Council of Geographic Names Authorities
in the United States

2017 Geographic Names Conference

The Old Dominion and Beyond:

Four-Hundred Years of Settlement and Naming

Library of Virginia

Richmond, VA

May 8 - 12, 2017


Hilton Richmond Downtown

Conference Hotel

You may also call 804-344-4300.


Registration Fees
Registration will include the Opening Reception Monday evening and the Wrap-Up Social with Keynote speaker Thursday evening.

Full Registration for Attendee ($200.00)

Full Registration for Spouse or Family Member ($50.00 each)

Full Registration for Student ($20.00)

For 1-Day Registration

1-Day Registration, Attendee ($85.00)

1-Day Registration, Spouse or Family Member ($20.00)

   Friday, Optional Event:  Toponymic Tour, An educational event ($50.00 per person)

Registration will be available at the conference.
For the registration form or information contact Wayne Furr at:



The Old Dominion and Beyond:

Four-Hundred Years of Settlement and Naming

Monday, May 8th

  • 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Tours of the Map Library
  • 1:00--5:00 p.m. Registration
  • 5:30--8:00 p.m. Opening Reception: Welcome by Cassandra Farrell & Sandra Treadway with special presentation by Willie Balderson


Tuesday, May 9th

  • 8:30 a.m.  Registration opens
  • 8:30--10:00 a.m.  Announcements, opening remarks by Sandra Treadway, Librarian of Virginia/State Archivist, and a Presentation by Cassandra Farrell; Richmond:  Evolution of a City"
  • 10:00--10:30 a.m. Break
  • 10:30 a.m.—Noon: State Reports
  • 12:00--1:30 p.m. Lunch break
  • 1:30--3:00 p.m. State Reports
  • 3:00--3:30 p.m. Break
  • 3:30--5:00 p.m. COGNA Business Meeting

  • ___________________________________

Wednesday, May 10th

  • 8:30 a.m.  Registration opens
  • 8:30--10:00 a.m. U.S. BGN Staff Reports
  • 10:00--10:30 a.m. Break
  • 10:30 a.m.--Noon U.S. BGN Cases
  • 12:00--1:30 p.m. Lunch
  • 1:30--3:00 p.m. State/Federal Round-table session 1: State special interest topics
  • 3:00--3:30 p.m. Break
  • 3:30--5:00 p.m. State/Federal Round-table session 2: “The BGN Dr. is in” special interest topics
  • ___________________________________

Thursday, May 11th

  • 8:30—9:00 a.m.  “A Brief History of COGNA:  A Quick Tour Down Memory Lane”; Tom Gasque & Wayne Furr (presenter)
  • 9:00—9:30 a.m.  “The Roanoke Voyages (1584-1590): Toponymic Aspects”; Roger Payne
  • 9:30—10:00 a.m.  “Toponymic Tags”; Scott Zillmer10:00—10:30 a.m. Break
  • 10:30 a.m.—11:00 a.m. The BGN's Foreign Names Committee (FNC) make use of the "GeoNames Soft-Copy Keyboard"; David de Hosson
  •  11:00—11:30 a.m. “What is in a Name in Virginia?” Cassandra Farrell
  • 11:30—Noon “Toponyms in the Old Dominion: Origins and Oddities”; Leo Dillon
  • 12:00—2:00 p.m. Lunch break
  • 2:00—2:30 p.m. “Flashes on the Map:  Forgotten or Short-Lived Places”; Leo Dillon
  • 2:30—3:00 p.m. Conference Wrap-up
  • 3:00--3:30 p.m. Break
  • 3:30--6:00 p.m. On your own!
  • 6:00-- p.m. Social Hour
  • 6:00--8:00 p.m. Closing Reception with Keynote Speaker, Marianne M. McKee; “A Copperplate Special:  Making 19th Century Maps in the 21st Century”

 View abstracts below

Friday, May 12

Toponymic Tour (Optional, $50.00 per person)
A truly educational event

  • 8:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m. Toponymic Tour:  Jamestown Rediscovery:  Arrangements have been made for special tours with guide at Jamestown Island and Yorktown Battlefield


Richmond:  Evolution of a City

Cassandra Farrell

Senior Map Archivist

Library of Virginia


This presentation will discuss the development of Richmond by using maps to illustrate its development and growth. As information is found attempts will be made to discuss changes to Richmond Street names and to the changes in certain water and topographical features.


A Brief History of COGNA

Thomas J. Gasque & Wayne Furr

COGNA began as the Conference on Intermountain Geographic Name in 1977, expanded and changed its name to Western States Conference in 1979 and became the Council of Geographic Names Authorities in 1998, when representatives from all of the states were invited to attend. I have attended and participated in most of the meetings since 1985 and have hosted or co-hosted two conferences: Rapid City, S.D. (1994), and Charleston, S.C., (2009). My presentation today is largely from a personal point of view. Each of the meetings has allowed state representatives to share ideas and concerns about name changes and about requests for names of unnamed features and to clarify policies and procedures of the U.S. Board on Geographical Names (BGN). A main feature of each meeting has been the monthly meeting of the Domestic Committee (DNC) of BGN, giving state representatives a chance to see that group in action with actual cases. At each meeting most DNC members travel to the location of the meeting. Among these locations have been Denver, Santa Fe, Wagoner, (Okla)., Spokane, St. Louis, Boise, Baltimore, Monterey, Honolulu, Minneapolis, and Anchorage, to name just a few. An optional but important part of these meetings has been the toponomic/educational tour: a local names authority shows the locations and explains the names of interesting features in the nearby landscape. This presentation will summarize some of the actions at selected meetings.


The Roanoke Voyages (1584-1590): Toponymic Aspects

Roger L. Payne

BGN Executive Secretary Emeritus


The Roanoke Voyages represented the first attempted settlement in North America and recorded contact by the English with indigenous peoples in North America, preceding Jamestown by almost 20 years.  Raleigh, an adventurer and developer, had acquired patents for colonies in North America and the Roanoke Voyages followed.  There is still today confusion and misunderstanding regarding the application of names during these voyages and their association with names later in history.  This paper attempts to unravel this toponymic mystery.


Toponymic Tags

Scott Zillmer

Senior Research Editor, Maps and Graphics
National Geographic Partners

This talk will discuss the intersection of my career as a map editor with my personal hobby of license plate collecting.  I will include a hopefully fun, light-hearted show-and-tell session of some of the plates in my collection.  My basement is home to hundreds of real, used license plates with two things in common:  1) they’re all vanity plates, and 2) they all feature place-names.  Subcategories include plates featuring country names, city names, and island names.  There’s even a complete run of U.S. state-name vanities.  It is unique and somewhat twisted (and often misunderstood) theme amongst the license plate collectors of the world, and I’ve had great fun building it over the past few years.

The Foreign Names Committee's use of the"GeoNames Soft-Copy Keyboard"

David de Hosson

Staff, Foreign Names Committee

Department of Defense

As part of their toponymic work, staff at the BGN's Foreign Names Committee (FNC) make use of the "GeoNames Soft-Copy Keyboard," which enable FNC toponymists to fully render geographic names which are in compliance with BGN policies.  The keyboard tool allows users to easily and readily utilize complex Unicode characters which incorporate diacritical marks above and below Roman letters, which aim to capture, in a comprehensive way, the original linguistic complexity of foreign geographic names.  The keyboard is used both to reproduce the spellings of geographic names already in Roman script, which include additional, uncommon characters, as well as geographic names whose spelling in Roman letters requires romanization from the original non-Roman script form, whether it be Arabic, Chinese, Russian, etc. This presentation will discuss basic aspects and usage of the keyboard tool used by FNC staff members, as well as technical issues that one may encounter when dealing with characters which incorporate diacritics, especially in GIS platforms.  Further discussion will focus on future support the FNC can provide regarding the tool for interested users on the BGN's Domestic Names Committee (DNC) and among other partners.


What is in a Name in Virginia?

Cassandra Farrell

Senior Map Archivist

Library of Virginia

This presentation will review the more “unusual” place names of features in Virginia listed in GNIS.


Toponyms in the Old Dominion: Origins and Oddities

Leo Dillon


From the first permanent English settlement in the New World at Jamestown to the recent Board on Geographic Names decision to rename Tysons Corner to Tysons, Virginia’s toponyms are a marvelous case study of how things came to be named in the eastern seaboard colonies that became the United States. The first European settlers populated the land with names from their British home and interpretations of indigenous names, and these two groups are still represented strongly in today’s landscape.  This presentation will look at the rich evolution of place names – sometimes unusual, sometimes entertaining – that make up the Old Dominion.

Wisconsin's Name: Mystery Solved? Yes and No

Ed Callary

Note: Ed had to cancel due to family emergency

No state name has generated more more controversy and inspired more speculative etymologies than has Wisconsin. Since it was first recorded in 1673 by Marquette as Miscousing, the name has appeared in more than a dozen spellings and generated an equal number of etymologies, ranging from 'holes in the banks of a stream in which birds nest', offered by no less an authority than Henry Gannett, to the predictable 'a good place to live'. Suggested sources include Ojibwa, Ho-Chunk, Sauk, Menominee, Potawatomi, Mesquaki and the all inclusive 'Indian'. I give an overview of these and close with what I believe is the correct original meaning of the name and the incorrectness of the suggestions for the reasons of the various spellings.


Flashes on the Map: Forgotten or Short-Lived Places

Leo Dillon, U.S. Department of State

It is said that once a map is published it’s already obsolete, and certainly change is a constant in our world.  In the lifetime of some still among us, dozens of republics, enclaves, colonial outposts, puppet states, and dubious islands appearing on reputable maps have come and gone.  This presentation will take you across the world over more than a century to have a look at some of these footnotes in the history of place names.


Helpful links regarding what to do in the Richmond, Virginia area

Visit Richmond:

What to do; 36 hours in Richmond:

Downtown experiences:

Downtown Dining Guide Map as of December 2015:

Links to Richmond museums, Historic Richmond, monuments and cemeteries, gardens:

Just to whet your appetite:

And, The Best 10 Dive Bars in Richmond, VA: