Maps, Geography, Cartography, Glossaries, and Gazetteers
Maps and Cartography
Gazetteers and Geographical Name Authorities
Map Cataloging

Maps and Cartography


Gazetteers and Geographical Name Authorities List *
Gazetteers are dictionaries or databases of place names, features, and locations. Some gazetteers include data on: demography; physical geography; political boundaries; industry, trade, and service activities; agriculture; cultural, historical, and archeological points of interest; transportation lines; longitude, latitude, and elevations; distance to relevant places; pronunciations; official local government place-names and changed or variant names and spellings.

These tools are useful to research in any field, as knowledge of names, name history, and variant names for places is essential to identifying and understanding a name. The primary sources below are governmental or other authoritative collections of place names as agreed upon by international standards. The secondary sources may also be official government sources, however these should be used if the primary sources fail to locate a name or name variant. There are also other authoritative sources for many countries. Another use of the secondary sources is to go to more focused dictionaries (e.g., for a specific country), as this sometimes provides more data on the name.

Geographical Names (Primary Sources)

U.S. Names

gold spinner imageGeographic Names Information System (GNIS). More than 2,261,199 features included.

GNIS Data Sets Available Via FTP. State and topical gazetteer download files.

World Names

  • gold spinner imageNGA GEOnet Names Server (GNS) (NGA formerly NIMA) [Excluding U.S. and Antarctica] Over 9,316,122 feature names, plus access to more than 4,800 undersea features. From the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (US BGN). NGA also has additional data and links that are useful for cataloging, as well as for geographers trying to keep up with the changing political world. To use, click on GNS Search - Text Based Page link.
  • Antarctica Geographic Names Information System for this continent (home page).

Canada Names

Geographical Names (Secondary Sources)

Other Authoritative Sources

United States

New York State

NYS Gazetteer and GeoData Collection. Searchable database of places, providing names, feature types, grid coordinates and other geographic information. There are over 38,000 NYS geographic features available, all searchable by name, county, or USGS map quadrangle. Data from USGS 7.5 Minute Series Topographic Maps for New York State. Data from the GNIS, but for New York State only (plus links to Digital Raster Graphics (DRG's).

Canadian Provinces and Territories

Other Countries and Places

  • Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names. Similar to GNIS and GEOnet; has hierarchical system.Can search the entire world. Has 900,000 names, including historical and vernacular forms of names. Provides notes and references, and provides feature type description.
  • Maplandia. World gazetteer based on Google Maps; includes more than two-million place names.
  • United Nations Cartographic Section. Besides current maps of various world nations, there is a list of official names of member nations, capitals (with alternate forms), and other geographic names.
  • Searchable Geographical Names Databases (United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN)). Many countries; official databases.



Australian States



New Zealand Geographic Place-Names Database


Ireland Placenames Database.


United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales )


  • Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. (USGS). International Astronomical Union names for planetary objects (including places on those objects). This is also a great place to locate more obscure Earth names. Included are coordinates and location of each feature, PLUS it gives the origin of the name.

Additional Name and Heading Lists

  • Appendix G: Cross-Reference List of Geographic Names (CIA Factbook). Name suggestions, with cross-references.
    • Cross Reference List. Created to keep track of names and their main references as used for map cataloging. Data is based on the official BGN database and the LC authority list.
  • has a current list along with other geographical information on countries.
  • Rivers in China, India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia. Partial listing of major rivers and waterways in China and India, and includes other Asian countries when the same rivers flow through those countries as well.
  • If you get stuck and want to try another link, go to the Gazetteers and Place Name Guides site. It repeats some of the above, but they may have additional places to search.
  • Global Gazetteer Version 2.3. Lists towns (by country, region, and full lists). Each entry gives coordinates, basic statistics, weather, and other data.
  • GeoNames. The GeoNames geographical database covers all countries and contains over eight million placenames (same data as GeoNet name server).

Map Cataloging Tools

  • Map Cataloger's Tool Box (David Bertuca, University at Buffalo).Starting place for map catalogers. All sorts of great stuff.
  • Map Librarian's Toolbox (Western Association of Map Libraries). Great site.
  • Map Cataloging. (Terry Reese, librarian, Oregon State University). Many nice features and accessories for map catalogers, as well as links to more tool sites.
  • Map Cataloging Links. (Sharon Saunders, Bates Univ. Lib.) Good sources. She also lists many good cataloging and format specific cataloging links.
  • Map Cataloging Manual (Library of Congress). Not the complete work but it will help with many rule interpretations.
  • List of LC subdivisions for maps. When formulating LCSH for maps, these are the most common subdivisions that are used.
  • MAGERT Electronic Publications (Map and Geography Roundtable of the American Library Association) electronic publications for map catalogers.
  • Cataloging Resources. All sorts of links for cataloging any format (my quick ref sheet, but take a look).
  • MapWorks Map Toolbox. (MathWorks). This section of their website features map basics (i.e., What is a Map?). The site is mainly for their mapping software, but there is some helpful data here on general map concepts.
  • Outline Maps. Do you need a map to build a call number index? Or maybe a map you can use to chart the items you have collected? Try these sites.
  • RDA (Resource Description and Access). Starter page to resources and articles.

Glossaries of Geographic Terms


David J. Bertuca, Map Librarian, Arts & Sciences Libraries, University at Buffalo.
Created 13 August 2002. Comments are welcome.
The materials selected above do not necessarily reflect the policies and procedures of the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Last Modified: 19 October 2017
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