scenic photo


If you have only been searching bignames.txt by reading the names directly from the file, then you could easily be overlooking many records that would otherwise be valuable to your research. Part of the problem with looking at an alphabetical list of grave records is that many stones contained more than one name, and the person you are searching for may be indexed under another family member's name. With over 221,000 records, the size of the file alone makes it cumbersome for reading, and may actually be too large for your computer to handle easily. There is a much better way to work with the file, and if you will take just a few minutes to try it out, you will be hooked on a quick and powerful method for extracting the records you need.

1) What is DIG.EXE ?

The software utility dig.exe is a research tool designed to help you dig through the thousands of names in bignames.txt to find and extract records which might be of interest to your research. The results of the search are saved in a file for review or future reference. This utility can also be used to quickly determine town codes. Many practical examples for using dig.exe are provided below.

2) Wouldn't it be simpler to open BIGNAMES.TXT with a normal text editor or with Microsoft Word to perform text searches?

If you only wanted to search for a single string of characters like "Gladys", that method is fine. But if you wanted to add other constraints to your search like looking only for women named "Gladys" who were buried in Twillingate, this utility is a much better choice. Using this utility eliminates the risk of inadvertently editing the bignames.txt file while looking at it with an editor like Microsoft Word. Using an editor to search through the names yields only one result at the time, but with dig.exe all records are found at once and copied into a separate output file. Another advantage is that if the surname you seek is spelled differently than expected or is misspelled in the database, you can use dig.exe to help find it by searching by given name and town code.

3) How do you start the program DIG.EXE ?

It is designed to run on a PC, so use "MY COMPUTER" or "WINDOWS EXPLORER" to locate it in the directory in which it resides. This is typically in the directory c:\stonepics. Double-click on the file named dig.exe to open a window that will prompt you for something to search for.

4) What format must my search text be in?

You can have up to three different search strings of up to 25 characters each, with each string of characters separately enclosed in curly { } or square brackets [ ]. Use whichever is easiest for you to type. The search text is not case sensitive. A "logical And" operation is performed on your input which means that a record is chosen only if all of your inputs are found in that record. Generally anything in the input line not enclose in brackets is ignored, but there are three exceptions to this rule:

  • an equal mark "=" or dash "-" in column 1 indicates input of part or all of a town name for which a code is needed;
  • input of exactly three letters is taken as a town code for which the town name is returned;
  • the number one "1" in the first column prevents output of more than one record with the same surname.
Looking at how information is formatted in bignames.txt will help you design better searches. Notice that a colon followed by a space is only found immediately preceding the town/cemetery ID, and that three spaces precede surnames. This is useful for defining searches in such a way that they will not trigger on unwanted information. Examples are provided below.

5) What things must I be careful of to ensure the program works properly?

The name of the directory and the hard drive letter you use is not important, but it is important that the program dig.exe and the data file bignames.txt that it searches reside in the same directory. The results of your searches will be saved in output files named:

Search Results - [ ] [ ] [ ].txt

with the square brackets containing your search parameters. Occasionally you should delete the output files that are no longer of use so they don't consume too much space on your hard drive.

6) What are some examples of cool things I can do with DIG.EXE ?

The following examples are designed to give you some ideas and techniques for searching the bignames.txt file for various categories of information.


[joseph]    will locate every occurrence of "Joseph" including its use as a surname, middle name, given name, or part of another names like "Josephine".

[joseph,]    will locate "Joseph" used only as a surname.

[  joseph  ]    will locate "Joseph" used as a middle or given name.

[John][mary]    will locate every record containing both "John" & "Mary".

[John][mary][:  stj]    will locate every record containing "John" & "Mary" in the city of St. John's.

[  ann  ][:  lew]    will locate every record for "Ann" in Lewisporte. Use the town code for Lewisporte, LEW, as one of the search items. In this example a space is used in front of "ann" so that the name "Joann" is not picked up, and a space is used after the name so that the name "Anna" is not picked up. A colon & space are used in front of "lew" so that names such as "Curlew" won't be picked up.

[  eliza  ][  field,]    will locate Eliza FIELD who is indexed under her husband's unknown given name. Preceding the surname "field" with a space prevents the search from triggering on the surname "FIFIELD".

[NF023]    will generate a list of all records for CD NF023.

[:  twg]    will generate a list of all records for the town of Twillingate.

[twg02]    will generate a list of people for cemetery #2 in Twillingate.

[stj5]    will generate a list of all records for the huge Belvedere Catholic cemetery in St. John's which spans seven different CD's and has the cemetery codes STJ51 through STJ57.

[Abbott,] [(187]    will generate a list of people with the surname "ABBOTT" for the 1870's.

[1999]    will generate a list people who died in 1999.

[    jeff][ries,]    searches for two different spellings of the same surname JEFFRIES/JEFFERIES. Placing a double-space in front of "jeff" identifies the text as the start of a surname because in the bignames.txt file, a double space only appears in this position. Placing a comma after the "ries" identifies the text as the end of a surname.

1[    s][land,]    finds one example of every surname beginning with 'S' and ending with 'land'. Examples are McClelland, McDougland, and Mouland. This feature is useful as a research tool when trying to decipher the surname on an old stone that is only partially readable. The number one '1' placed in the first column activates this option. This capability was used frequently in building the names database for this project.

1[ton,][stj5]    finds one example of every surname ending with 'ton' in the giant Belvedere Cemetery in St. John's.

1[  exp0]    finds one example of every surname at Exploits.

grq    finds the town name matching the three letter code 'GRQ' for Griquet. This feature is particularly useful when a search for a person's name returns records containing unfamiliar town codes.

-Mill    finds codes for town names beginning with the letters "Mill" like Milltown and Millertown. Either a dash or equal mark can be used in the first column to request town names.

=d    generates a list of town names beginning with the letters 'D' and provides their associated town codes.