For the 83 folks in that last groupand everyone else out there nodding their heads in curiosityweve put together this little overview:
The Soundex system is a way of coding similar-sounding surnames to help you find ancestors whose names were misspelled in census records or indexes. You can use FamilyTreeMagazine.com’s online Soundex generator to figure out the code for your surnamemine is H-330.
Once upon a time, genealogists would look through an actual card catalog, organized by state and then by Soundex code, for index cards with their familys name. The cards looked like this (click to see one), and told you which census volume and sheet listed your family.
Eventually, the index cards were microfilmed. The National Archives and Records Administration and the Family History Library have Soundex film for all the states; many state archives, large public libraries and genealogical societies have Soundex film for their states, too.
Nowadays, census databases such as Ancestry.coms ($155.40 per year) and HeritageQuest Onlines (free through many libraries) automatically search for surname spelling variationsthat’s why so many modern researchers haven’t used Soundex.
But many genealogists swear by Soundex microfilm indexes for locating especially hard-to-find ancestors in census records. One of our Two-Second survey respondents commented that he or she never uses any other form of census index. Theres an endorsement!