How to incorporate Historical Road Names? (rural US)

Hello all,

I issue addresses for my rural county’s 911 emergency call center. I am also charged with fixing compliance errors in mapping for the “next gen” 911 system.

I frequently encounter situations where the official road name is a 4-digit number, but OSM, Google and others will have a name (or possibly the long-outdated 3-digit numbers). That name may or may not be historically accurate, i.e. no one remembers it ever having been called that. I try to go ahead and change the road name, but would like to do so in a way that does not disrupt OSM community procedure.

What is the best way to go about this? As an example, 35.682027, -93.601277 is what is officially known as “County Road 5140”. OSM calls it “Mulberry Ranch”. A caller for emergency services will give an address with “County Road 5140”, and I hope someday everyone from FedEx to our EMS paramedics will be using OSM to navigate that way.

if I update this, what fields do I need to use, and what fields do I need to leave alone?

Thank you!


I’m not sure I fully understand the scenario you’re describing, but I think that’s the reason there are so many fields for names in OSM.

The “what people call it” and “how signs on the ground refer to it”, which are hopefully the same thing, go in name=. (If they’re different, then loc_name= might be helpful to describe how locals call it.)

The “official name”, which most people don’t commonly use, goes in official_name=. (Though in your case, where it’s an identification number, it should probably just be a number in ref= instead?)

Any “old name”, where someone might refer to it that way and might be looking for it even though it’s not “current” anymore, can go in old_name=. (And likewise old identification numbers can go in old_ref=.)

Use the fields that best describe the “real” situation, and leave alone any fields which are already correct. :slight_smile:

It sounds like you have a good handle on the situation on the ground, so I encourage you to be bold and make sure that OSM data matches reality.


OSM way being referred to. Looks like that road name was imported as part of the TIGER import which I know has had its issues (though this particular example may be fine).

To answer your question, road names are supposed to match what is signed “on the ground” (if at all). However, if this doesn’t match your data sources, you may wish to look at using official_name, alt_name, or loc_name.


Very good, thank you both. At least one county official is interested in making use of CalTopo and other services that use OSM. I am encouraged by this, and would like to get our responders on board. This will help.