A gazetteer essentially is an alphabetical list of geographic names that are currently applied or have been applied to places and features of the landscape. They can also cover feature names on ocean bottoms, as well as on planetary bodies and the moon.
Varying in scope, depth, and quality, they are an invaluable resource for locating innumerable place and feature names that are now in use or have fallen out of use. Often employed in conjunction with historical maps, gazetteers enable researchers to identify sites of particular interest. Entries in modern gazetteers can, but do not necessarily include, the recommended name conforming to present-day usage, a feature designation, geographical coordinates, i.e., latitude and longitude, variations in spellings as well as cognates, and information regarding the origin, history, and meaning of a name. Historical gazetteers can, but do not necessarily include, much of the same information, but identify place names by former usage.
Gazetteers are located in the Library's general collections, as well as in the reference collections of various reading rooms throughout the Library. By and large they are listed on the Library of Congress Online Catalog under the subject terms "Gazetteers" and "Names, Geographical." When searching the catalog by the subject term "Gazetteers," researchers should place the desired location name before the subject term, as in the following examples:
When searching the catalog by the subject term "Names, Geographical," researchers should place the desired location name after the subject term, as in the following examples:
The Geography and Map Reading Room holds hundreds of printed gazetteers covering the landscape at the celestial, planetary, world, oceanic, continental, national, regional, state, county, and municipal levels. With few exceptions, the ones listed here pertain only to those that identify geographic features in East Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Russia.
Indispensable is the series of gazetteers of individual countries introduced by the U.S. Office of Geography in the 1950s and continued by the Defense Mapping Agency into the 1990s. Geographic feature name designations align with standards of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Multi-volume editions exist for Poland, the former Federal Republic (West) of Germany and the Democratic Republic (East) Germany, the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary, the former Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. Although these titles have been superseded by the NGA GEOnet Names Server External, they are held by many research and public libraries.
The following titles have been consulted by reference staff in the Geography and Map Division, and link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.
The Library holds numerous gazetteers and lists of geographical names of the nations in East Central Europe that were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as those nations' administrative subdivisions and major cities. Browsing by subject heading can yield results as in the examples below: