskey Dick Mountain, in Kittitas County, Washington, just like I remembered from the summer of '76 bus trip of the great Northwest. As high school boys we had quite a giggle over that particular geographic place name.
posted by e1c at 7:10 AM on October 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nothing under my married name (which is super rare; I'm the only person in the world with my first and last name), but I know there's a street in a small town in Pennsylvania named after it. I've seen the street sign.

My maiden name is Miller, though, so...LOTS of things. So many things.
posted by cooker girl at 8:10 AM on October 9, 2018

My cats have all been toponymic!

Pico Boulevard
Wilshire Boulevard
Fairfax Avenue
Hope Street
Vin Scully Avenue (they named a street after him so I could name a cat after him)

But, because cats,
Mr. Tiny
posted by avocet at 9:19 AM on October 9, 2018

This many comments in and nobody mentioned the Meta Mine in Wyoming?
posted by ouke at 11:07 AM on October 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you can't wait for (or don't expect) Janelle Shane to do her magic on this dataset, here's what my computer generated as potential placenames after a single (13-hour) pass through the data:
  • At temperature 0.2:
    • Bxinter Cdam
    • Monding Cdy Cunity Cunite Custeeton
    • Ston Carch Cdavis Cdale

  • At temperature 0.5:
    • Sty-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-D-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-D-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-D-A-A-A-D-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-D Splant
    • Slien Splant
    • Sley D-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-Poungs Cdurren Aplain Clute Clute Clublio

  • At temperature 1.0:
    • Dxgeady Grsite Rpenas Crspenvillegathe
    • Willmis Hacce Mou
    • Inte Cabling Pee Pcathe Wlute Clona
It is probably fair to say one pass through the data is not enough to teach a computer to replicate it. I'm running 10 more, but it's going to be days before this produces anything on my (not-typically-burdened-with-number-crunching) machine.

(I have no idea what makes it so keen to put Cs at the beginning of words, or what those long strings of hyphenated As are all about. I assume the latter is the result, in some way, of the preponderance of radio towers with the featurename W**A-AM or K**A-AM in the dataset)
posted by jackbishop at 11:52 AM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Feature Detail Report for: Corpse Pond

I mean, I think we can all guess what the most distinctive feature is.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:20 PM on October 9, 2018

edeezy: "When naming your lake don't name it Blue Lake or Green Lake, there are already like 200 of each. And 200 Green Mountains, and 100 Blue Mountains. Just avoid naming things colors really."

You just have to be selective. Like Fuchsia returns no results. Though technically I suppose that is really a person derived name; the colour being derived from the plant which was named after the 16th century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. Neither does Mauve. Burgundy only returns a handful of results. As does Cerulean, Amaranth, Cerise, Magenta, and Periwinkle.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 AM on October 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

The neural-netting, I'm afraid, is coming along dismally, and for a change of pace I'm looking at pure distribution data on the dataset, so here are some fun facts.

The most common type of feature is churches, which account for 10.177% of the dataset. Close behind are streams, which are 10.164%. The only other features which individually account for more than 3% of the data are schools (9.498%), populated places (8.816%), locales (7.135%), undifferentiated buildings (7.033%), and cemeteries (6.371%).

About 29% of the features in the dataset are natural versus 71% manmade. Exactly where you draw the line depends on your definitions; I didn't look closely at the GNIS's own definitions in drawing the distinctions.

Among streams, 60.5% are creeks, massively outmeasuring branches (16.8%), runs (6.2%) brooks (5.1%), and rivers (3.4%).

30.3% of summits are mountains, 23.8% are hills, 10.0% are peaks, 5.5% are buttes, and 5.3% are knobs.
posted by jackbishop at 7:53 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

TIL: In the USA churches outnumber streams.
posted by Mitheral at 11:07 AM on October 16, 2018

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