Wildcard advice please!

Can someone please help me track down Sir Hervey de Stanhoe and in the process get to understand wildcard searching in DA 3.3?

Medieval spelling being what it was, the gentleman I seek appears variously as “Hervey de Stanhoe”, “Hervey de Stanhow”, “Herevi de Stanhowe”, “Hervey de Stanho” and so on. So wildcards seem appropriate here.

A Web (Fast) search for “Her* de Stanho*” produces one result, which happens to match “Hervey de Stanhow”. But a simple search for “Hervey de Stanhoe” gives 16 relevant results, and all the other spellings I quoted above produce at least a couple, so something is wrong.

I’ve tried all sorts of similar search strings, including “Her* BEFORE/3 Stanho*”, but with no success. Can it be done, and if so, how?


Wildcards are only fully supported by secondary search terms (see “Settings” tab) or by search sets querying a number of websites on their own (see for example the “Marketing” search set).

But the default/primary search term which is sent to search engines should usually not include wildcards as (almost) all search engines don’t support them.

In this case the easiest solution would be to use multiple phrases:

“Hervey de Stanhoe” OR “Hervey de Stanhow” OR “Herevi de Stanhowe” OR “Hervey de Stanho”

Christian, many thanks for taking the time to reply to what you probably see as a very basic question. I suggest that the manual might better explain how to use wildcards in a secondary query, especially since you make so much of the wildcard feature.

In this instance I got good results (better than Google) from:

(Hervey OR Herevi) AND (Stanhoe OR Stanhow OR Stanho OR Stanhou)

For a secondary query, could I use:

“Herv* de Stanho*”

with the quotes, or is it better to have:

Herv* NEXT de NEXT Stanho*

without quotes? Both of these seem to work reasonably well, but they return different numbers of results.

Your suggested combinations including the “de” don’t work well, because any version of the first name can occur in combination with any version of the second name. Also notice that I came across a further spelling, “Stanhou”, that I hadn’t expected, and a “Stanho*” wildcard would have picked this up.

Perhaps this is an extreme example, but it’s just kind of thing that I had hoped DA would be most useful for.


These queries are only almost identical, proximity operators (like NEXT) combine only two words/wildcards, it’s not (yet) a sequence. Therefore the first query is recommended.

Thank you.

Belated reply – I have to agree with Chazzo on this. Where in the manual does it say this very crucial fact about wildcards not permitted in the initial search field? There is a lot about wildcards and keywords. Isn’t this a hugely important detail?

It’s not reasonable to expect us to guess this. The remote search sites do not support the keywords (e.g. NEXT, OPT) either, in most cases, and yet, DA still makes it happen. Since DA is intended to be a smart assistant, we just assumed that in the same way DA makes keywords work, it would also make wildcards work – perhaps by using dictionary lookups or whatever.

I’m not saying that’s viable. I’m just saying that we’ve been apparently damaging our search results by using wildcards, and it’s very frustrating.

I really want DA to be worthwhile, but I rarely get a result that’s worth the effort. Which either means I don’t know how to use the tool – despite reading the manual – or the tool doesn’t do the job.

Christian – if you or the other Devon people actually use DA to find things, please post examples of real searches, how precisely you execute them, and how the results are better than google et al. I’m a researcher. I need this to work.

Thanks much.