The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

SOLE Co-ordinator's Report March 1993

By Don Steel

In my last report, I described three publications which have been very useful to us: Ridlon's huge History of the Sole family, the George Soule volume of the Mayflower Project and the Soule Family Newsletter. Other publications we have acquired relate particularly to the stem long resident in Kelshall, Hertfordshire, not far from the Cambridgeshire border.

1. Sid's Family Robinson

In the last journal, the Secretary mentioned member Sid Robinson's 182‑page Sid's Family Robinson: The Story of an Early Twentieth Century Enfield Working‑Class Boy. This is a riveting autobiographical account prefaced by a family tree and information on Sid's descent from the Soles of Kelshall, Herts. Sid's grandfather, John Sole, changed his name to John Robinson for reasons unknown. It would be well worth buying your own copy, but alas, Sid tells me it is now out of print. Hopefully, when the society is in a stronger financial position, we can sponsor a reprint.

 2. A Fensom Family History

Kay Fensom Boyce kindly sent a complimentary copy of her A Fensom Family History which includes a pedigree of the Soles of New South Wales descended from Daniel Sole, born at Kelshall in 1832, who ernigrated to Australia and became a gold miller, and his wife Mary Anne Fensom. Perhaps there may turn out to be an earlier connection which could even make most of the Fensoms candidates for the Sole Society, for in 1578 the Bedfordshire Archidiaconal Visitations yield:

Tingryfe. Williain Fenson dyd begette Margarette Soulde with child before they were maryed and now they are maryed. Item. They have not received (communion) this Easter.

Margaret was probably sister of the George who is a possible candidate for the George of the Mayflower. William and Margaret married at Tingrith on 17 November 1577.

3. Kelshall booklets

Several booklets on Kelshall source material have been published by the village local historian, Ann King, (a contact given me by Linda Butler of Canberra, Australia), whom I visited shortly before the Society was founded and who has been extremely helpful. Although not directly relevant to the Sole family, they provide useful background and we have a full set.

4. Other Kelshall Material

Many members have sent material on the Kelshall Soles and their Australian and other branches: Linda Butler of Canberra; Jeff Stevenson of Ridehaven, South Australia; John Sole of Newport, Isle of Wight, (our editor); Derrick Dean of Bedford: Glenn Morgan of Romford, Essex; Evan and Annette Sole of Guyra, New South Wales.

Ann King gave me the address at Shefford, Bedfordshire, of an old man called Mr Harrison who ten years or so ago had helped his granddaughter to research the Kelshall Soles. The present occupier knew nothing of Mr Harrison, but a neighbour told me he died some years ago. She knew of his sons and grand‑daughter and recalled the name of his charlady. Fortunately it was all unusual one and she was able to locate her in the telephone book. The charlady in turn gave me the address of one of the sons. Peter Harrison. I visited him in Hitchin and he gave me his daughter Susan's address. It was well worthi the chasing around.

Susan Rolls has sent me an eight‑page letter jam‑packed with information and a bunch of family photographs and will surely be a tower of strength to the society. In the course of calling on a number of people listed in telephone directories I visited a Mr Cecil Sole of Letchworth, Herts. "My family came from a village in Hertfordshire." "What place?" I asked. "Oh, you wouldn't have heard of it; a small place called Kelshall". When I went to the car and re­emerged with around 50 Kelshall charts, Mr Sole's interest visibly increased. He invited me in, and soon we found a chart with his baptism on it. It was entitled "Unidentified entries". With his help I soon not only fitted those entries on but also got a mass of information about relatives in London, Australia and the United States. In addition to all this familly information, I have parish register extracts and other material specifically on the Sole family from Anne King, which I have cross­checked against the extracts supplied by descendants.

5. Sole Family Circus 

We have also received a lot of interesting information on the Sole Family Circus, owned by one of the great circus families of Australia. The four sons of Daniel's brother, Edward Sole of Kelshall who emigrated to New South Wales in 1856 and went to the goldfields, formed a band. This started off playing at other circuses but ‑ particularly after one of them, William. married into the Perry circus family ‑ set up a circus of their own. One of the four brothers, the younger Edward, was Linda Butler's ancestor. His wife would not allow him to stay with the circus continually travelling around.  

6. Buntingford Soles

Member Glad Willis is descended from the Soles of Buntingford; her ancestor George Sole was transported for horse stealing in 1827 and I am reasonably confident I have established her relationship with the Kelshall ones.

Because so many members belong to this stem I have given priority to the Kelshall and Buntingford Soles, and they alone now account for 50 charts. In April 1992, Linda Butler of the Kelshall, Hertfordshire branch visited England on business and we were able to organise a very pleasant Sole weekend for her. She spent the Friday evening with Fred and June Sole at Bretton, and stayed overnight. On the Saturday she accompanied me to the Federation of Family History Societies half­yearly conference at Hull where she met our President Pauline Saul, who is the Federation Administrator. On the way back, we visited Kelshall where we had an enjoyable reunion with Ann King and Sid Robinson, and found some Sole tombstones we did not know about, though most went some years ago with a vandalistic churchyard clearance. Linda has, incidentally, agreed to be our Australian representative and supplied us with a list of names and addresses from telephone directories which will be useful.

7. Other books

Two other books which have been sent to us must be given a brief mention here; a more detailed treatment must wait for later reports. The first is Charles Soole and his family, Ickleton, Cambs, England and Seaforth, Ontario, Canada 1600‑1900 by member Torn Richards of Edmonton, Alberta. His work meshes in beautifully with the researches of committee member Janet Hurst, whose husband descends from this family.

The second is From Three Years to Three Hours by Russell Lee Sowell on the Sowells of Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere. The title derives from the fact that in 1973 Russell and his wife made a trip by air covering in three hours the area which John Sowell and his family traversed in 1827‑1830 ‑ three long years by wagon train ‑ from Missouri, through Arkansas and finally Texas.

Other Information contributed by Members

Since our inaugural meeting, there has been a flood of information pouring in and it will probably take me around two years to clear it all. So if you have not yet had anything from me except the initial acknowledgment, please be patient. Once we are well established, it should be possible to keep up with the flow of new material, but at the moment, there is a backlog of work personally done by members, some of which is quite voluminous. Everything will be listed in a subsequent journal.

As well as volumes of past research contributed by members, there has also been the regular flow of forms completed by new members. Copies of SAUL, SEWELL and SOLLEY ones have been passed on to the respective coordinators. Speaking for the SOLE ones, though I am sure it applies to the others also, it will be quite a while before I am able to enter into correspondence with most of the new members, but when I am able to and charts are gradually made of their relatives, we should make enormous strides in recording hitherto unknown branches.

Our chart collection now stands at around 500 A2 charts (approx. 23 in x 16 in), though the amount of information on a chart varies considerably. They will eventually be listed in the journal.

Lastly, I have a terrible confession to make. George Soule of the Soule Kindred in America wrote to me to say he was in London and suggested we made contact to cement closer relations with the Soule Kindred. I phoned the number he gave a couple of times but got no reply. I put the letter on one side intending to write, but then promptly forgot all about it. The letter surfaced after the date George said he would be leaving London. I phoned the number on the off‑chance someone might know if he was still in England, but alas, no reply. My apologies to the Soule Kindred and to our own committee and members for losing this wonderful chance of liaison, Since then I have received a letter from their historian, Geraldine Sowle Schlosser, who as I mentioned in my last report is one of our members, congratulating us on all our work and on the journal, so it looks as if I have been forgiven! Muddles like this are one of the penalties of trying to do too many things at once.

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