The asterisk is a wildcard that matches zero or more characters. For example, a search on 'Sam*' will bring back results that include 'Sam', 'Samantha', 'Samuel', etc. You can also search alternate spellings with the asterisk (*), which represents 0 to 5 unknown characters. The query Johann* will search for Johann and Johannes. A query for Smel*er will search for Smeltzer and Smelzer, among others. Note: You cannot use an asterisk as the first, second, or third character of a search term.
The question mark acts as a single-character wildcard. For example, a search on 'Eli?abeth' will bring back results that include 'Elisabeth' or 'Elizabeth'. Note: You cannot use a question mark as the first character of a search term.
NOTE: Using these symbols in combination is also an acceptable pratice. For example, a search for Eli?a* will return hits for Eliza, Elisa, Elizabet, Elisabet, Elizabeth, and Elisabeth, as well as Elijah, Elimar, etc.
The Keyword field can be used to search for any word you would expect to be found in the database you are searching. This can include things such as an occupation or a location. You are able to only search for keywords. Keep in mind that if you enter more than one term you will need to use quotation marks to ensure an exact phrase search, such as “The Great War.” If you choose to combine a name with a keyword and the database finds a match for the name, but not the keyword, it will not provide the results for you.
The Keyword field can be found on the following pages:
The Home tab (or Basic Search) searches across all source types in all collections by entering First, Middle, and/or Last Name details in conjunction with other optional fields:
Use the links found in the Quick Links, US Census, UK Census, or Canada Census Records boxes to narrow your search to more specific collections. Click the Card Catalog link to see all available data collections and select a category, sub-category, or one specific collection for searching or browsing.
Choose the Show More Options link from the Home tab or Search tab to display more parameters to construct a refined search as noted in the box above.
Exact Match options appear when you begin typing data into a search field. Exact matching options vary by field:
First & Middle Name
Locate spelling and sound variations of the name you entered by selecting from the additional options:
Restrict to exact matches and:
*Unchecked Exact box: When you use default settings, the system looks through every first name we have recorded in the data collections, and retrieves any record where the first name is:
These records are also evaluated against the other criteria entered, and are ordered based on how well all the elements in that record match your search.
Soundex is a common algorithm used to generate alternate spellings of a surname. If you choose this option, any record that contains one of the Soundex variations for a surname might appear in your results.
Click the Search tab to access the basic or advanced search page, additional search tools such as the listing of major categories and subcategories, as well as the Explore by Location interactive maps. The search form on this page is exactly the same as is seen on the Home tab; click the "Show more options" link to access additional search fields.