Research Our Records

Search Strategies: Soundex

Search Strategies

If the state you selected is one of the 12 southern states, the state search page you see next will include:

  • at the top, a graphic explaining the Soundex search
  • a search window for family name
  • a search window for Soundex code
  • additional search windows for geographic searches (see note below)
  • search tips for each window

Soundex Search
(only available for 12 southern states)

  • Step 1: Enter last name or Soundex code to find Soundex microfilm publication number and roll number.
  • Step 2: View the Soundex microfilm for the enumeration district (ED) number and sheet number.
  • Step 3: Enter the ED number to find the schedule microfilm roll number.
  • Step 4: View the schedule microfilm roll and locate the ED and sheet number.

The Soundex search allows you to enter a name or Soundex code to find out which roll(s) of Soundex microfilm to view. If you do not know the Soundex code, enter the name in the top window and press search. The system will translate the name into a Soundex code.

If you know the Soundex code already, enter it in the lower window and press search. Enter information in only one window.

Soundex Search Example

The Soundex results for a search of the family name "Smith" (S-530) in Virginia look like this:


Viewing the columns from left to right:

  • The NARA microfilm publication number for Virginia 1930 census Soundex is M2059.
  • The Soundex code S-530 is on rolls 106 - 108.
  • Clicking on the roll number will open a page with information about viewing the microfilm at a NARA facility and about how to buy or borrow it.
  • The family name entries on roll 106 include those for the Soundex code S-526 through Soundex code S-530 with the first name Jasper.

If you were looking for the Soundex entry for George Smith of Virginia, it should be found on roll 106. Likewise, if you were looking for Wilson Smith, you would check roll 108. There is no guarantee that there will be a card for George or Wilson __; only that the Soundex codes would be on this roll.

What is your next step?

Note the microfilm publication number and microfilm roll number of the roll(s) you wish to view. Then bring this information to a facility that has the census microfilm.

The Soundex cards on the microfilm are formatted like those below:



Please note:

  • Each card has a box for ED number and sheet. Record this information, being sure to include the numbers before and after the hyphen in the ED number. To find out which roll of schedule microfilm to view next, follow the steps under Search Enumeration Districts.

  • Geographic search windows are provided for all states and territories because some research may benefit from conducting a geographic search even when Soundex information is available. See geographic method for more information.

The 12 Soundex states are:
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (only counties of Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Kenton, Muhlenberg, Perry and Pike), Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia (only counties of Fayette, Harrison, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, and Raleigh).

Last updated March 9, 2002