I discovered this weekend that Dixie Kiefer is my first cousin three times removed. Dixie was a well known, respected, and battered Navy commander. After surviving the sinking of the Yorktown and at Midway and two kamikaze attacks on the Ticonderoga, he died when his Navy transport plane crashed into Beacon Mountain, New York.

How do I record the place of his death?

The trivial answer is "Beacon Mountain, New York, United States", and that's how I recorded it in the FamilySearch Family Tree, but I'm concerned about the ability of place authorities to know where that is. FamilySearch's place authority doesn't recognize it because their authority only has administrative places and not geographical features (or so I believe).

Beacon Mountain is technically in the town of Fishkill. Should I record the place of death as "Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York, United States"?

I could be very specific and say "Beacon Mountain, Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York, United States". Would most place authorities be smart enough to ignore the "Beacon Mountain" part of that and keep the rest?

5 Answers 5


I can't answer the question about "place authorities" ignoring the leading part, but I think we should step back and consider the human reading the information first. It might help to note that I'm looking at this from the other side of the Atlantic, so I may not be well up on the assumed structures of US place names. Which is probably an important point if we want global clarity.

"Beacon Mountain, New York, United States" conveys meaning to me. It's a big hill!

"Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York, United States" also conveys meaning - but a different one. If you told me that a plane crashed in Fishkill, I'd imagine it hitting the houses of the town or coming very close. Looking at Google Maps, the crash site appears to be potentially 3 or 4 miles from the houses of Fishkill. This option appears to me to be misleading, therefore, since I read Fishkill as the settlement of that name, not as an administrative area of the same name.

"Beacon Mountain, New York, United States" or "Beacon Mountain, Dutchess County, New York, United States" (does that work?) seem to convey most information to an outsider.

I instinctively dislike using the Mountain as an address - addresses, to me, refer to buildings or streets, etc. Besides which, it doesn't resolve the issue of what goes into the place.

Re the question of "place authorities" containing only administrative places and not geographic features. (I'm putting it in quotes because I think we're taking about "place authority software" not the authorities themselves.) Frankly, I think the compilers of those databases had better sort their act out and include geographic features and settlements that may physically exist but not be administrative places. I suspect there has been no real thought on this - it just happens to be that lists of administrative places are easy to come by.

To insist on the use of administrative places creates huge anomalies where a settlement, perhaps of some size, known to all and sundry by a specific name, is not an administrative place. And as @TomH points out, many of us will have births and deaths at sea in our trees. Exactly what is the administrative place for those?

So - to return to the question. I would serve the human first by referring to "Beacon Mountain, New York, United States" or "Beacon Mountain, Dutchess County, New York, United States". (Well, actually, I'd probably write "New York State, USA" but I'm never sure what to do with NYC and the state of the same name.)


Well to some extent this depends on the capabilities of the software you are using but I would certainly mention the mountain.

The software I use, gramps, allows each place to have a descriptive name as well as various bits of additional metadata like a town, county, state etc and a latitude and longitude. So I would probably use something like "Beacon Mountain, New York, United States" as the primary name and then fill in Fishkill as the town, Duchess as the county and so on. I would also add the latitude and longitude to ensure there could be no confusion about where I was referring to.

In fact I have an entry in my database for somebody who was killed when the SS Hartlebury was torpedoed so the location is in open sea with a description along the lines of "17 miles due south of the Britwin Light, Novaya Zemlya" and the rest (especially the latitude and longitude) filled in with as much extra information as possible.


I can't speak for "place authorities" in general, but the handful I'm familiar with seem to understand a four-level naming hierarchy: city or town, county or district, state or province, and country. They don't seem to understand (a) anything with more than four elements in the hierarchy (e.g. a village within a town, or a named part of a city), or (b) anything that isn't a recognized place name.

At least one that I know of will allow you to "invent" place names, but won't recognize them as part of the hierarchy, so would allow you to enter "Beacon Mountain, Fishkill, Dutchess, New York, United States", but wouldn't understand how it fits into the place-name hierarchy.

That said, death facts generally include a date, a place, and a description. I often include in the description field anything that helps explain how someone came to die somewhere other than their last place of residence (e.g., the name of a hospital, or the home of the relative they were visiting at the time of death). In a case like yours, I would add a description along the lines of "Plane crash, Beacon Mountain" and use a more "canonical" name in the place field.


I just came across this, as the 70th anniversary of Dixie Kiefer's death is approaching this year.

I am a reporter at the Poughkeepsie Journal who is preparing a story about the crash. I also have copies of the Nov. 12, 1945 editions of our newspaper, which recount in detail the crash and search.

And today, I hiked to the crash site, where wreckage of the plane can still be found.

Dixie Kiefer died on a section of Mount Beacon that lies within the Town of Fishkill. The point of impact is technically in the Beacon, N.Y. zip code.

However, our standard has always been to go with the municipality. So that would be the Town of Fishkill. (There is also a separate, incorporated Village of Fishkill within the Town of Fishkill, but I digress .. )

All of that said, you could mark his death on Mount Beacon, within in the Town of Fishkill, Dutchess County, N.Y.


In my software, I would record Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York, United States as the place and Beacon Mountain as the address, with a note to explain that was where his plane crashed.

Perhaps FamilySearch allows an address to be recorded.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.