Ancestry.com announced a change to their search capabilities yesterday. I played with it for a few hours and was impressed! Before the change you had to use three characters and then either a * or a ?.
For example to search my maiden name McGinnis, you had to put MCG* to get variations of the ending of the name (innis, innes, ennis, ennes, uinness etc) But that didn't pick up MacG starts or McI starts or such variations as Magennis. So it was time-consuming and sometimes impossible, to think of all possible mis-indexed or mis-spelled variations.
Now you can put a wildcard first, such as *innis or ?cGinnis to catch all of those spellings and variations.
Try it. You'll like it! But you need to know the rules as posted by Ancestry.com:
Either the first or last character must be a non-wildcard character. For example, Han* and *son are okay, but not *anso*
Names must contain at least three non-wildcard characters. For example, Ha*n is okay, but not Ha*
You can use two wildcards in your name searches: the * (asterisk or star) and the ? (question mark).
* matches zero or more characters (example M*n*s picks up McGinnis, MacGinnis, McInnes, Magenis, and so on)
? matches one character only (example McGinn?s picks up McGinnes or McGinnis)
A really useful application of this new wildcard search capablity is the ability to replace the first letter of a surname! This allows for mistranscriptions or misindexing of such letters as "L" for "S" or "W" for "M" or "J" for "T". So if your surname of interest is Loomis, look for *oomis and that will pick up Soomis or other misrecorded names
Yesterday I was looking for a man named Lewis. But that name can be spelled Louis, and of course, mis-spelled in many ways. So I searched for l*is (remember, you must have 3 non wild-card letters) and bingo, there he was, as Louis.
I love this new search and am so glad Ancestry.com decided to set this up for researchers