Google Genealogy: (*) Asterisk Wildcard

Google GenealogyBy Barry J. Ewell

Google treats the (*) asterisk wildcard as a placeholder for one or more words or letters. The Google search query can be written with the variations:

  • (partial word)*
  • “(Text) * (Text)”
  • “(Text) * (Text) * (Text)”
  • “* (Text)”

Find missing letters
You can use the asterisk to find missing letters of a root word or name (also known as truncation.) When you use the asterisk at the end at least three letters (correct: john* incorrect: jo*) it will usually represent from 0 to 6 characters.

Using the asterisk for truncation, also called stemming, is a technique that helps to broaden a search in various word endings and spellings.

  • educat* (returns educate, educated, education, or educational)
  • child* (returns child, childs, children, childrens, or childhood)
  • genetic* (returns genetic, genetics, or genetically)

Try using the asterisk with names. I find this especially helpful when searching for Scandinavian names. For example:

  • John* (Returns “John,” “Johnson,” “Johnsen,” “Johnathon,” or “Johns”)

Search for middle names/initials
For genealogy searches, the asterisk (*) is one way to search for a name that has a middle name or initial. An example of one query using the asterisk is “ora * jones.” This search sting returns pages containing Ora Jones separated by one or more words:

  • Ora W. Jones
  • Ora W Jones
  • Ora William Jones
  •  Ora; Murphy, Jones
  • Ora Lee Jones
  • Ora G. Jones

Note. It will not return results for Ora Jones with any middle name or initial. To search for web pages containing his name with a middle name or initial and his name with no middle name or initial, use this query:

  • “Ora * Jones” OR “Ora Jones”

Find a missing word in a phrase
You can find a missing word in a phase by subtitling an asterisk. For example, if you have a favorite quote and you can’t remember all the words, try using an asterisk to find the actual quote.

  • “a penny * is a penny earned”
  • “actions speak louder than *”

Try searching for variations of common phrases:

  • “a penny for your *”
  • “don’t put all your * in one basket”
  • “to be or * to be *”

Using more than one asterisk
You can use as many asterisks in a search phrase as you desire. Enter your phrase in a search query, put quotations around the phase and enter an asterisk in the places where you don’t remember the words. Sample queries follow:

  • “how will our children * they are if they do not * came from”

There was one time where I had a partial paragraph from a history of an ancestor. I wanted to try and see if I could find the whole history. Since Google only accepts 32 words in a query, I used the asterisk in multiple places to shorten the search. When I ran the search, I was able to find the full history. I have used a portion of the Gettysburg Address as an example of how to search for a sentence/paragraph using the asterisk.

  • “four score and * our fathers brought forth on * a new nation, conceived in liberty, and * that all men are * equal”

Search for missing text strings
Searching for “payson *ut” produces results with any number of missing words, including the following:

  • Payson, UT
  • Payson, Utah, UT
  • Payson, UT Co., UT
  • Payson, Utah County, UT