Importer for Who's on First gazetteer
Latest commit 362f70b Nov 9, 2018

This repository is part of the Pelias project. Pelias is an open-source, open-data geocoder originally sponsored by Mapzen. Our official user documentation is here.

Pelias Who's on First Data Importer

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pelias-whosonfirst is a tool used for importing data from the Who's On First project from local files into a Pelias ElasticSearch store.


Node.js is required.

See Pelias software requirements for required and recommended versions.


There are two major categories of Who's on First data supported: hierarchy (or admin) data, and venues.

Hierarchy data represents things like cities, countries, counties, boroughs, etc.

Venues represent individual places like the Statue of Liberty, a gas station, etc. Venues are subdivided by country, and sometimes regions within a country.

Currently, the supported hierarchy types are:

  • borough
  • continent
  • country
  • county
  • dependency
  • disputed
  • empire
  • localadmin
  • locality
  • macrocounty
  • macrohood
  • macroregion
  • marinearea
  • neighbourhood
  • ocean
  • region
  • postalcodes (optional, see configuration)

Other types may be included in the future.

This page has a description of all the types supported by Who's on First.


This importer is configured using the pelias-config module. The following configuration options are supported by this importer.

key required default description
imports.whosonfirst.datapath yes full path to where Who's on First data is located (note: the included downloader script will automatically place the WOF data here, and is the recommended way to obtain WOF data)
imports.whosonfirst.importPostalcodes no false set to true to include postalcodes in the data download and import process
imports.whosonfirst.importVenues no false set to true to include venues in the data download and import process
imports.whosonfirst.importPlace no set to a WOF id (number or string) indicating the region of interest, only data pertaining to that place shall be downloaded. Use the WOF spelunker tool search for an ID of a place.
imports.whosonfirst.missingFilesAreFatal no false set to true for missing files from Who's on First bundles to stop the import process
imports.whosonfirst.maxDownloads no 4 the maximum number of files to download simultaneously. Higher values can be faster, but can also cause donwload errors
imports.whosonfirst.dataHost no The location to download Who's on First data from. Changing this can be useful to use custom data, pin data to a specific date, etc

Downloading the Data

  • The download script will download the required bundles/sqlite databases and place the data into the datapath configured in pelias-config in the required directory layout. To install the required node module dependencies and run the download script:
npm install
npm run download

## or

npm run download -- --admin-only # to only download hierarchy data, without venues or postalcodes

When running an instance intended to provide coverage for an area smaller than the entire world, it is recommended that the importPlace config parameter is used to limit the data download to records that are parents or descendants of the specified place. See the configuration details in the above section of this document. We currently only support a single ID at a time. If multiple places need to be downloaded, the script can be executed multiple times; one for each desired place.

Warning: Who's on First data is big. Just the hierarchy data is tens of GB, and the full dataset is over 100GB on disk. Additionally, Who's on First uses one file per record. In addition to lots of disk space, you need lots of free inodes. On Linux/Mac, df -ih can show you how many free inodes you have.

Expect to use a few million inodes for Who's on First. You probably don't want to store multiple copies of the Who's on First data due to its disk requirements.


To install the required node module dependencies and execute the importer, run:

$> npm install
$> npm start

In Other Projects

This project exposes a number of node streams for dealing with Who's on First data and metadata files:

  • metadataStream: streams rows from a Who's on First metadata file
  • parseMetaFiles: CSV parse stream configured for metadata file contents
  • loadJSON: parallel stream that asynchronously loads GeoJSON files
  • recordHasIdAndProperties: rejects Who's on First records missing id or properties
  • isActiveRecord: rejects records that are superseded, deprecated, or otherwise inactive
  • isNotNullIslandRelated: rejects Null Island and other records that intersect it (currently just postal codes at 0/0)
  • recordHasName: rejects records without names
  • conformsTo: filter Who's on First records on a predicate (see lodash's conformsTo for more information)