Soundex Codes and the Washington State Death Index

Recently received a Tip Sheet from about problems with finding people in the Washington State Death index on microfilm. The problem she talked about was with names that started with Mc. Was the “c” included in the soundex code or not for the name? I actually used that index so much that I don’t even go to the cheat sheet to see how the letters were coded anymore. I had read that you need to look both ways on names like Mc or Mac. Names that start with O’ or Van or Von may have been coded with or without the O’, Van or Von. So O’Connor may be soundexed  as O256 or C560! Van Dorn may have been soundexed as V536 or D650.

Ancestry bought those same microfilms and with OCR posted the Washington Death Index in Ancestry, but they missed bunches of people. Was it a problem with the soundex code? I don’t think so, as they used the actual names of people. I know they missed one whole microfilm and I guess because the 1920-1929 microfilm is very hard to read. Ancestry also missed bunches of people in the 1950s. Why? This is my theory, if you look at the microfilms the earlier years used a two column field for the death month, so 01, 02, …, 11,12. But in the 1950s they switched to a single column, so 1,2,3,…,9,O,N,D. Now any person reading that can see October, November and December, but did the OCR software looking for a number in that field see a number or did it skip those people?

Years ago the Washington State Digital archives was looking for some Washington  databases to index and I suggested that Family Search had the Washington State death certificates on microfilm from 1907 through 1960, and that would be a great database to index. Family Search sent the archives a copy of those death certificates and volunteers indexed those death certificates from the actual death certificates, not by copying the soundex index the state had done. When the death certificate index was done the death certificates went online at the digital archives. A few days later they disappeared and a note on how to get a certified copy from the state appeared on each entry in the index. That same index done by Washington State volunteers is on Family Search now and Family Search added the film  and image number for everyone in that index, so you could order the correct microfilm from Salt Lake City to get a copy of a death certificate.  That was great as Spokane and Spokane County, Yakima and Yakima county death certificates were on different microfilms, so which one to order was hard to figure out.

In the August 2016 Seattle Genealogical Society Tip of the Week they show how to find that death certificate online in the Family Search Catalog.

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2 comments on “Soundex Codes and the Washington State Death Index

  1. Roxanne Lowe says:

    Excellent article! Should be shared with everyone trying to find someone in the Death Index.

  2. Patty Olsen says:

    Great job! Thanks.

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