Guide to the Soundex System

The Soundex filing system, alphabetic for the first letter of surname and numeric thereunder as indicated by divider cards, keeps together names of the same and similar sounds but of variant spellings.

To search for a particular name, you must first work out the code number for the surname of the individual. No number is assigned to the first letter of the surname. If the name is Kuhne, for example, the index card will be in the "K" segment of the index. The code number for Kuhne, worked out according to the system below, is 500.

Soundex Coding Guide

    Code    Key Letters 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, y, w, and h are not coded.

The first letter of a surname is not coded.

Every Soundex number must be a 3-digit number. A name yielding no code numbers, as Lee, would thus be L000; one yielding only one code number would have two zeros added, as Kuhne, coded as K500; and one yielding two code numbers would have one zero added, as Ebell, coded as E140. Not more than three digits are used, so Ebelson would be coded as E142, not E 1425.

When two key letters or equivalents appear together, or one key letter immediately follows or precedes an equivalent, the two are coded as one letter, by a single number, as follows: Kelly, coded as K400; Buerck, coded as B620; Lloyd, coded as L300; and Schaefer, coded as Sl60.

If several surnames have the same code, the cards for them are arranged alphabetically by given name. There are divider cards showing most code numbers, but not all. For instance, one divider may be numbered 350 and the next one 400. Between the two divider cards there may be names coded 353, 350, 360, 365, and 355, but instead of being in numerical order they are inter- filed alphabetically by given name.

Such prefixes to surnames as "van," "Von," "Di," "de," "le," "Di," "D'," "dela," or "du" are sometimes disregarded in alphabetizing and in coding.

The following names are examples of Soundex coding and are given only as illustrations.

    Name                 Letters Coded        Code No.

    Allricht             l, r, c              A462
    Eberhard             b, r, r              E166
    Engebrethson         n, g, b              E521
    Heimbach             m, b, c              H512
    Hanselmann           n, s, l              H524
    Henzelmann           n, z, l              H524
    Hildebrand           l, d, b              H431
    Kavanagh             v, n, g              K152
    Lind, Van            n, d                 L530
    Lukaschowsky         k, s, s              L222
    McDonnell            c, d, n              M235
    McGee                c                    M200
    O'Brien              b, r, n              0165
    Opnian               p, n, n              O155
    Oppenheimer          p, n, m              O155
    Riedemanas           d, m, n              R355
    Zita                 t                    Z300
    Zitzmeinn            t, z, m              Z325

Native Americans, Orientals, and Religious Nuns

Researchers using the Soundex system to locate religious nuns or persons with American Indian or oriental names should be aware of the way such names were coded. Variations in coding differed from the normal coding system.

Phonetically spelled oriental and Indian names were sometimes coded as if one continuous name. or, if a distinguishable surname was given, the names were coded in the normal manner. For example, the American Indian name Shinka-Wa-Sa may have been coded as "Shinka" (S520) or "Sa" (S000). Researchers should investigate the various possibilities of coding such names.

Religious nun names were coded as if "Sister" was their surname, and they appear in each State's Soundex under the code "S236." Within the State's Soundex Code S236, the names are not necessarily in alphabetical order.

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last edited 25 Jul 2008

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