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

SOLE Co-ordinator's Report - November 1997

By Maureen Storey

We currently have a database of over 7500 SOLEs, SOALs, etc., starting with the earliest record in 1189. This was a reference to Robert de Sole in Nonnington, East Kent.

We have split the country into two areas:

In the early days of the Society, Fred Sole and Don Steel did sterling work in drawing up hand-written charts of many family groups. We owe them immense thanks. However, we now have very powerful technology available and we are making full use of it. Once we have recorded each event, we find that a computer makes it much easier to sort, sift and locate family connections. At the press of a few keys, we can automatically produce a chart that later can be easily modified as new information is discovered.

So what data do we have? Well, we have information from a number of different sources including:



Kent has by far the largest number of SOLE/SOAL births in this area, with just over 1000 of them compared with 570 in Surrey, 530 in Sussex and only 300 in Hampshire.

The largest lines are from Thanet, Reculver, Herne and Bridge in East Kent, and from Midhurst in West Sussex. The largest has 8 generations; and three have 7 generations, one of which includes the descendants of the Sole boys who emigrated with their widowed mother to New Zealand in 1841. We also have a 6 generation line. There are many other smaller family groupings scattered all over this area.

A number of ancestors migrated from these counties to various parts of South London, with places like Wandsworth, Camberwell, Lambeth and Lewisham all providing new homes for our ancestors.

By far the most common occupation was farm labouring for men and domestic service for women. From reading the Family Tree Magazine and similar publications it would seem that the SOLEs were no different in this respect than the majority of researchers ancestors.

However, we benefit from the enormous amount of research done by Violet Innes over many years before her death in 1986 and the resulting fine collection of personal papers and photos which no doubt some of us would wish to have for our own direct lines of ancestors. Thanks to Don Steel who initially sorted the papers and Violet's daughter Lizzie Love, who is now a member of the Society and has continued to sift through her mother's work. We have considerable interesting information on her immediate line which has been traced back so far to Boughton near Faversham in Kent.

From this information we know that some of our forebears had skills other than 'ag. labbing'. There was, for example, Mary Ann Soal (b. 1868) who became a royal nurse. She attended Queen Victoria in her later years and was present at the Queen's death. She continued in royal service for some years after. There was also her sister, Elizabeth Jane (b. 1873) who emigrated to Canada, married a missionary there and worked among the Indian population for many years before returning home to retire in Essex.

Lizzie has promised to elaborate on her great aunt's stories in a future edition of the Joumal.



It is easiest to discuss the progress we have made so far if this is split into smaller geographical regions.

A large amount of research has been done on the families in these counties so that they have largely coalesced into just a few major groupings, i.e.

the largest of which comprises nearly 1300 people.

Very little research has yet been done on the families in these counties. (At present we have only one member with West Country interests.) As a result, we have a few families of three or more generations plus many unconnected two-generation groups and isolated marriages. Generally, there are a lot of SOWEL(L)s in Cornwall, a few SOLEs in Devon and very little of anything in Dorset and Somerset.

There are many early SOWELL references in these counties, but as these seem to dry up later, it could be that they really should be SEWELLs. We have got a couple of reasonably large charts for Norfolk and Suffolk, and one for Lincolnshire but most of the IGI entries for these counties - and there are quite many them - are just two-generation families and isolated marriages. This could be due to the poor IGI coverage in Norfolk and Suffolk but there are very few SOLEs or SOWELLs in the 1851 and 1881 census indexes for these areas so it may be more due to SOWELL/SEWELL errors in the IGI.

The charts we have for this area are at present rather disjointed. However, there are a lot of them and with a bit more research we should be able to fit the families together better. There is a high concentration of IGI entries in the parishes around Stroud, with a lesser (and later) group around Northleach and on thc Glos/Oxon/Wilts border. Work has recently started on transferring our records for this area onto computer.

Yorkshire has several SO(U)LE families in the area around Spalding Moor, spreading eastward towards Hull. As IGI coverage of Yorkshire is poor, this may represent the tip of an iceberg but as there are very few references to Yorkshire, SOLEs in any of our sources, we suspect this is just an isolated clump. Thanks to Tim Soles, this area is now included in our database and a list of available charts should appear in the next Journal.

Except for Middlesex, the remaining counties have very few SOLE, etc. entries in the IGI. Middlesex is something of a headache, both because of its influx of migrants and because once there, the families have a myriad of easily accessible churches in which to marry and baptise their children. Trying to distinguish one William and Mary Sole from another in say Hertfordshire can be difficult enough, but in London it can be almost impossible before general registration and the censuses. Hence Middlesex charts, though numerous, are very disjointed. We have managed to link some of the Middlesex IGI entries back to their originating counties but not many.



Two of our new members who are familiar with the frustrations of searching for SO(U)L(E)s in London are John Barnes and Anne Austin. John is looking for the marriage of his great-great grandparents John Barnes and Sarah Soul that probably took place in one of the East London parishes in the early 1830s. The 1851 census indicates that Sarah Soul was born in Whitechapel about 1810, so allowing for the vagaries of ages in censuses, she is probably the Sarah, daughter of John and Sarah Soul who was baptised at St Mary's, Whitechapel on 11 May 1808.

Anne is looking for information on her husband's grandfather John Sole who married Catherine Smith in Tranmere in 1884. John Sole was a sailor and is believed to have died at sea in the early 1900s. Ann has found the death of a John Sole who drowned off the coast of West Africa while serving on the sailing ship The Milton Park. According to the ship's records this John Sole was born in London. John's marriage certificate indicates that he was of full age in May 1884 and that his father, also called John Sole, was a coppersmith. Anne is therefore looking for the birth of a John, son of John Sole, coppersmith, in London before about 1863.

Our third new member is Clive White who is descended from John Branford and Elizabeth Sowells who married at Rollesby, Norfolk on 20 September 1713. Clive is still looking for Elizabeth's origins.

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