The wildcard key “%” allows you to perform searches in many ways. You can search with “S%” to find all surnames beginning with “S”. You can search “%ward” to find all surnames ending in “ward”. The possibilities are endless.
Why would you want to use the wildcard key when you can search alphabetically or by soundex? Simply because there are so many various ways a surname can be spelled in our database some of which will not be found alphabetically or by soundex that you must be creative to find them. It is recommended that you try the first two searches before using the wildcard key.
For example, the name “Wright”. A strict alphabetical search will bring up all those spelled exactly “Wright”. A soundex will show “Wright”, “Wreight”, etc., but “Wr%” will list those instances you may not find in the previous two searches, such as “Write”, “Writ”, “Wrig[ht?]”, “Wr . . .”, etc. Using “%ight” would include “Wright” and “Right” while “%ite” would find all those names ending in “ite”. Wildcard searches take more time, but using this search you may find names that otherwise would be missed; perhaps an ancestor that you have been looking for, but did not find.
We have entered many names into our database from petitions. In all my years of researching, I have never seen so many different ways to spell a name.