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Soundex Coding
How it Works - How to Determine it


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Soundex was used by the National Archives to index the U.S. censuses.  It codes together surnames that sound similar but have different spellings, i.e. Lorren and Lauren.  Lorren Soudex is Lorren = L650; other surnames
sharing this Soundex Code: LARN | LAUHARN | LAWHORN | LEARN |

The Soundex Algorithm

    Soundex codes begin with the first letter of the surname followed by a
three-digit code that represents the first three remaining consonants.
Zeros are added to names that do not have enough letters to be coded.

Soundex Coding Guide

    Consonants that sound alike have the same code

        1 - B,P,F,V
        2 - C,S,G,J,K,Q,X,Z
        3 - D,T
        4 - L
        5 - M,N
        6 - R

        The letters A,E,I,O,U,Y,H, and W are not coded.

    Names with adjacent letters having the same equivalent number are
coded as one letter with a single number.
    Surname prefixes such as La, De and Van are generally not used in the
soundex. However, Mc, Mac and O generally are not considered prefixes
and are coded for soundex.

To Calculate a Soundex Code by Hand:

    1.  Print name on a piece of paper: Lorren
    2.  Cross out spaces, punctuation, accents and other marks:  Lorren
    3.  Cross out any of the following characters A, E, I, O, U, H, W, Y
         Unless they are the first letter of the surname:  Lorren = Lrrn
    4.  Cross out the second letter of duplicate characters:  Lrrn = Lrn
    5.  Cross out the second letter of adjacent characters with the
         same soundex number: None for Lorren
    6.  Convert characters in positions 2 to 4 to a number:
         L = L, r = 6, n = 5 =L65

            B, P, F, V = 1
            C, S, K, G, J, Q, X, Z = 2
            D, T = 3
            L = 4
            M, N = 5
            R = 6

     7.  Fill any unused positions with zeros (remember the codes have to
          have one letter followed by at least three numbers): L650

Soundex Limitations:

    Names that sound alike do not always have the same soundex code.  For example, Lee (L000) and Leigh (L200) are pronounced identically, but have different soundex codes because the silent g in Leigh is given a code.
    Names that sound alike but start with a different first letter will always have a different soundex code.  For example, names such as Carr (C600)
and Karr (K600) should be calculated separately.
    The Soundex system is based on English pronunciation so European names may not soundex correctly.  For example, some French surnames with silent last letters will not code according to pronunciation. This is true with the French name Beaux - where the x is silent.  Sometimes this surname is also spelled Beau (B000) and pronounced identically to Beaux (B200), yet they will have different soundex codes.
    Sometimes names that don't sound alike have the same soundex code. If you are looking for Powers (P620), you will also have to look through
Pierce, Price, Perez and Park because they all have the same soundex
    Surnames with prefixes were usually coded without the prefix, but not always.  If you are searching for a surname such as DiCaprio or LaBianca,
you should try the soundex for both with and without the prefix.
    US Census soundex confusion arises with names such as Ashcraft.
When the original soundex coder didn't code the H and didn't consider the
H as a separator between the adjacent letters with the same code S and
C, then the S and C would be considered adjacent letters to be coded only
once and the soundex will be A261. In the 1920 NY Census, Ashcraft is
found under A261.
    Those who coded the soundex for the 1880*, 1900 and 1910** census
may or may not have used this rule. They sometimes considered the H
as a separator, and did not code the S and C as adjacent letters that
would only be assigned one letter, but rather gave a number code to each letter.  In this case Ashcraft would be A226.
    The important thing to know is that the US Census was not consistent
with using the letter H and W as separators between adjacent letters. If you
are trying to calculate the soundex for a name with the letters W or H that
separate two adjacent letters, it is best to calculate the soundex using the
two different methods to locate the name in the US census. This would be
true of any name that has any of the letters C,S,G,J,K,Q,X,Z on both sides
of the letter H or W such as SHC, SHS, CHS, KHZ, SWS, KWS, CWK.
    A surname of more than one word, or a surname that commonly comes
before a given name, such as Native Americans and Chinese surnames,
may have been coded under the name which appears last, even though it
might not be the actual surname. In the case of multi-word surnames, only
the last word may have been coded.

Uses for the Soundex Code

    Once you have a soundex code for a surname, you can order the
soundex microfilm for the 1880*, 1900, 1910** and 1920 US census. This
census soundex microfilm is an index to the actual census where you will
receive a lot more information than is on the census soundex. If you cannot
find your ancestor with the soundex code you calculated for his surname,
try a soundex variation keeping the soundex limitations (see above) in mind.  The purpose of the soundex indexing system is to keep all spelling
and pronunciations of a given name together, but because of the limitations
of the soundex, you may have to try different spellings of a name that may
give you a different soundex code.
    Do not assume that your surname was always spelled the way it is today, and that is the way it will appear on the census 100 years ago. The census
taker, in a lot of cases, wrote the surname how he heard it. Try listening
outloud to the surname and write down as many spelling variations as you
can think of. One of these may be how your surname was spelled in the

    *There is only an 1880 soundex census if there was a child under the age of 10 living at
that address.

    **The 1910 U.S. Census was indexed for only a handful of states, and it was called the
Miracode instead of Soundex. The states indexed in the Miracode system for the 1910 U.S.
Census are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky,
Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania,
South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Soundex Cards Abbreviations:
A = Aunt FoSi = Foster sister Nl = Nephew-in-law
Ad = Adopted GA = Great aunt Nu = Nurse
AdCl = Adopted Child Gcl = Grandchild O = Officer
AdD = Adopted daughter GD = Grand-daughter P = Patient
AdGcl = Adopted        grandchild GF = Grand-father Pa = Partner
AdM = Adopted mother GGF = Great-grandfather Ph = Physician
AdS = Adopted son GGGF = Great-great-grandfather Por = Porter
AiL/All = Aunt-in-law GGGM = Great-great-grandmother Pr = Prisoner
Ap = Apprentice GGM = Great grandmother Prl = Principal
Asst = Assistant GM = Grand-mother Prv = Private
At = Attendant Gml = Grandmother-in-law Pu = Pupil
B = Brother GN = Grand or great nephew R = Roomer
Bar = Bartender Gni = Grand or great niece S = Son
Bboy = Bound boy Go = Governess Sa = Sailor
Bgirl = Bound girl God Cl = God child Sal = Saleslady
BiL/Bll = Brother-in-Law GS = Grandson Sb = Stepbrother
Bo = Boarder Gsl = Grand-son-in-law Sbil/Sbl = Stepbrother-in-law
Boy = Boy GU = Great uncle Scl = Step child
Bu = Butler Gua = Guardian Sd/SD =  Stepdaughter
C = Cousin Guest = Guest Sdil/Sdl = Step daughter-in-law
Cap = Captain Hb = Half brother Se = Servant
Cha = Chamber Maid Hbl = Half brother-in-law Se.Cl = Servant's child
Cil = Counsin-in-law He = Herder Sf = Stepfather
Cl - Child Help = Help Sfil/Sfl = Step father-in-law
Coa = Coachman H.Gi = Hired girl Sgd = Step granddaughter
Com = Companion Hh = Hired hand Sgs = Step grandson
Cook = Cook Hk = Housekeeper Si = Sister
D = Daughter Hlg = Hireling SiL/Sl = Son-in-law
DiL/Dl = Daughter-in-law Hm = Hired man Sm = Stepmother
Ddla = Day laborer Hmaid = Housemaid Smil/Sml = Step mother-in-law
Dom = Domestic Hls = Half sister Ss = Stepson
Dw = Dish washer Hsil = Half  sister-in-law Ssi = Stepsister
Emp = Employee H = Husband Ssil = Step sister-in-law
En = Engineer Hw = Houseworker Ssl =Step son-in-law
F = Father I = Inmate Su - Super-intendent
FaH = Farm hand L = Lodger Ten = Tenant
FaL = Farm laborer La = Laborer U = Uncle
FaW = Farm worker Lau = Launderer Ul/Uil = Uncle-in-law
FB = Foster brother M = Mother Vi = Visitor
FF = Foster father Maid = Maid W - Wife
Fi = Fireman Man = Manager Wa = Warden
First C = First cousin Mat = Matron Wai - Waitress
FiL/FL/Fl = Father-in-law ML/MiL = Mother-in-law Ward = Ward
FM = Foster mother N = Nephew Wkm = Workman
FoB = Foster brother Ni = Niece Wt = Waiter
FoS = Foster son Nil = Niece-in-law --------------------------------

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