Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Google's WildCard in Genealogy Searches

A wildcard in a Google search query is indicated by an asterisk * and will match one or more whole words.

Name Search

For genealogy searches, the asterisk * is one way to search for a name that has a middle name or initial. Your ancestor's name may be Henry Aloysius Smith and in his lifetime he may have signed all legal documents as Henry A. Smith. A Google search for Henry * Smith will return results for both Henry Aloysius Smith and Henry A. Smith. Unfortunately, It will also return results for Henry Benjamin Smith, Henry B. Smith, Henry C. Smith, and so on; but it will not return results for Henry Smith (listed on a website with no middle name or initial).

So, in order to search for webpages that contain his name with a middle name or initial AND his name without either: Henry Aloysius Smith, Henry A. Smith or Henry Smith, use the query :

"Henry * Smith" OR "Henry Smith"

Be sure to leave a space before and after the asterisk. You can search for phrases with or without quotation marks, but using the quotation marks gives better results than leaving them off. Quotation marks force Google to find the exact phrase within the quotes, except for the wildcard word, especially if the wildcard word is the first or last word in the search terms.

Place Name Search

To search for a missing word in a phrase in a place name, you can again use Google's wildcard operator. If you know one word of a two word place name, you can use the wild card search for the second word. You may have found an old document where part of the name is illegible , or you might not be able to remember the whole name. Put the place name in quotes and substitute the wild card for the missing word. For example, search for

"Glen *, Pennsylvania" or " * Springs, Pennsylvania".

Double Asterisk

An asterisk replaces one missing word in a query. You can use a double asterisk to replace two missing words. You can use as many asterisks in a search query as you'd want but the more actual words you're able to supply in your search phrase, the more likely you are to find what you're searching for.

Whole Worlds Only

Wildcard searches in Google work for whole words or phrases only. Google doesn't support a search in which an asterisk indicates a part or extension of a word: John* will not find Johnson in Google. Google does use stemming technology -- when appropriate, Google will search not only for your search terms, but also for words that are similar to some or all of those terms. For example, if you search for power, it will return searches for power, powers, powered, and powerful.

Google Genealogy Search Techniques

Try the Easy Google Genealogy Searcher which puts advanced Google features on one page with suggested keywords and advice about how each feature is useful for genealogy searches.

1 comment:

A rootdigger said...

I did know that much detail. I knew about quote marks, but didn't know asterick works on google. I am really glad you posted that.