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

SOLE Co-ordinator's Report November 1993

By Don Steel

You will recall that in my last report I quoted a newspaper story about the tragic death of the granddaughter of Daniel Sole of Guyra, New SouthWales and the part played by her neighbour, Stephen Giffen, whom Annette Sole thought was "some sort of relative". I said that Stephen appeared on pedigrees sent by Jeff Stevenson of Ridgehaven, South Australia. He was the brother of Jeffs ancestress, Annie Giffen, who followed her uncles Daniel and Edward Sole to Australia. My report prompted an interesting letter from our ex‑Editor, Janet Hurst. Janet told me that in 1982, Jeff wrote to her following an article about her Cambridgeshire index in the journal of the Cambridge Family History Society, asking if she could help him to find out about his ancestress Annie Giffen and her parents Thomas and Elizabeth Giffen. Jeff said:

There was only one brother. He (so I am told) married late and had no children.

This was, in fact, Stephen. (Jeff now knows there was another brother, Thomas). Janet wrote back with a great deal of information on the Giffens, including the marriage at Bassingbourn in 1843 of Thomas Giffen and Betsy SOAL (sic). So it was Janet who was the first to give Jeff an inkling of his Sole ancestry. Jeff wrote back thanking Janet for "the fantastic break‑through and head‑start you have most definitely given me in the search for my Cambridgeshire forebears". In sending me copies of this correspondence, Janet comments:

I thought you might find it intriguing that Sole Society members were helping one another with information about bearers of the name so many years ago.

Intriguing indeed, for Janet was herself, our Member No 1, sending a cheque for her subscription before we had even formed the society or decided what the subscription should be, and it was not until some time after that she proved that her hunch was right and that the Fanny Hurst, wife of James Hurst, born at Ickleton around 1832, was indeed the only Frances baptised there in that year, a Frances Sole baptised on 5 February 1832. So as Janet points out, one future member, in total ignorance of her Sole ancestry had been helping another, also totally ignorant of his Sole ancestry, to find the latter nine years before the society was formed or she had found her own. Could anyone be more deserving of the membership Number 19

There remains an unwritten chapter in this saga. As yet we have not found the link between the Kelshall and Ickleton stems, only a few miles apart. Janet's ancestry goes back to a Valery Sole whose first child was born in 1584. Fred Sole almost certainly descends from a grandson. It seems probable that the mighty Kelshall clan too will go back to Valery in the end, though the exact line has yet to be determined. Perhaps next time Janet will be sending Jeff the details of their exact relationship to each other! If she does, there will be plenty that are interested, for still the Kelshall Sole descendants keep coming. I have had material from recent members Arthur Halls and Ray Breden. I also had a call from a lady who had visited her ancestral Kelshall and been put in touch with me by local historian Ann King. I sent her a journal and application form but haven't heard anything yet. Will I ever write a report with nothing on Kelshall? Everything I touch seems to turn to Kelshall. A few minutes ago while working on this report a consignment of books arrived and I broke off work to look at them. Among them was a little book called The Churchyard Scribe by Alfred Stapleton, published in Charles Bernau's The Genealogist's Pocket Library series in 1908. Idly turning the pages, I learned that:

Another Association doing excellent work of this nature (transcribing churchyards) is the East Herts. Archaeological Society, followed by a long list of parishes transcribed, which included Kelshall, Therfield and many other parishes we're interested in. Stapleton says "They have been carefully transcribed, an index of names prepared, and bound in volumes which may freely be consulted in the Honorary Secretary's Library, Ivy Lodge, Bishop's Stortford".

When I visited Kelshall, I was disappointed to learn from Ann King that about 20 years ago the gravestones had been "culled" and only a few Sole ones were left. A transcription made 90 years ago should have all the lost ones. I look forward to locating it. Meanwhile the Kelshall descendants are busy contacting each other. Derrick Dean, our new Information officer, had a surprise visit from Arthur Halls. When we succeed in getting out a list of members and summary lists of relevant charts we shall doubtless have much more of this. Derrick incidentally, has made some useful proposals with regard to charges for access to our chart collection which, as he cannot make it, I shall have raised at the AGM by the time you read this.

To get away for the moment from Kelshall and from SOLE to SOUL, member Ethel Uzzell has sent me an interesting letter from an 80‑year‑old lady sent out of the blue to Ethel's brother only because he had the name SOUL. She has some photographs of a SOULE family inherited from a cousin, Dorothy Marshall, whose mother was a Sarah Matilda SOULE. Two were taken by a Reading photographer, one by a Liverpool photographer and one by a Central London one. None of this seemed to link her with Ethel and her brother whose family come from Gloucestershire, so she sent them on to me. "Cornelius Soule, adult, London", must be the Cornelius Soule "born Leighton, Bucks" who, in the 1851 census, was living at 11, Desborough Terrace, St Mary, Paddington. He was an assistant silk mercer. There is no Leighton in Bucks; it must surely be an error for Leighton Buzzard, Beds.

The name Cornelius, which also appears on another of the photos, that of Cornelius Norman SOULE, as well as the spellings SOUL or SOULE were hereditary for generations in the SOUL family of Olney, only a few miles from Leighton Buzzard. It is now a whole year since I vainly hoped to process in time for our Olney conference, material on that family sent by members John Soul and Helen Weaver. But it had now got near enough the top of the list to get it all out of mothballs and work on it. There is no Cornelius that fits, but I feel sure that before long we shall link this family to Olney.

Helen sent some wonderful material including a transcript of a family history of the Olney Soul family written by her great‑great‑uncle Richard Soul of Salisbury who was born at Olney in 1807, and a life of her grandfather, Joseph Brooks Soul, born at Olney in 1843, written by her mother. These are truly wonderful documents and I shall be reporting further when I have studied all this source material more closely. I have already been helped by the fact that some time ago volumes 3, 4, and 5 of the printed Olney marriage registers came up in a catalogue, so I bought them. Just recently volumes 1, 2 and 3 did, so I now have a full set and a spare no 3. In the last batch (many of the pages of which were still uncut) was a reminder that I (or rather the first owner of the book) had not paid my subscription for 1907. It was signed by William Bradbrook who in 1910 published a little book called The Parish Register, like The Churchyard Scribe in the little Bernau series of pocket guides. A membership form in another volume told me the subscription was half‑a‑guinea. I would have sent a cheque off for 52‑1/2p (sadly a bit overdue) if I had known what address Bradbrook was now at! My set of Olney registers was complete just in time for my work on Olney as a result of Ethel's letter. Olney was also full of Kitcheners (another of my families), so when I can get round to using my registers for a bit of self‑indulgent work on ramifications, most of the families in the village will probably link onto my families in one way or another. To return to Miss Cannon's Soul photographs, two of them, Elizabeth Soule (an adult) and Ernest (a child) were taken at Reading, Berkshire, which suggests a possible connection with Bill Soles family which started as SOUL in Reading (marriage, 1788, baptisms 1790-1804) and became first SOULES and then SOLES when they went to Birmingham. However at the moment it is difficult to see exactly how these three families ‑Olney, Leighton Buzzard/Paddington and Reading/Birmingham ‑ might hang together. Time will tell.

My wife and I recently went on holiday in Derbyshire and stayed with my very good friend John Titford, who has a regular column in Family Tree Magazine. John has the best genealogical library in private hands in the country; for me, staying there is always like a visit to Aladdin's cave. Early in the mom while my wife was still asleep, I was hard at work. I did some doughty work for all our surnames on the printed indexes to Wills at Chelmsford, Essex 1400‑1619 and Norwich Wills 1370-1550. I followed this up with looking up references to any of our surnames in F.G. Emmison's Essex Wills: The Archdeaconry Courts, 1577‑1584 which I bought recently. This indexes everyone mentioned in a will, so is much more useful than indexes to testators only. In due course we can do this for all Essex wills right up to 1858 as Thora Broughton of the Essex Family History Society has indexed the lot in her Essex Wills Beneficiaries Index. Moreover the courts held at Essex Record Office include a lot of Suffolk and Hertfordshire wills and these have all been indexed as well. They include places we are interested in like Bishop's Stortford and Buntingford. Reasonable though the search fees are, we want so many entries that we can't yet afford it, but it is a must for the future. At John Titford's, I also copied all the SOLEs on the microfilm of the Society of Genealogists Apprenticeship Index and the incredible Filby U. S. immigration index, a set of which cost John a cool 1500. There was an exciting discovery in the latter which I shall be writing up as an article in due course, so I will not spoil it by revealing it now.

Whenever I am in another area for some reason or other, I try and call on a Sole or two. I am writing this the day after I attended a meeting of representatives of one‑name societies in Birmingham. The meeting ended at 4.00 p.m. Now for some real one‑naming, not just talking about it! I had three Birmingham SOLEs on my list. No‑one was in at No 1 but I had a great reception at No 2, a John Sole of Wythall. His grandfather was a sea‑captain of Devonport. I went to the car and got out my rather scrappy tree of the Devonport Soles. I can't link him on yet. In fact John didn't know a great deal, but an hour or two ago I had a telephone call from him. He had got a lot more details on his grandparents, aunts and uncles from his mother who lived with his brother, who was the absent No 1 on my calling list. Grandfather was a carpenter (doubtless in the dockyard) before he joined the Royal Navy and rose to the rank of Captain. I've been calling on people for 40 years and usually had an excellent reception, but this is the first time I can ever recollect an informant ringing me back the next day with more information. You don't win them all, though. No 3 on my list simply didn't want to know. His prerogative, of course. But enough are helpful to make house calls, undoubtedly the best source for the last century or so as John bore witness in his last editorial. In a way, calling on living people in an area is very similar to searching census returns; you get a whole household and birthplaces. But you don't have to wait 100 years and you also get the members of the family no longer living at home, at least a couple of extra generations, and information on relatives in a variety of places, often abroad. And you can do it at weekends or evenings when record offices and libraries are shut (except for the John Titford library of course!). Try it sometime.

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