ECLIPSING THE ECLIPSE
by Sheila MacInnes
This article was originally published in the December 2007 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
West Sussex county records are housed in an unremarkable modern building in Chichester. The plain red brick outside gives no clue to the treasures hidden within.
Many secrets of the past are there if only one knows where to look. Ancient Church Records and Bishops Transcripts sit side by side on the shelves looking down with distain, I like to think, on the intrusion of modern technology in the form of computers, microfiche and photocopiers.
On the occasion of the last total eclipse of the sun, my husband and I were once more in the building which had become familiar to us over a decade of ancestor searching. As usual we entered with high hopes: would it be Sullington, Rustington or East Preston’s turn to reward us, or would we be disappointed yet again?
I feel a tap on my shoulder. “Come and look on your desk”, whispers my husband. “I think you will find something of interest”. Talk about understatement! Unearthed from the dungeons beneath us was a parchment scroll labelled THE SOLE FAMILY TREE. Here were many generations of my ancestors stretching back into the late 1500’s, including six generations of English Yeomen and their families. Those names we had managed to trace ourselves now fell into place like pieces in a jigsaw.
I read on in amazement to discover unknown relatives in America, including one who had commissioned a Chichester historian to trace the Sole family and then produce this wonderful scroll.
Elation soon turned to dismay when the archivist mentioned that the historian, now dead, had placed a ban on photocopying the scroll. “However, there is no ban on tracing”, she said.
Shortly after midday with darkness starting to cover the land, I began a two hour labour of love with a pencil and a huge sheet of tracing paper. At one point David asked me if I wanted to break off to witness the eclipse. “No thanks”, I replied. What’s an eclipse compared with finding the genealogist’s Holy Grail?”
Sheila MacInnes is the Granddaughter of Helena Sole – Sussex Branch
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