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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

January 31, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Her Name Was Nancy

Q: Would you by any chance have a list of nicknames for people, like Bill is for William or Polly is for Martha? I have tried desperately to find my great-grandmother in the census of the county and state which she was supposed to be born. Her name in later census after marriage is Nancy J. What other name could she have gone by? -- Sam

A: Nicknames do sometimes cause a great deal of frustration in our seeking of ancestors. There are a couple of nicknames for Nancy, including Nan, Nana, and Nanny. However, an interesting twist is that the name Nancy is sometimes used as a nickname for Ann or Agnes.

It could be the middle initial that is throwing you off on the search. It is possible that Nancy is listed under this unknown other name in earlier census records. The most probable name being Jane. I have found Nancy Jane to be a common name. If it is Jane, then the possible nicknames include Gincey, Janie, Jean, Jennie, and Jessie.

An excellent resource when it comes to nicknames is Nicknames Past and Present By Christine Rose, now in its third edition. There are also some online nickname resources.

Finding Wills

Q: On the CD-ROM #518 of Family Tree Maker Vol I, Essex County, New Jersey, I found the Indexes of Wills and Inventories. In the data were a number of Gouverners that I am interested in. Where can I find the wills? Are they on a CD-ROM or on a Web site? I am interested in their content. -- Gilbert

A: CD-ROM #518 is actually Colonial New Jersey Source Records, 1600s-1800s and is a compiled CD-ROM of many different records and sources. Among those sources is the three-volume set New Jersey Index of Wills, Inventories, Etc. originally published by Genealogical Publishing Company.

The original wills are not available on CD-ROM. They are available on microfilm from the Family History Library, thus through your local Family History Center. The wills and other probate records are on 181 rolls of microfilm. The key is in determining what the abbreviations in the entries you found mean.

I would encourage you to take a moment to read the introductory information for that three-volume set to see what the layout is of the entries so you can convert the entry in the index to the correct roll of microfilm. Once you have done that you can visit your local Family History Center and order the appropriate microfilms.

The microfilms are of the original wills and other loose papers. Probate records are a gold mine of information in many instances, so the work necessary to finally get to the original record is usually worth the effort.

Your question is a perfect example of why we need to take the time to read the introductory material on indexes and other compiled records. So often we just want to find our ancestor so we don't take the needed time and then we can't take our ancestor back to the original record. In this case, that introductory material has been included on the CD-ROM so you should have it right at your fingertips.

Born in Ireland

Q: My research takes me back to the mid 1700s, but at that point most of my ancestors, especially the two major branches of my family, were born overseas. How do I go about getting information on relatives born in Ireland? -- Mike

A: You are not alone in your quest. There are many who can trace their lineage back to the 1700s only to be stopped at the pond. This is especially true when it comes to Ireland.

Irish research requires that you know the parish where the individual was born. The Irish records at that time would be ecclesiastical records, thus the need to not only know the town but also the parish.

It is possible that someone has done the work for you. If you haven't done so already, you will want to look toward published family histories. There are many available online at through their Genealogy Library subscription. There are also many available on microfilm through the Family History Library.

You might also want to check the Library of Congress online catalog. If you can find a family history here, it might be possible to get the book through Interlibrary loan with your local public library.

Incompatible File Formats

Q: My cousin has sent me some fact files on our family as a download. He has the files in a Microsoft word processor. I am running Windows 98se and have Family Tree Maker software. My computer shows it downloaded but I am unable to find it. Could you please give me some advice. -- Peggy

A: It sounds like you received the files from your cousin through e-mail as an e-mail attachment. You will need to find out from your e-mail program where it stores the attachments. This is usually found in the Tools menu.

Another way to find the file is to use Windows Explorer. Open Windows Explorer, then use the Find option found under the Tools menu to search for the file in question. This will give you the full path to that file.

If you are trying to open the file using Family Tree Maker, that may explain why the file does not appear to be on the computer where you think it should be. Family Tree Maker cannot open a word processing file. It will look specifically for Family Tree Maker files, usually ending with the extension .FTW or a GEDCOM file that has the extension .GED. It can look for text files, but these must end in the extension .TXT. To use the text file, you will need to search Family Tree Maker's online help (that is the help file in the program) on importing text files. These are usually imported to a notes field of a person.

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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