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

Research Co-ordinator's Report August 2001

By Tony Storey

 Tony Storey

People often ask us if it’s difficult running a four-name society as opposed to the more usual one-name variety.

From my point of view as the Research Coordinator, having separate coordinators for each of the four core names, Sole, Saul, Solley and Sewell works very well, in effect four one-name societies under one umbrella. However, confusion can arise when we start to consider the variants. We have no trouble with Soles, Soul, Saull and Solly – it’s clear where they belong in the scheme of things. Our problems seem to arise when the variant looks similar to one of the core names but sounds similar to one of the others!

For example, when handwritten in a church register Sawell and Sowell can easily be mistaken for Sewell. However, because of how the names tend to be pronounced, Sawell is dealt with by our Saul coordinators and Sowell by our Sole coordinators.

Seawell and Saywell are grouped with Sewell on grounds of pronunciation, as is Suel. Personally, I think Saywell may be stretching things a little but I’ll move quickly on.

Sawle and Sall are grouped with Saul because they sound like Saul but consider this: pronunciation like spelling can change if the family has emigrated to the UK. A German Saul may have rhymed with ‘owl’ and an Italian or French Sole may have sounded more like Solley!

Because of widespread illiteracy and the apparent inability of nineteeth-century clerics to understand the rustic vowels of their parishioners, I feel it is generally more appropriate that the sound of the name should decide which group it belongs in. This rule holds good for most of the variants I’ve mentioned but there has to be an exception. Would those of you researching the name Soole (looks like Sole, sounds like Sewell) please note that the Sole co-ordinators are dealing!

At last, a light at the end of the tunnel for our gallant team of researchers!

After many months of hard work we are nearing the end of our project to extract all Saul and Sewell GRO index entries up to 1950. I am hoping to draw a line under it by the end of the year but in the meantime I can tell you where we are at present.


Births, 1837-1950 completed – 5728 entries.

Deaths, 1837-1950 completed – 4024 entries

Marriages, 15 years left to do – 2940 entries so far


Marriages, 1837-1950 completed –

14,611 entries

Deaths, 6 years left to do –

13,854 entries so far

Births, 1837-1910 completed –

15,428 entries

Volunteers are working on the 40 years, 1911-1950.

Not all of the completed years have been published as there is still some checking to be done, but I will take this opportunity to thank the Saul team of Christine and Michael Muschamp, Norman Saul and Sandie Willoughby and the Sewell team of Rita Acres, Anne Garrison, Mike Hines, Diana Kennedy, Margaret Lintin, Brian, Eric and Mike Sewell. Special thanks to Maureen Storey and David Taylor who have lent a hand despite being neither Saul nor Sewell.

As one project ends another begins!

The GRO entries to 1950 should be sufficient to bridge the gap between living memory and the IGI, which peters out just prior to the start of general registration for England and Wales in 1837. The combination of GRO and IGI should enable us to construct quite extensive family charts, although in the main these will initially consist of just names and dates.

Family history should be a lot more than that so I intend that our next project will get more ‘up close and personal’ with our ancestors, hopefully uncovering not just where they lived and what they did for a living, but also how wealthy they were and what were their most treasured possessions; even the names of their closest friends and their favourite relatives.

Our society must make the most of what information is out there, freely available in return for a little effort on our part. I will announce details of the new research project at the annual gathering in October - an appropriate occasion – and that’s enough clues for now!

For those not attending, full details will appear in the next issue of Soul Search. As always, we’ll need plenty of help so get ready to volunteer!

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