We’re not talking about playing cards! 😊 Although that can be fun too.
Many genealogy databases allow the use of a “symbol” to represent a letter, this is called a wildcard, as the symbol can be replaced with any other character during a search. This can be very helpful when unsure of spellings or more to the point unsure of how others might have spelt a name.
The symbols usually used as wildcards are the asterix and the question mark. The question mark usually replaces one letter and the asterix one or more letters. An example would be if you were looking for an ancestor with the surname “Andersen”. You know that this is often misspelt as Anderson. When searching you may wish to replace the second last letter with a ”?” ie: Anders?n. This will then search for any letter in the place of the question mark, so you will have a list that has Andersen, Anderson, Andersan etc. You could also replace the letter with the “*”, ie: Anders*n. The search return would include the names from the previous search but as an asterix looks at the possibility of more than one letter in that space, then you may also get responses like Andersson, Anderston etc.
The asterix is the more commonly used wildcard as it captures more however the question mark is a useful wildcard where you know that it is more likely that only letter would be in that field.