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          Online Genealogy Class



           Instructor: Kathy Wedyke




More Search Techniques


Phrase Searching

It is all well and good to use the plus (+) symbol to include both the given name and the surname of an ancestor in your search, but it does you little good when searching the vast majority of family sites that have their pedigree information in databases.  There are so many names in such databases, that it is likely that your names will both be found, just not in relation to one another.  Consider your search for an ancestor by the name of Jebediah Smith:

+smith +jebediah 

This would turn up any page which contained both of those names - not taking into consideration the fact that the page has a Jebediah BRAZELTON and a Bob SMITH, but no trace of a Jebediah SMITH. This is where phrase searching comes in handy.  Phrase searching is a technique used to ask search engines to find documents that contain words in the exact order that you specify. You do this by enclosing your terms with quotation marks.  Using the previous example, this would look like:

"jebediah smith"

The search engine basically treats this as one search term and will only return pages that contain the term jebediah smith, as a phrase where the two words are next to each other.  This search technique too has its problems.  In the Jebediah SMITH example, the search would not have returned any pages which list last name first in their database, i.e. SMITH, Jebediah.

Pretty much all of the major search engines support phrase searching. AltaVista and Google actually attempt to perform automatic phrase searching as their default setting (meaning that you don't have to enclose your search terms in quotation marks when using those search engines). 

Wild Cards

Wild card searches are an extremely useful tool for genealogists.  A wild card search allows you to enter a character (*) to search for plurals of a word or variations in spelling.  Since names can be spelled in so many different ways, it is a tremendous help to be able to automate your search with the use of a wild card character.  This saves you from the tedious job of searching individually on all possible spellings of the name.

For example, I know that when I research my OWENS surname, I must also search on the singular OWEN.  The wild card search:


would return all matches to OWEN and OWENS.  

The major search engines which currently support wild card searches are AOL Search, AltaVista, HotBot, MSN Search, Northern Light, Snap, and Yahoo.  Excite, Google, Go, GoTo, LookSmart, Lycos, and WebCrawler do not currently support the wild card character.

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