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

SOLE Co-ordinator's Report - July 1999

Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire

By Bob Sheldon

We have welcomed one new member since my last report. This came about in an interesting way. I wrote to a short list of names extracted from the telephone book, which, as it turned out, included his son. The son was not especially interested in his family history and, I am not sure which, either passed the letter on to his father or happened to mention to his father that he had received my letter. Anyway the father was Francis Sole and he was interested. He wrote to me with brief details of his family which gave us the clues to enable the construction of a four-generation (and tentatively six-generation) family tree.

Francis Sole lives in SXW and is one of the three sons of William Primrose Sole who was born in DOR. This initially had me believe, rather too hastily perhaps, that he ‘belonged’ to Maureen Storey because of the way we are organised in the Society. I sent all Francis’s papers to Maureen who after further research and some logical deduction suggested that William’s grandfather was Henry John Bramley Sole who was born in Bramshott, HAM in 1852. So I have taken over again and have obtained William’s birth certificate showing his mother to be Annie Sole a domestic servant, but no recorded father. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a birth reference for Annie Sole. We know that she (as Anne Eliza) subsequently married Arthur Thorne in 1904 (Francis’s family knowledge confirmed a "Thorn" connection) and the marriage certificate gives her father’s name as Henry John Sole. However, I cannot trace Henry’s marriage. So there is still some speculation about this tree and it is another challenge to ultimately prove our theories.

I am cautious in making these approaches to names in the telephone book. Although more and more people are supposedly becoming interested in their ancestry, we have to appreciate that some people may resent such intrusion into what they correctly believe to be their privacy. So I write my letter very carefully, invite them in the second paragraph to destroy it if they are not interested, and even give them a second class stamp to use how they will if they do tear up my letter. So far, I have had a better response than I had hoped for and I wondered whether each of our members might like to check through their local directory and just make initial contact with any of our names who they do not know and tell them about our Society. By doing so, members may well find an unknown relative and the Society may well gain another member.

From January 1858, all Wills had to be proved in civil courts, whereas previously they had been proved in church courts. Adding to those previously obtained by Lizzie Love, I was gradually building up our stock of these Wills. This task had been made easier from the indexes compiled by Fred Sole. Some of them were turning out to be very useful for linking family members despite their legalese, and in many cases, difficult to read handwriting. However on my last visit to the Wills and Probate office in London I was informed that the cost of copy Wills had been increased from 75p to 5.00. So that explained why the search room was almost empty and I regret to say is the reason why this project has come to an abrupt halt. All is not lost as I have started to extend Fred’s index by extracting our names from the Wills Index Books that are still available for free searching. This source can be quite informative but is no real substitute for sight of the Wills themselves.

Earlier in the year, Ann and I enjoyed a short summer holiday in South Africa. After a number of ‘safaris’ in the Eastern Cape, we had two hectic days in Capetown. As I usually do when travelling, I browsed through the local telephone directory and was surprised to find 14 SO(A)LE(S), and even more surprised to find 159 SAUL(S), details of which I have given to John Slaughter. I believe that we do not have currently any members from South Africa, although Lizzie and I are in touch with a descendant of the Sussex SOALs who has recently moved from the USA to Pretoria in South Africa and who we hope may become our first member from that country.

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