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

SOLE Co-ordinator's Report December 1992

By Don Steel

In the last journal I described some of the research done on SOLE ( and variant) families before the formation of the Society. I concluded with a brief mention of work published in the United States and New Zealand and would like to devote the whole of this report to giving more details of this, leaving over to the next number reports on progress on English stems.

The New Plymouth Soles

In 1989 I corresponded with Glenyce Jeffs of Whakatana, New Zealand. She told me about the New Plymouth Soles descended from Edward and Susannah Sole of St Nicholas-at-Wade, Thanet, Kent and also of the reunion planned for November 1991. Later, I contacted the secretary, Dianne Thorstensen, and we were kept in close touch. Dianne's report appeared in the last journal (June 1992). As was mentioned there, one descendant, Faye Clark, has written a history and genealogy of the family.

Her magnificent 360 page book From the Marshes to the Mountain was published in time for the gathering, and a review article on it will appear in a subsequent edition of the journal. Before I received my copy of the book I had allocated the code HM to the New Plymouth stem and had made some charts. These can now be much expanded.

It is interesting that another member, Sue Sutton, has joined, who is descended from the Soles of St Nicholas at Wade, through ones that stayed behind: her father was chief clerk of Ramsgate Council.

Strangely enough Sue herself lives in Auckland, New Zealand, maybe unaware that relatives of hers, like Desmond Sole of Panmure, Auckland, are all around.

The Ridlon History of the Sole Family

Like every other one-name society, we are much indebted to those who have gone before. As well as the monumental work of Faye Clark, we have copies of several other published books. Dwarfing even Faye's book in size is the huge two volumed history of the Sole family by Rev. G.T. Ridlon, published in Lewiston, Maine in 1926, which I was able to purchase from an American reprint firm. It is rather long-windedly titled:

A contribution to the History, Biography and Genealogy of the families named SOLE, SOLLY, SOULE, SOWLE, SOULIS with other forms of spelling from the eighth century to the present with notes on collateral families both foreign and American Illustrated with Portraits, Residential Views, Monuments and Heraldic Insignia

This was old fashioned even in 1926, but Ridlon was then an old man, being born in 1841 and a veteran of the Civil War. These 1151 pages represented more than ten years' full-time work, begun when he was a correspondent for a local weekly newspaper and was approached by a Mr. James B. Soule of Portland, Maine to collect " the general history and statistics" of the families descended from George Soule, who was one of the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower. It incorporates earlier research done by a professional genealogist, Philip de Lutz, undertaken for a Professor Soule, head of the Soule Literary Institute of New Orleans, Louisiana.

After a chapter of dubious relevance on the historical background of the Vikings and Normans (which accounts for the preposterous "eighth century" claim in the title), there is an introductory chapter on "The Soles and Soules in England" complete with an ancestor, mandatory in any American family history, who "came with the Conqueror", in this case a Sieur de Soule" with a peasant company called 'Men of Sole". Such nonsense should not influence judgements about later chapters which must be assessed on their merits, and for the most part the more recent material seems reasonably sound, though everything obviously needs checking.

There are several chapters on norman Soules in Scotland. Nicholas deSoules was, says Ridlon, a claimant to the crown of Scotland in 1290 when the Scottish royal family died out in the main line with the death of Margaret, the Maid of Norway, Alexander Ill's granddaughter. He says that King Alexander II had left an illegitimate daughter Margery who married Allen Durward who died in 1275 leaving three daughters. One of these was, he says, the wife of a Soules and mother of Nicholas de Soules. This all needs checking out and will be the subject of a future Soul Search article.

Then follow a number of more tightly focused chapters on the Sole-Solly families in Kent, the Sole-Solly family in Worcestershire, Solers of Gloucestershire, Solly of Ash, Kent, Solly of Kent, Soole of Kent and the family of Robert Sole in London (16th-17th Century). There is some immensely valuable material in these and valuable clues to other documents, like the 18th Century Solly family history mentioned in Elizabeth's report in the last journal.

These are followed by many pages of miscellaneous notes from all over the country. Fragmentary notes also appear as appendices to other chapters. In the "Sole-Solley Families in Kent" chapter, Ridlon says " During the years of my research in old books of history I have collected many notes containing some allusion to the Sole-Solly families early and late. These cannot be arranged in chronological order but are worth preserving for the use of the next historian of the family." Scrappy though they are, the next historian is very grateful!

The English section concludes with a chapter on the identity of George Soule, the Pilgrim. This brings us up to page 153. The other thousand pages or so are on American families of Soule, Sole etc.

This vast compendium of material will take a long time to evaluate and to get, with various caveats, onto charts. It is abundantly clear it is not uniformly reliable. However, Ridlon did a tremendous amount of work which will be an enormous help to us and there are some quite scholarly articles by other contributors.

I have made a start by making three visits to the Worcestershire Record Office working on Soles, Solleys, Soleys and Sowleys, including abstracting all wills. Whilst much of Ridlon's work turns out to have been muddled and even misleading, like his reference to the "Sole-Solley family" - the evidence seems to show the Worcestershire Sole and Solley families were quite separate - it has provided a very useful starting point as he cites documents it might have taken me years to find. Indeed, without Ridlon it is doubtful if I would have been even motivated to begin the search, for Worcestershire is not one of ,'my" counties.

Mayflower Descendants

The third book we have in our archives was produced by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants as part of the huge Mayflower Project - to trace all Mayflower descendants down for five generations and publish the results. Fred has a copy of the Volume 3 of Mayflower Families through Five Generations, published in 1980, on the descendants of George Soule, much of the research for which was mostly done by the late Col. John E. Soule. It is a very fine work, comparable with Faye Clark's in terms of the thoroughness of the genealogy, though lacking the kind of historical background she provides.

The place of origin of George Soule, the Pilgrim, is a very interesting debate and the state of play will be summarised in a future edition of Soul Search. The generally accepted place of origin is Eckington, Worcestershire, but this is far from proven. This is why I developed a sudden interest in Worcestershire. Ridlon's work on the Eckington family seems to be particularly dubious, and as I mentioned in my talk at the first Sole Society gathering there is evidence which points to a George Soule baptised at Tingrith, Bedfordshire in 1595 as a more likely candidate.

Some of the Soule lines descended from George are in our chart system, contributed by Jane Anders of Ethel, Louisiana and Barbara Sudworth Lyle of Lena. Massachusetts. Eventually we shall include them all, but it will take a long time.

Soule Kindred in America

Among the 46 researchers I contacted when Fred and I decided to form the society was Geraldine Sowle Schlosser, who turned out to be the current Family Historian for the organisation Soule Kindred in America which I had been trying to contact through an out-of date address. This is a little different from the Sole Society as their interest is in establishing descents from George Soule, not in linking together all bearers of the Sole/Soule surname. But we too are interested in any descent which can be established from any Sole or allied surname, after all, I am four generations removed from a Sole myself, so clearly although our interests are not identical, there is much common ground and we are keeping in the closest contact with the organisation.

I have subscribed to the Soule Newsletter and purchased all back-numbers, a huge pile since it started in January 1967 and is now up to Volume XXVI. A recent number included our Sole Society application form. I hope their readers will understand what it is about as the letter outlining our objectives was not reproduced with it, but there is a paragraph giving the substance of it a dozen or so pages earlier - Perhaps we shall get some new members as a result. As with the Ridlon volumes and Mayflower Project volume Ill, the back numbers of the Soule Newsletter contain a stupendous amount of information which it will take many years to get into our system. But it is very nice to have them in our archive and to realise that so much work has been carried out across the Atlantic.

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