I am finally to the point I am researching family from early 1700's/1750's and have noticed the city/counties are the same but the country listed is "British Colony America". Do I start listing this as the country of birth or do I continue with USA?
@DAC515 You should also be noticing that many states didn't exist either. State and county boundaries before and during the Revolution were very different and huge changes took place by 1800. Lots of counties existed before their final states were established.
Basically, I suggest that you have 3 major choices:
And if you get outside the Thirteen Colonies, you may find yourself using "New France" and "Viceroyalty of New Spain" - those were real entities (unlike British Colonial America) with a Governor-General or whatever, so I'd be happy to use those.
Have a think, have a play with the possibilities - you can't break anything (famous last words!)
It's up to you, but the USA didn't exist yet back then.
I believe the whole question of which place names to use is very wibbly wobbly. I will generally use historically correct place names, but if that becomes totally meaningless because the town, province and empire no longer exist with those historic names, then for clarity I use the modern location names. This could impact searching for sources, and I understand that.
You raise a good point @Gail Swihart Watson - that of Searching if you want to just press the Search button without doing any refinement. It's no use me being pedantic over place-names and using the contemporary name if the data has been indexed with the present-day name. Arguably it shouldn't be but...
Adrian Bruce1 You are correct that clicking the search button without doing any refinement is not normally a successful exercise. I occasionally win the lottery, but yes, serious researchers need to fully understand the history of the place and to conduct a series of searches and either use the filters for different place name values or type different values in the search fields. Same with looking for non-indexed images in the catalog.
Thank you for your help, it has given me great ideas to work with.
Personally, I use British Colonial America. I could go into a bunch of reasons on why that would be more correct, which do exist, but the reality is that people marking it as part of a government that didn't even exist yet is a pet peeve of mine, and I change it to BCA whenever I see US used before 1776. The same goes for people marking England as the UK before 1801.