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

Research Co-Ordinator's Report - December 2000

By Tony Storey

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Civil Registration in England and Wales

One of the Society’s most valuable research tools is the growing collection of GRO index entries from the births, deaths and marriages registers at the Family Records Centre, Myddelton Street, London.

What information can they provide?

Introduced on 1st July 1837, the indexes are essentially an alphabetical list of names on a quarterly basis, i.e. January to MARCH, April to JUNE, July to SEPTEMBER and October to DECEMBER. By each entry is the registration district, the district code and a page number, this reference necessary in order to obtain a copy certificate (current cost 6.50).

From 1866 the death index states the age at time of death, births from July 1911 give the mother’s maiden name, and from 1912 the spouse’s surname appears against each marriage entry.

How does the GRO index entry help research?

It is always rewarding to find a birth, death or marriage entry that adds a little to our knowledge of a family. Except in rare cases the Society has to be content with the index entry alone, but if it’s your own family it will be well worth the fee to order a copy of the full certificate. If you are not sure of the year of the event in question it is sometimes necessary to search through the registers a few years either side of the estimated date.

The real leap forward for us is not merely extracting all the entries for our surnames, it is putting them on computer. If you’re one of our researchers working on several family groups, it is essential to have the information at your fingertips, preferably on a searchable database. Mike Sewell, looking for the marriage of a certain Christiana Evelina Sewell found her only because of our computerised records. She was a first-time bride at the age of 68 – ‘Mission Impossible’ without a database!

The computer also enables us to identify families using registration districts and mother’s maiden name, to trace migrations from one area to another, or even to see trends in birth rate and infant mortality.

Potential new members often gain a favourable first impression of the Society because our co-ordinators can quickly locate that elusive ancestor from our records.

What is currently available?

SOLE and variants

The Sole GRO records are held by the Society virtually up to the present. Since 1837 there have been 5,790 births, 4,343 marriages and 3,732 deaths registered - a total of 13,865 Sole events recorded on our database.

SOLLEY and variants

The Solley entries have been extracted but are currently held on paper only. One of the committee has volunteered to type them onto a spreadsheet at which time I will be pleased to report on how many there are!

SAUL and variants

Saul entries have only been completed for the years 1837-1900 so far, but the Society is committed to adding 1901-1950 by the next annual gathering in October 2001. Work continues and the numbers to date are 4,007 births, 2,749 marriages and 2,314 deaths – 9,070 in total.

SEWELL and variants

As with Saul, the Sewell GRO project continues with 1837-1900 completed and volunteers working on the period 1901-1950. Currently, our database has 12,886 births, 9,147 marriages and 8,063 deaths making a total of 30,096 Sewell events.

How exactly do the entries get onto our database?

The first step is for a volunteer to sit at a fiche reader in his local record office, library or family history centre and transcribe the entries for the chosen name and variant names. Mistakes are inevitable because the fiche quality varies.

The entries are then typed onto a spreadsheet covering a ten-year period. More mistakes creep in!

The spreadsheet is printed and taken to London to be checked against the registers at the Family Records Centre, hopefully eliminating all errors.

Once corrections have been made, the spreadsheet is released to surname co-ordinators and volunteers.

Does the Sole Society need more volunteers?

I thought you’d never ask!

If you’d like to help us finish the job and as your reward, share in the Society’s database, please contact me.

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