What is the SOUNDEX coding system?
The Soundex is a system that was derived for grouping together surnames (last names) that sound alike but that have variant spellings. This is useful in situations where there are large lists of surnames in a single file that might be confused, because they are hand written and the writing is hard to read, because the person recording the name might make a spelling error, or because the spelling of the name may have changed over time. Soundex is used for all kinds of purposes, including indexing of census materials and formulating the license number on many state driverís licenses (including Minnesota).
This function is accomplished by grouping letters together that are often mistaken or substituted for each other. Each of these groups is assigned a number, and then those numbers are used to code a surname.
In the Soundex system, surnames are coded according to the following rules :
The following letters DO NOT get coded :
A, E, I, O, U, Y, W, H
Deriving a Soundex code
Every Soundex code that is derived must be a letter followed by a 3 digit number. The first letter of the surname is the first letter of the Soundex code. "Sanderson", for instance would start with "S". The following digits are derived by selecting the next letter in the name that appears in the chart above and using that number as the next digit. The next letter in our example of "Sanderson" would be an "N" and the code would then be "S5". This is repeated until the code is a letter and 3 digits. Again, using our example of "Sanderson", the code would be "S", next letter "N" yields a "5" for "S5", next letter "D" yields a "3" for "S53" and next letter "R" yields a "6" for "S536" the Soundex code for Sanderson.
A name yielding no code numbers after the initial letter, such as "Lee" would be coded as "L000". A name yielding only one number would also add zeros, such as "Khune" which would yield a code of "K500", and two numbers would add one zero as in "Abel" which would yield a code of "A140". Never are more than 3 digits used, so in our original example of "Sanderson" you stop with "S536".
When two key letters or equivalents appear together they are coded by a single number as follows :
Kelly : K400
Buerck : B620
Lloyd : L300
Schaefer : S160
Macki : M200
Such prefixes to surnaes as "van", "Von", "Di", "Le", "De", "Dí," "dela", or "du" are sometimes disregarded in both coding and alphabetizing.
Organization of the Soundex files
Once the code is derived, then you find the roll of microfilm that contains the records with your Soundex code. For Federal Census Records, the records within a Soundex code are filed alphabetically by given (first) name. Typically, then you can find several people with the same first name and different, but similar sounding, last names, interfiled.
One word of advice : Always remember to check entries that might be filed by first initial, for example "Smith, A" rather than "Smith, Adolp", or also other variants of a name such as "Smith, Adolphus".
Working with abbreviations used in Soundex records
The following abbreviations are used in the Soundex under Relationship to the Head of Household :
You may find additional codes under "Citizenship Status". The following chart explains those.