United States Board on Geographic Names

The United States Board on Geographic Names, abbreviated BGN, is an American federal agency whose mission is to bring about consistent use of geographic names in the field of American government and governance and ensure. Office of the institution is Reston (Virginia), head of the commission is Douglas Caldwell.


The Authority was founded in 1890 since then renamed as Board on Geographical Names, and was several times. In 1934, she was assigned to the Ministry of Interior. Their present form is based on a law from 1947.

The Authority has developed rules and procedures for dealing with both domestic and non -US geographic designations. It also deals with underwater objects as well as with those in the Antarctic.

In general, the BGN follows the local use in its requirements for use of names at the federal level. Only in individual cases, for example, if a locally used name can be seen as clearly offensive, it may decide against the use of such a name at the federal level.

A main task of the BGN is to make at the request of individuals and private or public institutions formal decisions about new, changed, and conflict-laden geographical names and their spellings and usages in maps and other publications of the U.S. federal institutions. Thus, it also takes on his next official determination as a decision maker for the government and administration the same role for the general population.

Geographic Names Information System

Developed by BGN in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System records both designations from topographical map as well as bibliographic references. The titles of the books and historic maps that confirm a geographic object or a geographical name will be listed. Name variants or alternatives to the official names for an object are also recorded.

BGN / PCGN transcription

As part of its task of defining the U.S. official spelling of foreign geographical names, a system for transcription ( spelling ) or transcription standardizes the BGN and in collaboration with the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use ( PCGN ) geographical designations from other writing systems into the Latin alphabet, namely the BGN / PCGN transcription.


Currently, the BGN published names on his website. In the past, the BGN made ​​his decisions in different publications under different titles in different time intervals with varying amounts of information known. In 1933, the BGN published a large consolidated compilation of all of his decisions for the period 1890-1932 in its Sixth Report of the United States Geographic Board from 1890 to 1932. For many years the BGN publish a quarterly report entitled Decisions on Geographic Names.

U.S. organizations with similar tasks

  • The "United States Census Bureau," ( something like: " Census Bureau " ) defines " census -designated places" ( defined for statistical purposes settlements ). These are included in the listed in the Geographic Names Information System locations.
  • The names of the post offices ( post offices in the USA) were used in the past as substantiation for claims about the name of a community. Today, the rules for postal addressing in the U.S. Postal Service Publication 28 are fixed; in this document, the U.S. Postal Service defines, inter alia, the two-letter abbreviation for the individual states.