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The soundex index system is a method of encoding names so that similar sounding, but differently spelled names will have the same code. Names like Smith, and Smythe have the same code. The 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses are indexed using soundex.

The soundex algorithm:
The soundex code consists of the first letter of the surname, followed by three digits. The digits are based on the consonants as in the following table:

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 vowels are not used. If two or more adjacent (not separated by a vowel) letters have the same numeric value, only one is used. This also applies if the first (which is used for the letter in the code), and the second letter in name have the same value; the second letter would not be used to generate a digit. If there are not three digits after the consonants are convert, the code is filled out with zeros. The name Lee has no consonants after the L, so the soundex code would be L000.

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The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy
The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy
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