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Power Searching in Ancestry.com Databases


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Wild About Wildcard

Since my ancestors appear under a variety of different name spellings, wildcard search is one of my best friends at Ancestry.com. My Dempsey OWENS appears as Dempsey, Demsey, Demsy, Demprey, Demdrey...you get the idea. Then there is OWENS, OWEINS, OWINS, OWEN, etc. The one biggest drawback to Ancestry.com wildcard search is that you have to include at least three characters before the wildcard character - so a search for OWE* will pick up OWENS, OWEN, and OWEINS, but still miss OWIN. A search for Dem* will pick up most first name variations for my Dempsey, however. Wildcard search is especially useful when searching for first name variations in combination with a common last name.

Wildcard search options at Ancestry.com:

  • An asterisk * represents 0-6 characters (i.e. a search for "john*" would return "john, johnson, johnsen, johnathon, johns," etc.).

  • Any use of the asterisk requires at least the first three letters of a name (you cannot search for "Ow*" but can use "Owe*").

  • A single character is represented by question mark "?" (i.e. a search for "Sm?th" will return both "Smith" and "Smyth").

Last, but certainly not least, be sure to keep a Research Log while you are searching Ancestry.com. Mark down who you searched for, where you searched for them, which variations you tried, and what your results were. This will help keep you from spinning your wheels and duplicating your research time as you move ahead with your research.

And, most of all, remember to have fun and be patient!

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