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

Research Co-ordinator's Report December 2002

by Tony Storey

This article was originally published in the December 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

The Societyís records have their origins in the first charts we produced in 1991.

They were written by hand on sheets of A2 paper although we have long since transferred all our records to computer. The primary source then, virtually our only source, was the IGI or International Genealogical Index.

As most of you know, the IGI consists of baptisms and marriages collected by the Mormon church from parish registers, in the main covering the period prior to general registration. Once sorted by parish, it becomes possible to identify families and put together a number of family trees.

Our hope was that if we had family charts covering the period prior to 1850, we could link up with our members, who perhaps had traced back to their great grandparents in the mid 1800s.

To prove we were on the right lines with a particular family we might visit St Catherineís House, as it was then, to look for a missing birth or marriage.

It soon became apparent that it would be very useful if we had a note of all the births, deaths and marriages on the GRO index. That became our next big task and thanks to our volunteers we now have most of these entries on a database. From the third quarter of 1911, birth entries show the motherís maiden name, which enables us to identify the families and create even more charts.

Currently, our core resource is approximately 30,000 events on the IGI, more than 80,000 more from the General Registration indices from 1837 onwards, and several hundred family charts, all stored safely and easily accessible on the societyís computers. For the IGI and GRO data we use Excel spreadsheets and the charts are all on Generations software.

Weíve come a long way. Thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, most of our members should be able to construct a chart which takes them back two or three hundred years, maybe more. Itís taken us several years to get to this position.

However, we do not believe that having a chart, even one that spans three centuries, is the be-all and end-all of family history. A chart is just a list of names and dates. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, a chart is not the end. Itís not even the beginning of the end. A chart is merely the end of the beginning.

The next step for our research programme is far more challenging, but hopefully far more rewarding. At the moment, too many names on our charts are just that, a name, with perhaps a note of when they were born and when they died. We believe family history should be about people. We would like to find out far more about our ancestors, how they lived, where they lived, what they did with their lives.

Of course the Sole Society can never know as much as you do about your family. These names on our charts are your ancestors. You may have family treasures; you may know of family traditions. At the end of the day it has to be the members who write their own family histories, but we hope youíll tell us about them so we can perhaps include an article about your ancestors in our journal.

Remember, a copy of each issue of Soul Search is deposited with the six copyright libraries, which includes the British Library in London and the Bodleian Library, Oxford. In this way, once published, all your hard work will be preserved for future generations.

What weíve done up to now as a society is provide you with lists, the IGI, the births, deaths and marriages. But from now on, to help you add more detail to your charts, we will give youÖ more lists! But they will contain more information, more clues to help your research.

For example, there will be:

  • lists of wills, giving addresses, occupations, next of kin and some indication of wealth;

  • lists of soldiers, with height, weight, distinguishing marks, service records, details of battles fought and medals awarded;

  • lists of emmigrants, clergymen and prisoners;

  • an index of entries in trade directories;

  • court proceedings and hearth tax records;

  • all of which should help you to build a better picture of your ancestors.

    If itís out there, we want to make it available to our members.

    Finally, letís give some credit where itís due.

    Every piece of information we hold is because of someoneís time and effort, so a sincere thank you to all our members who have contributed so far.

    There seems to be an infinite supply of information in libraries, churches, record offices, newspapers and so on, and sometimes the seemingly insignificant item in your hand turns out to be the missing piece in someoneís family history jigsaw.

    I hope that some more of you will find a little time to help us.

    I know that many of you would like to help but are perhaps unsure what is needed. I am therefore preparing a series of brief articles in Soul Search about the different types of sources and how you can make a contribution.

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