Sites that allow for “soundex searches” will return results that “sound like” the name that has been entered in the search box. A search for the last name of Neill with the soundex option included will return not only Neill, but also Neal, Neil, Nowell, Newell, and similar names. It will not return O’Neill, MacNeill, Netil or other names that “sound” different.

The coding for how soundex works basically looks at the initial letter of the name, omits the letters a, e, i, o, u, y, w, and h, ignores double letters, and only is concerned with the three sounds past the first letter (if the name has three sounds past the first three letters). Those sounds are given codes based on 6 letter groups as shown:

NumberUsed in place of a
1B, F, P, V
2C, G, J, K, Q, S, X, Z
3D, T
5M, N

That’s how it gets at the “sound” of the name and why a search for Neill returns the names listed (in addition to others). Neill, when the required letters are removed and the double “l” is considered once, only has one sound past the “N.” Just like Nowell and just like Newell.

Trautvetter is soundex equivalent to Troutfetter but it is not soundex equivalent to Trantvetter. A soundex search for Trautvetter will find Troutfetter but will not Trantvetter. That’s because the Trantvetter spelling has an “n” where the “u” was.

You can learn more about soundex here.

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