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Soundex Codes             
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Codeing a SURNAME:

         To search for a name it is necessary to first determine its Soundex code. Every Soundex code consists of a letter and three numbers, for example S655. The letter is always the first letter of the surname. The numbers assigned to the Soundex coding guide below

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

          The letters A, E, I, O, U, W, Y, and H are disregarded. Consonants
          in each surname which sound alike have the same code.

  Use of Zero in Coding Surnames
          A surname that yields no code numbers, such as Lee is LOOO;
          one yielding only one code number such as Kuhne, takes two
          zeros and is coded K500; one yielding two code numbers takes
          just one zero; thus Ebell is coded as E140; No more than three
          digits are ever used, so Ebelson would be coded as E142 no
          E1425. There are approximately 7 more paragraphs of rules and
          exceptions -- but most will fit the above coding plan.

Further notes - by Charles Hansen, Contributor

         Soundex is another name for an index, created to group words that sound alike together. The WPA soundexed part of the 1880 census, all of the 1900 and 1920 census, and parts of the 1910 and 1930 census before World War II started. Why only part of the 1880 census? The reason they did part of the 1880 census was to help establish the ages of people eligible for social security in 1935, so they soundexed families that had children ages 10 and under in the 1880 census. A child 10 years old in 1880 would have been 65 in 1935, old enough to apply for social security. The 1910 census was only soundexed for the states without a statewide birth registration, and 1930 was stopped by World War II. In the Genealogy and Native American Community Library pages under Genealogy Tools is a soundex code guide (see above), where you can find the code for surnames before you check the soundex. Also there is a list of the abbreviations used in the soundex cards.

         This is a copy of a soundex card from the code W300, for Catherine Waite from the 1920 Census for the State of Washington. On the card you get her name, color, age, birthplace, citizenship (if an alien), county, city, street address and house address if in a city. Below that you get a list of other members of the family, their relationships, ages and birthplaces. This card the others have a different surname, so they will each have a soundex card also and it will say who they are enumerated with, in this case Waite, Catherine. The most important part of this card is in the upper right corner, it lists Volume 43 which does not help you, but the E.D. Enumeration District 194 will help you find the correct census film to then look up Sheet 9 and Line 39. The Census sheets contain 110 lines on two pages so Line 39 will be on the first page of Sheet 9. Where can you find the census soundex?? The National Archives, the LDS Family History Library, many local libraries and a lot of the Family History Centers keep some soundex films, and all of the films can be ordered from Salt Lake City at the Family History Center. So far none of the census soundexs have shown up in the online censuses of Ancestry. Since the soundex is just an index, your next step is finding the actual census. Many are online now and more are being added all the time.

         What happens if you can not find the person you are looking for in the soundex? Are you sure you have coded it properly? I have found names that start with Mc which should start M2__ to ignore the "C" and code the next three letters. Names with a Van or Von at the beginning may start with the name after the Van or Von. And remember the census taker may have messed up the spelling so bad even the soundex code did not group the surnames together. I found my great uncle Lawrence Hansen by checking for his brother John in the actual census, Lawrence was right next door. His name was spelled Lorense Hanson, and later I went back and checked, he was there, but I had not gone down the "L"s that far. Don't forget that double letters count as one and letters in the same code number count as one also. The surname Jackson is properly coded as J250.
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