Changing Field Names

This example is for the SF1 files for the 2010 Census, but the principles could apply to other data sets.

File you need to facilitate the process, a DBF table posted on the internet. 

DBF for the shape file as supplied.  Some of the names are reasonable, but no sane person will remember the difference between DP0060002 and DP0060003.

ALAND10, on the other hand, makes senses: AREA of the LAND in 2010.
The Metadata comes in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, which is fine for human lookups but can be a little tedious since this table has about about 250 fields.

We have reformatted the metadata as a DBF table posted on the internet.  The fields are:

  • CENS_NAME, the field name assigned by the Census Bureau.
  • DBF_NAME, a sensible name for the DBF file.  These must comply with the dBase rules for field names.  These have not been completely assigned, so you can edit the table and add any you want.  These do not have to be filled in, as fields with no new name for the DBF will retain the Census names.
  • DESCRIBE, the description from the Census Bureau.
  • CENSUS_TBL, the table from the Census Bureau..
  • UNIVERSE: the sample from which this field is taken.

Download this file.


From the DBF file for the SF1 data:

Enable edits.

Edit: Rename fields from reference table, using a join.  You will pick the file with your rules, and the names of the two fields, the first with the fields names in the Census Bureau file, and the second with what you want them changed to.

The table names will be rewritten, and be much easier to use and remember.

You can create your own file with rules.  It needs only two fields, and they can have any name since you will be asked for the field names when you do the join.  You need to match the names used by the data creator exactly, and provide the new names in compliance with the dBase rules for field names.  


Last revision 10/28/2015