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Q: Naming an un-named island ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Naming an un-named island
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: millingtonill-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 24 Dec 2003 10:37 PST
Expires: 23 Jan 2004 10:37 PST
Question ID: 290038
I wish to name an island in the Fox River, LaSalle County, Illinois
which currently is un-named on maps (has a number as do many other),
while 2 adjacent islands show names. How does an island get named and
how do I as the owner participate?
Subject: Re: Naming an un-named island
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 24 Dec 2003 12:36 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello there, and thanks for asking a fun question.

There actually IS a formalized process for suggesting a new place name
for an unnamed piece of the landscape.  There are also some
less-formal factors to take into consideration.  Let?s take them one
at a time.

The formal place-name authority in the United States is the U.S. Board
on Geographic Names (some bureaucratic titles are very clear-cut,

You can visit the Board?s website at:

where you?ll find a brief introduction:


The U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) is a Federal body created in
1890 and established in its present form by Public Law in 1947.
Comprised of representatives of Federal agencies, appointed for 2-year
terms, the Board is authorized to establish and maintain uniform
geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government. Sharing its
responsibilities with the Secretary of the Interior, the Board has
developed principles, policies, and procedures governing the use of
both domestic and foreign geographic names as well as underseas and
Antarctic feature names. Although established to serve the Federal
Government as a central authority to which all name problems, name
inquiries, and new name proposals can be directed, the Board also
plays a similar role for the general public.


The next section on the page deals directly with the topic of your question:


Propose a new name or a name change

Any person or organization, public or private, may make inquiries or
request the Board to render formal decisions on proposed new names,
proposed name changes, or names that are in conflict.


So....just click on the ?Propose a new name...? link, and you?re in
business.  The link takes you to:


Domestic Geographic Name Proposal - U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Use the online form to propose a geographic feature name, suggest a
name change, or indicate that a name is incorrectly applied or view
and print the proposal form in PDF format.

The form itself is fairly straightforward, asking for a bit of
history, geographic information, local usage, etc.  Fill it out, keep
your fingers, crossed, and you may find future maps showing the island
with the name of your choosing.


Now...for the informal part of the process.  

It doesn?t take a very detailed reading of the above form to recognize
that the Board is sensitive to -- and responsive to -- local usage. 
To the extent that a name is in use at all in a local area, that will
carry a good deal of weight with the naming Board.

This suggests to me that the comments you received below are worth
considering.  Any steps you can take to ?name? the island, and get the
name into local usage will certainly increase the odds that your name
will be accepted by the Board.

One of the fastest ways to do this might be to involve the local
media.  Write a letter to the local paper casually dropping the ?name?
of the island into the letter.  Perhaps a newspaper, radio or TV will
take an interest in your naming quest and do a story on your efforts.

A local government resolution (Whereas the islands of Fox River are a
valuable blah, blah, blah, ...)  could also be a step in the right

Any organizational support you could get for the name would be
important (Boy Scouts, Chamber of Commerce, BPOE...whoever else is
active in the Fox River community).

Some semi-official looking signage on the island would also be a plus,
I would think.

I?m sure you?ll think of other opportunities as well.  The trick is to
create some local momentum, and the apply for a formal name to the
U.S. Board on Geographic Names.   Don?t hesitate to call the Board
directly at (703)-648-4544 to ask them for additional factors to
consider in submitting the best possible application.

Good luck.  Let us know how it all turns out.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 24 Dec 2003 13:47 PST
I forgot to mention my search strategy for researching this question. 
I was able to make use of an existing bookmark to the geonames site at
USGS, which led me quickly to the Naming Board.
millingtonill-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
exactly what I needed to know.

Subject: Re: Naming an un-named island
From: fstokens-ga on 24 Dec 2003 11:07 PST
Well, you can start calling it "(name) island" in conversations, maybe
put up some signs with the name on it.  If other people start using
it, and enough people start refering to the island by that name, then
you're basically done.  Maps will start including the name, because
that's what everyone calls it.

Even if there is an "official" way to get your island named, you will
still have to go through the above process, or the name will just be a
label on maps that nobody reads.
Subject: Re: Naming an un-named island
From: probonopublico-ga on 24 Dec 2003 11:13 PST
You should consider a publicity stunt.

You call it 'Treasure Island' because you've found buried treasure
there (of course) ...

Soon, people from all over the globe will come a-calling and you
collect a couple of dollars to ferry them across.

For authenticity's sake, better dress as a pirate.

This show could run and run ...

(Please remember that you got the idea from me.)

(c) 2003 PB
Subject: Re: Naming an un-named island
From: pafalafa-ga on 29 Dec 2003 06:50 PST
Thank you, millingtonill-ga, and may the new year find you with a
newly-named island!

All the best in 2004...


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