Soundex Codes

Soundex is a method of grouping records by the sound of a word, such as a surname. By grouping records it becomes easier to search a smaller 'stack' for what you need. While online records that let you search every word (or almost every word) make this approach less important than before widespread availability of computerized records, many offline records still use this method.

This method has drawbacks. It works well for European names but tends to fall down or create really large groups (too large sometimes) with Asian, Middle Eastern, African or Slavic names.

The code consists of a letter followed by 3 digits. To convert your name:

  1. Take the first letter of the word you are going to convert to Soundex.
    1. So, for example, if the name is WILLIAMS then you would start with the letter "W".
    2. If the word begins with a prefix – such as O, Mc, Mac, Le, De, La, Von, Van, etc – you may want to code the word with and without the prefix.
    3. Note that the first letter is never converted to a number.
  2. Remove the following letters from the name: A, E, I, O, U, Y, W, H
    1. Our example, WILLIAMS, then becomes W followed by LLMS.
    2. So we convert the rest of the word to numbers.
  3. If you have the same letter 2 times in a row, such as "LL" in our example, remove one of the letters.
    1. So we now have: LMS
  4. Change each remaining letters to numbers using the chart below.
  5. Stop coding when you have 3 digits.
    1. SCHERMERHORN, for example, would create S265665 but we only need S265.
  6. When done converting letters to numbers if you do not have 3 digits then add zeros (0) until you have 3 digits.
    1. DUNN, for example, results in D5 so you should pad the code until you get D500.
  7. Our example, then, becomes, W452.
SOUNDEX CODING CHART
If you have the following letters Use this number
B, F, P, V 1
C, G, J, K, Q, S, X, 2
D, T 3
L 4
M, N 5
R 6

 

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