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The Works Progress Administration created a name index for several of
the decennial censuses.The Soundex system was used by the National
Archives to index the U.S. censuses. It codes together surnames that
sound similar but have different spellings.
- Determine the soundex code for the surname.(Go to detailed step 1)
- Use the code to find the appropriate soundex reel that will contain the index card for the surname.(Go to detailed step 2)
- Use the E.D number from the soundex index card to locate the census schedule.(Go to detailed step 3)
- Locate your person in the Census schedule using the E.D number, sheet number, and line number obtained from step 3.(Go To Detailed Step 4)
- Determine the soundex code. To find out the soundex code (use the chart below).
The soundex code is a letter and 3 numbers. The letter should be the first letter of the person's last name.
Assign numbers to the next 3 letters of the surname using the chart below and the special rules listed after the chart. (Ex. Of a code: Surname King- K-520)
(See Additional Examples)
Represents The Letter
B P F V
C S K G J Q X Z
- Disregard all vowels and the following letters W, Y & H.
- If the name has double letters you should cancel out one of the letters (Ex. In the name Lloyd one of the L's should be canceled out).
- If at the end, you don't have 3 numbers you should add a 0.
- Names with the prefixes such as Von, Di or Le should be coded both with and without the prefix because it might be listed under either code. The surname Vandevanter, for example could be V-531 or D-153 Mc Mac are not consider prefixes.
- Names with letters side by side that have the same number on the soundex coding guide should be treated as one letter (EX. Jackson cks 2 is the number for ck and s therefore the k and s should be crossed out).
(a) If the person's name is Tiffany Jackson the soundex code will be J-250.
(b) If the person's name is Paulette Johnson the soundex code will be J-525.
(c) If the person name is John Lloyd the soundex code will be L-300.
2. Once you find out the soundex code (Ex. K-520), locate the correct
soundex microfilm. Place the film into the machine. Look for your
soundex number. Once you've located where your number begins, browse the screens until you find the card for the person you are seeking. Once you find the persons name, you should make a copy of the document. (Index Card)
(Note: Within a soundex code for a surname, the index cards appear
to be arranged alphabetically by the first name of the head of the
3. Use the copy of the index card to find out the E.D (Enumeration
District) number, city/county, sheet, and line number (Example: King,
Harry E.D number in which the person resided is 279). Find E.D number
and the city/county on the census schedule microfilm box.
(Note: You might not see 279 on the microfilm box, so you must look
in a range. 279 would be in Baltimore Co., Baltimore City E.D
number's 271-285 and that's the film you would need.)
4. Place the film into the machine. Find the E.D number, sheet number
and line number as listed on the copy of the index card (Example: King,
Harry is on sheet #57 with in E.D 279) go to the sheet number and line
number on the census schedule microfilm to find your person.
For Additional Information About The Soundex Index System
Soundex Converter (Automatically creates the Soundex Code from the
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