The Soundex Indexing System

Soundex Indexing System

The Soundex Indexing System is something you need to know when you are doing family genealogy research and it is not difficult to understand, if you practice with it at home. Whether you have worked with Soundex or are a beginner, practice with your name, a friend's or relative's last name. The Soundex Indexing System is coding only the last name and only the consonants.

Take the census records you must know soundex as well as their full name, state or territory in which he/she lived in any census year.

The soundex is a coded surname (not christian name) index based on the way a surname sounds rather
than the way it is spelled. We have Rogers (more common) and we have Rodgers; don't forget Smith, Smyth or Smythe. The soundex system was developed so that you can find a surname even though it may have been recorded under various spellings. To search a certain surname, you must first figure out its code.

The following is the Soundex Coding Guide:

Number- Represents the Letters

1. B,F.P,V.

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

3. D, T.

4. L.

5. M, N.

6. R.

Think as if you were going to file a folder by the surname. Let us now code Rogers: R-262. How did I do this. The name to be filed under R, next there are only 3 letters ever coded. The first number is 2 for g, second is 6 for r and the third is 2 for s. Verify this with above code.

Now for Rodgers: R-326, R for last name, 3 for d, 2 for g and 6 for r. When filing and searching online both spelling would be found under the more common spelling of Rogers: R-262.

How about Smith, Smyth, Smythe? S-530 S for last name 5 for m, 3 for t, no other letters to code so you end with an 0. Smith spelled all ways is coded S-530.

Here is an easier one my surname: Hall, H-400, H for last name, 4 for L and 0 for no other letters. You ask but there are Ls', yes but always code only once. Here is another example:

Campbell: C-514, C for last name, 5 for M, 1 for P, 4 for L. Note: P and B are both coded 1, and we only code once no matter if it is a double L or 2 letters under same coding number as P and B are coded under the number 1.

When researching ancestry whether it is yours or helping a friend or relative, keep a card with the above code handy. An example are the names of Civil War Veterans are Soundex Coded and so are most of the immigrant arrivals.

Also go to the National Archives page for more coding rules at:

Publications Genearal-Info Leaflets.

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