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

SOLE Co-ordinator's Report - April 2001

By Maureen Storey

In this journal we welcome new member Tony Wright, who is a descendant of Mary Ann Simmonds Soul. Mary Ann, the daughter of Joseph Soul and Ann Simmonds was born in Islington in 1845 and is a member of our largest Gloucestershire family that has been traced back to John Soul and Keziah Clark who married in the parish of Eastington and Alkerton on 4 July 1737. Coincidentally we’ve also been exchanging information with Edwin Ashby, a descendant of Mary Ann’s brother, Joseph Simmonds Soul. We’ve put both Tony and Edwin in touch with Brendan Soul, the great grandson of George Simmonds Soul, brother of Mary Ann and Joseph. Anyone interested in the descendants of John and Keziah Soul can see the family tree on Brendan’s website at

Michael Henson emailed to discover if we knew anything about his great grandmother Sarah Craggy Sowells. We’ve been able to give him enough information to take his research back to Sarah’s grandparents George and Harriet Sowells of Great Yarmouth and he is now investigating the Great Yarmouth records to see if he can find any clues to George’s origins. This is one area where there may be some overlap of the Society’s names: Sowell(s) is a rare name anywhere but Sewell is common in the Great Yarmouth area.

Another of our recent queries came from Sasha Minter in the USA who was seeking information on the family of her mother Evelyn Sole of Whittlesey, CAM. We’ve been able to help expand her research back to the 1763 marriage of William Sole and Sarah Berry at Willingham, CAM. Sasha hopes to visit the UK soon and is planning to include a trip to Cambridgeshire to see where her family came from.

Amy Soule contacted us hoping that we might be able to help to find the origins of Aaron Soles who according to the censuses was born in Ontario, Canada, in about 1812. Although Canadian born, Aaron’s nationality is given in the censuses as English so Amy presumes his parents were probably recent arrivals from England. Aaron married Catherine Belfour in 1835 in Ontario and they had three sons: George, Benjamin Gabriel and David, and five daughters: Margaret Ann, Caroline, Jane Eliza, Eleanor and Catherine. Two of the sons settled in the USA and today their descendants can be found in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Ontario. Unfortunately we had nothing in the database that was of help to Amy and she’s continuing to search the Canadian and US records for Aaron’s parents.

Since the Society has had a website we’ve had a number of queries concerning European Sole families. We know the name (or its variants) to be relatively common in parts of France, Spain and Italy but it is obviously much wider spread than that because in the last few months we’ve been asked if we have information on families from Norway, Poland and Hungary! According to Ridlon, the Norwegian Soles come from an area near Stavanger called Sole and there is at least one Sole family in the USA that is of Norwegian origin.

The World War I army records that Bob Sheldon has gleaned from the PRO have proved invaluable in helping to link some of our twentieth century families to their roots. They often provide information that fills the gap between the 1891 census and 1911, when the mother’s maiden name was included in the GRO birth indexes. For the younger soldiers, i.e. those born after 1891, the key pieces of information are the place of birth and the next of kin, which was usually their parents. For the older soldiers the record often includes the wife’s maiden name and the names and dates of birth of any children. These crucial pieces of information have allowed us to extend most of our major families.

Whilst most of our queries are about long-dead relatives, occasionally we get requests for help from people who have lost touch with their family. One such plea came from Clifford Maynard in Australia who was trying to find his half-brother Stewart Sole. With the help of Fred Sole’s electoral register database we were able to trace Stewart. Clifford is now in touch not only with a brother that he hadn’t seen for nearly fifty years but also with a sister he knew nothing about. Clifford is hoping to visit the UK next year to meet his long lost family. Clifford, Stewart and their sister Maureen are the grandchildren of Conrad Sohl, a German immigrant who ran a chain of baker's shops in London – the name was anglicised during World War I – and they are hoping to be able to find out something about Conrad’s background. The 1881 census lists his place of birth as just ‘Germany’ and to date we’ve had no luck in finding him in the 1891 census – perhaps next year the 1901 one will provide the answer.

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