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The Census Bureau's Director writes on how we measure America's people, places and economy.
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The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is the federal standard for geographic nomenclature. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) developed the GNIS for the U.S. Board on Geographic Names as the official repository of domestic geographic names data; the official vehicle for geographic names use by all departments of the federal government; and the source for applying geographic names to federal electronic and printed products. The GNIS contains information about physical and cultural geographic features of all types in the United States and its territories, current and historical, but not including roads and highways. The database holds the federally recognized name of each feature and defines the feature location by state, county, USGS topographic map, and geographic coordinates. Other attributes include names or spellings other than the official name, feature designations, feature classification, historical and descriptive information, and, for some categories, the geometric boundaries.