About the Canadian Geographical Names Database

You may access nearly 350 000 currently approved geographical names stored on the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base (CGNDB), Canada’s national bank of official geographical names. These names are authorized by the Geographical Names Board of Canada (GNBC), through its provincial, territorial and federal representatives.

In addition, you may query:

  • 37 000 formerly approved names of historical interest
  • 3 500 names of undersea features

There are many ways to query our names on the Internet. Through the menu on the left, a user can access our GeoNames Query, Digital Data products, and Tools and Applications. Alternately, official geographical names can be accessed through the NRCan's Atlas of Canada Toporama - Mapping Tool service. And also through commercial or open source GIS applications that link to our Web Services.

Below are the attributes published for each geographical name.

NAMES ATTRIBUTES

Up to fourteen CGNDB fields can be displayed for each name obtained through our GeoNames Query or Tools and Applications:

  1. Name of Feature
    • Current: For most geographical names there is only one official form. However, certain geographical names require presentation in both official languages of Canada on federal maps. The following lists provide you with a quick reference for some categories of such names:
    • Historical: Some names have in the past been given official status, but are no longer the approved forms. These may have been replaced by other ("Current") names or may simply have been withdrawn from use.
    • Undersea: 3 500 official names of undersea features relevant to Canada are collected here. The type of feature, latitude and longitude and chart or map are provided here for each entry.
  2. Status - indicates whether the name is Official, Replaced, Revoked, Alternate, Equivalent, an unofficial Variant, or a pan-Canadian name.
    Province or Territory - indicates the province or territory in which the feature is located. If a feature lies on many provinces and territories, there is an entry for each province and territory where the name is adopted.
  3. Feature Type - geographical names provided to you are grouped into categories listed below. The categories are defined here. If Feature Type is selected as the Sort Order during a geographical names query, records will be sequenced as follows:
    1. Province
    2. Territory
    3. City
    4. Town
    5. Village
    6. Hamlet
    7. Other municipal/district area - major agglomeration
    8. Other municipal/district area - miscellaneous
    9. Unincorporated area
    10. Indian Reserve
    11. Geographical area
    12. Conservation area
    13. Military area
    14. River
    15. River feature
    16. Falls
    17. Lake
    18. Spring
    19. Sea
    20. Sea feature
    21. Undersea feature
    22. Channel
    23. Rapids
    24. Bay
    25. Cape
    26. Beach
    27. Shoal
    28. Island
    29. Cliff
    30. Mountain
    31. Valley
    32. Plain
    33. Cave
    34. Crater
    35. Glacier
    36. Forest
    37. Low vegetation
    38. Miscellaneous
  4. Generic - indicates the generic portion of the name, obscure or not, describing the feature. There are more than 1200 Generic Terms defined by the GNBC. The definitions for all generic codes are available in the service section.
  5. Location - geographic unit (or administrative unit for Quebec records) in which the feature or place lies. Each province or territory has its own distinct units.
  6. Latitude/Longitude - coordinates are provided in degrees, minutes and seconds at the centre of a feature, except for flowing-water features where coordinates are at the mouth. The seconds are displayed if the accuracy of the coordinates is within 30 metres. Otherwise, the accuracy is 2 km and only the minutes are displayed. The coordinates are also provided in decimal degrees to facilitate copying and pasting into applications.
  7. Coordinate Accuracy - Only two values are given here, either 30 m or 2000 m. Thus, the accuracy of the centroid or the mouth of a geographic entity is known within 30 metres or 2 km. See also the preceding item no 7.
  8. NTS Map/Chart - in most cases, these are the National Topographic System (NTS) maps, at the 1:50 000 scale on which the feature lies. Where this is not applicable, a 1:250 000 NTS map (e.g., 031G00) or a Canadian Hydrographic Service Chart (e.g., C.4803) is shown.
  9. Relevance at Scale - helps to indicate whether or not it is relevant to display a name on a map depending on the scale of the map. Provided is the lowest map scale known to have published the entity, the values provided are 43M, 42M, 15M, 7.5M, 6M, 3M, 1M, 250K, 50K or 25K.
  10. Datum - all coordinates are given relative to the North American datum of 1983 (NAD83), and currently to the nearest arc seconds at best.
  11. CGNDB Unique Identifier - a five letter code assigned to each record in the CGNDB database. Please quote it if you are requesting any follow-up information.
  12. Feature Id- a 32 alphanumeric code which allows to link together (1) the various digital representations of a geographical feature (whatever their scales, versions, editions, sources, map projections, etc.) and (2) the various names such a feature may obtain with time. The Feature Id is a national standard approved by provincial, territorial and federal mapping and toponymic agencies, and is described in the "Feature ID Assigning Procedure" document.
  13. Decision Date- the date of the most recent official approval or change affecting a name. The Decision Date is the date when a feature/place name is approved, altered, changed in form, changed to another name, confirmed, rescinded, deleted, proposed, or not approved. This can be by decision, legislation, gazetteer status change, first appearance in a specified gazetteer, or some other recognition by the jurisdiction involved.
  14. Effective Date- For names approved by legislation, the effective date of the legislation, e.g. a change made through the municipal act or provincial parks legislation of a province - the order would list a date on which the change is to take effect. This could also be the same as the decision date.
  15. Approval Date- the date of the original approval or legislation for a particular record. The First Approval Date can be by decision, legislation, gazetteer status change, first appearance in a specified gazetteer, or some other recognition by the jurisdiction involved. This could also be the same as the decision date.
  16. Data Provider - an hyperlink to the web site of a provincial, territorial or federal agencies which is a member of the GNBC, and which has approved the toponym and which has provided the toponym and its information for the geonames.nrcan.gc.ca website.

CHARACTER SETS

Geographical names data provided here uses the 2 bytes character encoding called Unicode UTF-8. The UTF-8 encoding allows to represent the majority of the written languages in the world. Here it is used to display all characters used in French language, in other European languages, the special aboriginal characters, as well as the aboriginal names written in syllabics. Our web pages are coded such that the proper display of all characters is obtained with the user having no fonts to download.

Aboriginal Fonts Download: Note however that if a user request our special output formats: csv, html table, xml, gml or kml, and if these contains some of the special characters, and they don't display into your application (e.g., Notepad, Wordpad, MSword, MSExcel, GIS, other web pages, etc.) one has to either choose one of the Unicode fonts if the application offers it, otherwise download and install fonts onto the PC. For the syllabic fonts, the pigiarniq fonts may be downloaded. For the other special aboriginal characters, the Aboriginal without Serif fonts or with Serif fonts should be downloaded.

Where to obtain more information

For further information about the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base (CGNDB) please contact the GNBC Secretariat at geonames@NRCan.gc.ca.