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


Conference Hotel Information

Arrangements have been made for a block of rooms at the Hilton Richmond Downtown.  The room rate for single or double is $135.00 plus taxes per night.  It is suggested that you reserve a room early by clicking on the following link: You may also call 804-344-4300.

The hotel has an early departure fee of one night's room and tax at the group rate except in the event of business or personal emergencies.

Please reserve you room before April 17.


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)

Preregistration is open and will remain until April 17.  After that, registration will be available at the conference.
For the registration form or information contact Wayne Furr at:


We still have a few spaces on the program!  If you would like to make a presentation, the deadline has been extended until the slots are filled.


The Old Dominion and Beyond:

Four-Hundred Years of Settlement and Naming


Sunday, May 7th (Early arrival day)

Monday, May 8th

  • A tour of the Map Library is planned


  • 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

     It is suggested that the 1½ hour sessions be broken into different length presentations, such as: Three @ 30-minutes; two @ 45-minutes; one @ 30-minute & one @ 60-minute; or one 1 ½-hour. The length should be up to the presenter’s time requirement and topic to be covered.  To request a Call for Papers or if you would like to make a presentation, contact Wayne at:

  • NOTE:  This is a tentative layout of the presentation times and subject to change as more presentations come in.
  • View abstracts below.
  • 8:30—9:00 a.m.  The Roanoke Voyages (1584-1590): Toponymic Aspects”; Roger Payne
  • 9:00—9:30 a.m.  "A Brief History of COGNA"; Tom Gasque
  • 9:3010:00 a.m. “Toponymic Tags”; Scott Zillmer
  • 10:00—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
  • 11:00—Noon  "Toponyms in the Old Dominion: Origins and Oddities"; Leo Dillon 
    • 12:00—1:30 p.m. Lunch break
    • 1:30--3:00 p.m. Panel Discussions, Workshops, & Academic papers
    • 3:00--3:30 p.m. Break
    • 3:30--5:00 p.m. Next year’s Invitation and Conference Wrap-up
    • 6:00-- p.m. Social Hour
    • 6:00--8:00 p.m. Closing Reception with Keynote Speaker Ralph Ehrenberg, Library of Congress, retired


    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.


    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.


    A Brief History of COGNA

    Thomas J. Gasque

    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.

    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.



    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: