This post was most recently updated on January 25, 2019
Wildcards are great if there are multiple spellings or possible misspellings of a name. Two common wildcards are the question mark [?] and asterisk [*].
- Use a question mark to replace a single letter. For example, if the person you’re searching for has the surname “Johansen” but you aren’t sure if it’s spelled –son or –sen, you can search [Johans?n], and that will return results for both “Johanson” and “Johansen,” as well as other variations.
- Use an asterisk to replace multiple letters. If you think there might be a double S in the surname “Johansen,” searching for [Johan*n] will return results for “Johansen” and “Johanssen,” in addition to “Johanson,” “Johansson,” and other possible spellings.
You can also make use of quotation marks to keep two or more words next to each other in the results
- Use quotation marks to keep first and last name together. For example a search for [William D Johansen] results in 218,116 matches, while [“William D Johansen”] yields 8 matches.
- Also, don’t be afraid to remove quotation marks from your search term if your not getting the results you want and try filtering by location and/or year to narrow the search results.
Boolean operators can help you focus your search. Two common ones are “or” and “not.”
- Use “or” between your search terms to return matches that have either (or both) of your terms. For instance, if you are searching for news stories that mention either William Johansen or his brother, John, you can search for [“William Johansen” OR “John Johansen”] and the search will return results with matches for just William Johansen or just John Johansen, as well as results with both names.
- Use “not” between search terms to help eliminate irrelevant results. If you are searching for “William Johansen” but you don’t want to see any results that also talk about his brother, John, you can search for [“William Johansen” NOT “John Johansen”], and that will get rid of any matches for William that also mention John.
- Another example of using “not” is for common phrases or places. A last name like Francisco may return search results for the city of San Francisco. Search [“Charles Francisco” NOT “San Francisco”].
So if you’re having trouble finding the right person in your search results, try using wildcards, quotation marks, or Boolean operators!