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This form will convert a surname to the corresponding soundex code (4 characters), using the rules specified in the National Archive's handbook. Type the name in the ENTRY textbox and click the SOUNDEX button. The Soundex code will be displayed in the RESULT textbox.

Enter a Surname:

Soundex Result:

Note: Requires JavaScript 1.0 capable browser.

The Soundex Coding System

To find an individual among the millions listed in the 1900 and later censuses, you will use an index and filing system called the Soundex. The Soundex is a coded surname (last name) index based on the way a surname sounds, rather than the way it is spelled. Surnames that sound the same, but are spelled differently, like SMITH and SMYTH, have the same code and are filed together. Surnames that sound similar, like Miller and Müller, are also coded to the same Soundex. The Soundex coding system was developed so that you can find a surname even though it may have been recorded under various spellings.
To search for a particular surname, you must find out its code. Every Soundex code consists of a letter and three numbers, like M460. The letter is always the first letter of the surname. The numbers are assigned to the remaining letters of the surname according to the Soundex coding guide.
Most surnames can be coded using the following four steps. For names with prefixes, double letters, or letters side by side that have the same number on the Soundex coding guide, see "Additional Rules".

The number Represents the letters
1 B P F V
2 C S K G J Q X Z
3 D T
4 L
5 M N
6 R
Disregard the letters A, E, I, O, U, W, Y, and H.

Step 1
On the Surname line (line 1), write the surname you are coding, placing one letter in each box.
Step 2
On the Soundex line (line 2), write the first letter of the surname in the first box.
Step 3
On the Surname line (line 1), disregarding the first letter, slash through the remaining letters A, E, I, O, U, W, Y, and H.
Step 4
On the Soundex line (line 2), write the numbers found on the Soundex Coding Guide for the first three remaining unslashed letters. Add zeros to any empty boxes. Disregard any additional letters.

"Additional Rules"
If your surname has a prefix - like Van, Von, De, Di, or Le - you should code it both with and without the prefix because it might be listed under either code. The surname vanDever, for example, should be coded in two ways, as VANDEVER and DEVER. The soundex results will be V531 and D160, respectively. (Mc and Mac are not considered prefixes.)

If your surname has any double letters, they should be treated as only letter. Thus, in the surname Lloyd, the second L should be disregarded in coding the Soundex. In the surname Gutierrez, the second R should be disregarded.

Your surname may have different letters that are side by side and have the same number on the Soundex Coding Guide; for example, Pf in Pfister (1 is the number for both P and F); CKS in Jackson (2 is the number for C, K, and S). These letters should be treated as one letter. Thus, in the name Pfister, F should be disregarded, giving a Soundex of P236. In the name Jackson, K and S should be disregarded, giving a Soundex of J250.

With your ancestor's name correctly coded, you are ready to use the microfilmed Soundex card index for census records. They are organized by state, thereunder by Soundex code number, thereunder alphabetically by first name or initial.

Read my outline for using Soundex when accessing naturalization records.

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I would be very interested to hear from anyone with knowledge or an interest in the Miller family.

Moishe Miller

My home address is
           1374 East 28th Street
           Brooklyn NY 11210-5311

Last updated 1/2/00