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Soundex
Quick Guide   Abbreviations

The Soundex system began during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency when the administration formed the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA, which employed people to do many things for the government, also organized the Soundex system. These indexes, based on the sound of the surname, originally were prepared to assist the Census Bureau in finding records for persons who needed official proof of age from a period before all States had a uniform system of registering births.

The workers made a filing card for each household and listed every person in the census. Information on the cards include: name, age, location, birthday and relationship to the head of household. Not all of the original census information was recorded on the cards, but enough to identify the members of each household. All surnames were coded by giving a numerical value to each letter of the alphabet. The Soundex lists the census schedule county and page of all persons with the same surname or code.

The census records of 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 have been soundexed and other records will be processed in the future. The 1880 soundex (or miracode) indexes only the households with children 10 years of age or younger. The 1900, 1910 soundexes index only 21 States, mainly in the South. The 1930 census has soundex cards for the following states in their entirety: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In addition, there are Soundex indexes for the selected counties in Kentucky and West Virginia. Only the following Kentucky counties are indexed: Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Kenton, Muhlenberg, Perry, and Pike. Only the following West Virginia counties are indexed: Fayette, Harrison, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, and Raleigh. Why aren't all the states Soundexed? In the late 1930s, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) prepared the Soundex cards. When the WPA closed down in the early 1940s, no more Soundex indexes were created.

The Soundex is available on microfilm at the National Archives and its Regional Archives System, the LDS Family History Library, and larger public libraries throughout the county. Once you locate an ancestor in the soundex cards, you be able to make note of the enumeration district, city, county, state and page number where your ancestor is listed. Then you can order the microfilm of the original census record, to photocopy for your family history records.

Researchers who cannot find a name in Soundex or in a commercial index may want to consult enumeration district (ED) descriptions and maps before undertaking the time-consuming task of examining all the schedules for a county or locality.

Soundex Guide
Disregard the letters: A E I O U W Y H
#1 = B P F V
#2 = C S K G J Q X Z
#3 = D T
#4 = L
#5 = M N
#6 = R

Surnames with a prefix of Van, Von, De, Di, Le or La should be coded both with and without the prefix. It might be listed under either code. Mc and Mac are not considered prefixes.

Double letters should be treated as one letter.

  • Example: Lloyd. The second L should be slashed out. In the name Herring, the second R should be slashed out.
Different letters side-by-side which have the same coding number should be treated as one letter.

  • Example: Hamner. M & N are both in the #5 category, so they should be treated as one letter and the N should be slashed out.

  • Example: Jackson. C, K and S are all in the #2 category, so both the K and S should be slashed. This rule also applies when the letters are at the beginning of the surname.

  • Example: Pfister. Both P and F are in the #1 category, so the letter F should be slashed out.
If "H" or "W" separate two consonants with the same soundex number, the "H" or "W" is disregarded, and the second consonant is not coded.


Abbreviations and Terms Used in Soundex Cards

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


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