Place of birth / death - countries that no longer exist or renamed

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I have encountered a couple of authors that were born or died in countries that no longer exist, or the countries were renamed, or the borders were altered.

Either the drop down list needs augmenting, or allow for the data to be entered as free text, or just go with the modern name even though it doesn’t relate to the person’s actual nationality.

I think that is the only way it will work if we want to do it correctly. I don’t think it’s possible to list all perished kingdoms and empires in a dropdown menu.

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Related thread: Istanbul was Constantinople, If you've a date in Constantinople she'll be waiting in Istanbul

Free text is not a good solution, in my opinion, because it diminishes the ability to uniquely identify places. I think using the modern entity is the least bad option we have today (and the one that most editors use).


Interesting discussion…thx

Thanks for the link @highstrung It might simply be a case of learning to live with the list of countries available and adapt them as best as possible.

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To add to that, I want to point out two thing:

  1. BookBrainz uses a copy of the country/region/city database as MusicBrainz, although it must be out of date currently and in need of a refresh.

  2. Regions and cities are indeed in the BB database, but currently not accessible due to an issue processing such a huge list of entries. Having cities available could help solve some of the problem at hand: a country of birth might no longer exists while a city of birth could remain unchanged.


I have no problems with using the current name for countries that no longer exist.

However, it seems inconsistent that the Soviet Union and East Germany (but no West Germany) are available options.

Interesting that Tibet is not an option.

I think things like the USSR, East Germany, etc. are holdovers from Musicbrainz. I think they are included because they had a sizable amount of exclusive physical releases.

I also notice that Czechoslovakia is an option.

I also notice there are two New Germany credits as options. I know there are cities by that name, but I don’t believe it was ever used as a name of a country.

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I’m right this moment in the process of adding a whole lot more options to the area search, which is why you are seeing the two cities New Germany. Once I finish the update (should be another 1015 minutes or so) there will be a clarification to the side of it, as can currently be seen on


That explains why I haven’t seen it before. I thought it was a case of selective disinterest on my part.

Is that a guesstimate or should I set my alarm clock?


Update is all done now!


Thx, works well for a lot of places, but not all are listed (e.g. The German city Uerdingen)
And there is a problem with the listing —>

many duplicates of the same city, or if there are more than one cities with the same name in Wisconsin and Minnesota you can’t tell them apart.

Am I to gather that the city of the person’s birth is displayed without the country?

I have a fairly good geographical knowledge, but I have never heard of Richfield in any capacity.

Is there more of this update to come?

Indeed there are:

I opted to limit the amount of information in the small text next to the name, so their respective counties are not shown (we currently only show larger subdivisions and country, but not smaller subdivisions like county, municipality, district, etc.)
I hadn’t encountered the need for it, but now that you’ve found one I’ll amend the code.

I also see MusicBrainz does it better:

Yes indeed. This was only the search side of things, and there are more improvements needed everywhere we show a geographical area.


I’m glad to hear that, otherwise I will be spending a lot of my time thinking WTF is that!

We are using a copy of the MusicBrainz database, and I suppose nobody previously had the need to enter an artist from Uerdingen on MusicBrainz.

I’ll copy here the help text about adding new areas:

To request that an area be added to Musicbrainz submit a bug request under the AREQ category. See the AREQ issues for more information.

I would then need to update the copy (in the future this step won’t be necessary as we will directly access the MusicBrainz database instead of maintaining a copy of the areas in BookBrainz)


I have just tried several towns in my vicinity and it seems Australia is under-represented.

Thanks for your efforts by the way @mr_monkey. It might not sound that way!


Constructive criticism is always welcome!
I do appreciate all of you helping me test new changes and report old issues, it’s very very helpful !

I know my work is sisyphean, but as long as we are heading in the right direction and making progress, all is well.