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Genealogy How-To
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First Name:

As you may know, most last names can be spelled in a variety of ways. For example, "Smith" can also be spelled "Smyth," "Smithe," and "Smythe." This is one of the reasons why the Works Progress Administration created Soundex in the late 1930s. Soundex is a method of giving names sound codes. It is important to understand, because it was used by the United States government to index the surnames of some of the United States census records and ship passenger lists. By grouping together last names that sound similar, Soundex allows people to search for ancestors, even when the surname may have been recorded in any of several different spellings. Only the 1880, 1900, 1920, and part of the 1910 census have Soundex indexes.

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