The Soundex is a system begun during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency. His
administration wanted to put many people to work in government programs.
One of these programs was the WPA, which employed people to do many
things for the government including organizing the Soundex.
These workers each took the census records, one county at a time, and wrote
out a filing card for each household, naming all people listed in the census.
Included on the card are: name, age, location, birthday and relationship to
head of household for every person in every household. Not all information on
the original census is given, but enough to identify the members of each
household. Every surname was given a code (see Soundex code). These
codes give numerical value to each letter of the alphabet.
The workers began with the 1900 census and listed each household in the
entire United States on a separate file card. This system enables us to look at
one surname in a whole state and find the exact locality of all persons in the
state with that surname. Then we can go to the census records for that county,
find the page listed in the Soundex and view all of the information collected by
the census taker. No longer is it necessary to spend hours and hours looking
at every entry, county by county to find the right entry.
Census records from 1880, 1900 and 1910 have been soundexed as of 1995.
Others records will be processed in the future.