How to Use Soundex




This information is  provide by :  NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION CENTRAL PLAINS REGION, 2312 East Banister Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64131.  Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the third Saturday of each month 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Beginning with the 1880 census, the censuses are index by the Soundex system.   To locate information about a person, you must know their name, the name of the head of the household, and the state or territory in which they lived at the time of the census.

1880                      The 1880 census is indexed only for families with children aged 10 years or younger

1890              A Department of Commerce fire in 1921 destroyed most of the 1890 census.  Although there is no Soundex, there is an alphabetical index for the small percentage of population schedules that survived.

1900         There is a Soundex index for all States.

1910             There is a Soundex index only for the following states:

Alabama           Kansas             North Carolina              Texas

Arkansas          Kentucky          Ohio                             Virginia

California          Louisiana          Oklahoma                     West Virginia

Florida              Michigan           Pennsylvania

Georgia             Mississippi        South Carolina

Illinois               Missouri            Tennessee

1920             There is a Soundex index for all states.

1930            These censuses are not yet available to the public because of legislation requiring a 72 -year delay in their release.


The Soundex Coding System


The soundex is a coded surname (last name) index based on the way a surname sounds rather than the way it is spelled.  Surnames that sound the same, but are spelled differently, have the same code and are filed together.  The soundex coding system was developed so that you can find a surname even though it may have been recorded under various spellings.

To search for a particular surname, you must first work out its code.  Every Soundex code consists of a letter and three numbers.  The letter is always the first letter of the surname.  The numbers are assigned to the remaining letters of the surname according to the soundex guide.

Soundex Coding Guide

 Before you begin write the name you are going to code:  I will be using the name ROBERTS for the example. Remember the first Letter of your code will be the First letter of the last name.  for me it will be the letter "R".

                    NUMBER                    REPRESENTS LETTER

                        1                                B, F, P, V

                        2                                C, G, J, K, Q, S, X, Z

                        3                                D, T

                        4                                L

                        5                                M, N

                        6                                R


You will disregard the letter A, E, I, O, U, H, W, and Y so slash them out. 

Names with Double Letters:

If the surname (last name) has any double letters, they should be treated as one letter. For example the two "l" in Collins are coded with one "4". (C452)

Names With Letters That Have The Same Number (side by side) On The Soundex System:

A surname may have different letters side-by-side that have the same number on the Soundex Coding Guide. Example  "cks" in JACKSON (2 is the number for C, K, S).  These letters should be treated as one letter.

Names With Prefixes:

Mc and Mac are not considered prefixes.  If a surname has a prefix, such as Van, Con, De, Di, La, or Le, code both with and without the prefix because it might be listed under either code.

You Will Use The Next Three Letters:

Again remember the First Letter remains a letter, the next three, unslashed letters, will be changed to the Soundex Code. If you do not have 3 letters add zero to give you a 3 digit code.  If you have additional unslashed letters disregard them.

My ROBERTS name now looks like (R)BRT, the code is R163

With your ancestor's name correctly coded, you are ready to use the microfilmed Soundex  Card index, which is organized by state, Soundex Code Number, and alphabetically by first name.

You will find a wealth of information on the index itself however the index was designed to lead you to  the exact location of the census records..Now that's another How to Use..

Keep Searching



Copyright´┐Ż April 1, 2000 Eleanor L. Denson-Wyatt. All Rights Reserved