If you can't get to one of Dan Lynch's talks about how to use Google to research your roots, the next best thing is to buy his Google Your Family Tree. It's an excellent reference book for finding ancestors and family information using the search engine we all use every day (and thought we knew how to use). I bought it after his talk last night and will leave it on my desk for handy reference after I finish reading.
His book's web site has preformatted search queries where you can plug in family names, places, dates, etc. and, with a click, put the power of Google to work for you. Try them here. I didn't know about using ~ or * for genealogical searches but now--look out!