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

The Search for the English Origins of the Mayflower Passenger, George Soule


by Caleb Johnson

This article was originally published in the May 2006 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society


This three part series is reproduced with the kind permission of Soule Kindred


In Part One of this article, it was shown that all George Soules residing in, or with direct ties to, Eckington, co. Worcester, could be accounted for, and that none of them could have been the Mayflower passenger.  It is time to expand the search beyond the parish of Eckington, to look for other interesting candidates.



In 1929, Mayflower researcher Charles Edward Banks published his book, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers.  Banks, apparently realizing that neither George Soule son of Robert Soule the salter, nor George Soule son of Robert Soule the husbandman, could have been the Mayflower passenger, went in search of another candidate father in the vicinity of Eckington.  He wrote simply that George Soule “has been tentatively identified as the son of John Soule of Eckington, co. Worcester, and probably kinsman to Robert Soule, a wealthy London salter, … All other George Soules found in England at that period have been satisfactorily eliminated.”  No source, nor any additional details for this new claim, was provided by Banks.


Strangely, there is no John Soule living in Eckington during the time period in question.  Banks does mention that “Fuller particulars of this identification will be found in the recently published Soule Genealogy for which a special extensive search covering a number of years was made by the compiler of this book.”  That is undoubtedly a reference to the book History, Biography and Genealogy of the Families Named Soule, Sowle and Soulis (Lewiston, ME, 1926), by G.T. Ridlon, with contributions by Charles Banks.  But this work makes no mention of any John Soule of Eckington during the time period in question either.  However, a John Soule of the neighboring parish of Strensham is mentioned.  This John Soule was buried in Strensham on 9 July 1615, so on the surface he would seem to make a great candidate for the father of the Mayflower passenger (because the most likely time for a son to be apprenticed out is shortly after the father’s death).  In addition, John Soule would presumably be closely related to the Soules of Eckington, where the family name of George is regularly in use.


In 1986, Nils Wilkes attempted to follow up on this family for his work, In Search of George Soule of the Mayflower [n.d. c1986].  Wilkes reported “I have been unable to link any John Soule to a son George so far. … A convenient father to George would have been John Soule of Strensham … His children were being produced at the right time, but there is no George either in the parish register or mentioned in his will of 1615 (I have been unable to locate this will and Banks does not give any references to its whereabouts…) … Therefore at the present time I am not convinced that John Soule … was the father to George.[1]


The will of John Soule of Strensham that Nils Wilkes was unable to locate is actually found in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, PROB 11/126.  “John Sowle of Strensham in the dioces of Worcester yeoman” made out his will on 9 May 1615.  Among the bequests are the following:


Ø       “First I do give and bequeathe unto Thomas Sowle my eldest sonne twentie poundes … when he shall accomplishe the age of one and Twentie yeres”

Ø       “I do give and bequeathe the sayed Mesuage house or Tenement and the sayed acre and three quarters of meadowe ground with all and singular theire appurtn[a]nces unto John Sowle my second sonne”

Ø       “Then I do give and bequeathe the saied Mesuage house or Tenement Acre and three quarters of meadowe ground with all and singular theire appurtn[a]nces unto William Sowle my youngest sonne … to be paied the sayed William when he shall accomplishe the age of one and twentie yeres”

Ø       “Item I do give and bequeathe unto Margaret Sowle my eldest daughter the somme of one hundred and twentie poundes when she shall accomplishe the age of one and twentie yeres or be marryed which shall first happen”

Ø       “Item I do give and bequeathe unto Katherine Sowle my daughter the somme of one hundred and twentie poundes of lawfull money … when she shall accomplishe the age of one and twentie yeres”

Ø       “my will ys that in case my sonne Thomas Sowle shall accomplishe the age of one and twentie yeres That then he shall enter and enioye the one moytie or halfe of a Lease in Strensham which I boughte of my Cosin Samuel Butler”

Ø       “The Residue of all my goodes and Chattells unbequeathed … I do give and bequeathe unto my loving wife Christian Sowle whome I do make my sole executrix: And I do make and ordayne my Cosin Samuell Butler Richard Bradford and Thomas Dingle Supervisors of this my last will and Testament”


The will of John Soule of Strensham, thus, makes it very clear that he only had three sons: eldest son Thomas; second son John; and third son William, along with two daughters, Margaret and Katherine.  The parish registers of Strensham confirm this family structure:


John Soule married Christian Portman on 16 September 1596, and had children:

  1. John, bp. 13 February 1596/7, buried 14 February 1596/7

  2. Margaret, bp. 14 May 1598

  3. Thomas, bp. 28 October 1599

  4. Katherine, bp. 21 May 1602

  5. John, bp. 7 April 1605

  6. William, bp. 5 November 1607 


John Soule and his cousin Samuel Butler were churchwardens in 1602[2], perhaps explaining Charles Banks’ erroneous statement that John Soule was “mayor.”


John Soule of Strensham, co. Worcester, can be eliminated as a candidate father of the Mayflower passenger: he did not have a son named George.


The parish registers of the other parishes that neighbor Eckington, namely Defford, Birlingham, Great Comberton, Bredon’s Norton, and Kemerton, were exhaustively searched by Nils Wilkes, who found no Soule entries; therefore, these were not examined for this research.


Since it is now apparent that the Mayflower passenger was not from Eckington or any of the immediately surrounding parishes, it is time to cast a wider net.  Since the name George does appear to be used regularly in the Soule family of Eckington, it seems reasonable to follow up on more distant Soule families in co. Worcester.  The area that seems most promising are three adjoining parishes: Dymock, Berrow, and Redmarly d’Abitot.  It turns out that each of these parishes has a George Soule living there.  Each of these George Soules, therefore, were investigated.




The parish registers of Dymock, co. Gloucester, include the following:


  1. Margery Soule, daughter of George Soule, bp. 23 March 1577/8; buried 13 May 1578.

  2. Jane Soule, daughter of George Soule, bp. 20 April 1579

  3. Ussela Soule, daughter of George Soule, bp. 26 August 1582

  4. Thomas Soule, son of George Soule, bp. 17 October 1585; buried 25 November 1585.


Margery, wife of George Soule, was buried on 24 March 1605/6.  Unfortunately, no further traces of this George Soule were found.  This George Soule is clearly not the Mayflower passenger because of his age and the fact he was already married and having children.  Most families during this time period had more than three children, so it seems likely that some children in his family have gone unrecorded.  Could this family have continued having children into the 1595-1599 time period, and thus been the parents of George Soule of the Mayflower?  Possible.  But there is no record of any children beyond Thomas in 1585.




The will of John Soule of Berrow, co. Worcester, is dated 2 February 1576, and may shed some light on the situation.[3]  In the will, which is very difficult to decipher, John Soule requests to be buried next to his deceased first wife Elizabeth.  He gives his son George a horse, a canvas doublet, a featherbed, and a crossbow that is currently in the possession of kinsman John Soule of Strensham.  This is interesting, because it ties John Soule and son George to the family of John Soule of Strensham—but the exact relationship remains unclear.  However, this George was way too old to have been the Mayflower passenger.  Because Dymock and Berrow are very close to one another, it seems quite possible that George Soule, the only son of John Soule of Berrow in 1576, may be the same man as George Soule of Dymock who began having children of record there in 1578. 




The parish of Redmarly d’Abitot is sandwiched between Berrow, co. Worcester, and Dymock, co. Gloucester.  The parish registers of Redmarly d’Abitot include the following family:


Roger Soule married Helen Angeworth (sometimes Angel) on 3 June 1588.  Their children were:

  1. Helen, bp. 27 July 1588

  2. Alice, bp. 20 November 1589

  3. John, bp. 1 January 1591/2

  4. George, bp. 24 March 1593/4

  5. Richard, bp. 5 November 1596

  6. Joane, bp. 1 January 1598/9


Roger Soule was buried on 27 February 1634/5, and wife Helen was probably the “Eleanor” who was buried a few years earlier on 15 October 1631.  The George Soule here would seem to be much more interesting.  The baptism of 24 March 1593/4 puts this George Soule within reach of the expected 1596-1599 birth of the Mayflower passenger.  Could it be that this man is the Mayflower passenger?  If the Mayflower George Soule were baptized in 1594, it would make him a 26-year old servant, which is not a normal arrangement.  But perhaps even more conclusive, it would have made him almost two years older than his master, Edward Winslow, who was born on 18 October 1595: an even more unlikely circumstance.  And father Roger Soule was still apparently alive in 1620, making a servant arrangement unlikely as well—normally children do not become servants unless the father dies, or is particularly impoverished.  Unlikely circumstances aside, this George cannot yet be conclusively eliminated as a candidate.  No further record of him has yet been located. 


There is only one manorial record listed at the Worcester Records office for Redmarly, dated 1575, and access to it was refused by the staff of the Records office due to renovations; given the early date of the record, it is highly doubtful it would have mentioned any Soules.  Tax records at the Public Records Office (class E179) were searched for Dymock and Redmarly, but no Soules were found.  A large number of deeds for Dymock also survive and were searched, but no references to any Soules were found.




Roger Soule of Redmarly d’Abitot, co. Worcester, was married in 1588.  Most men during this period married around the age of 25, so we can estimate that Roger Soule was born about 1563.  So it is very interesting to note the baptism of Roger Soule on 12 October 1561 at Ashperton, co. Hereford, a parish that lies about 10 miles to the west of Redmarly d’Abitot.  The parish registers of Ashperton, co. Herefordshire, are very faded in parts, making their transcription extremely difficult.  Some of the entries are missing from the International Genealogical Index.  Examination of the parish registers reveals the following baptism entries (illegible letters are in brackets and are simply guesses at what the name originally was; entries with an asterisk are not found in the IGI):


Ø       18 March 1559/60 [A]nne, daughter of George Soule*

Ø       12 October 1561    Roger, son of George Soule

Ø       10 February 1562/3               [Kathe]rine, daughter of George Soule*

Ø       24 June 1564                          John, son of George Soule

Ø       2 November 1567  John, son of George Soule


There were no marriage or burial records relating to the Soule family in Ashperton.  It would appear that the Roger Soule of Redmarly d’Abitot was the son of George Soule of Ashperton, co. Hereford.  While we have reasonably eliminated Roger Soule as being the father of the Mayflower passenger (his son George being born a little too early), brother John Soule would necessarily be of interest.  Baptized on 2 November 1567, if he survived to adulthood he would have been married perhaps about 1592.  And since his father was named George, it would be reasonable that he would name a son George as well.


One quite reasonable possibility is that the John Soule baptized in 1567 at Ashperton is the same as John Soule of Strensham, who was married in 1596.  The timing is about right, and he did name a daughter Katherine, perhaps named after his sister; and the Soules in this region apparently had ties to John Soule of Strensham, because the will of John Soule of Berrow calls him a kinsman.


Additional research in Herefordshire has proven very difficult.  Archdeaconry wills for co. Hereford were apparently lost or destroyed during the English Civil War, and do not exist prior to 1660.  All that remains are some wills in the Episcopal Consistory of Hereford.  There is only one Soule will recorded, that of William Soule of Castle Frome, co. Hereford, dated 27 June 1567.  In his will, he bequeaths everything he owns to John Flooke alias Mutlowe, with the exception of a lamb and a shirt, which he bequeaths to Anne Abbottes, a servant to William Unett, gentleman.  So it is clear from the will that this William Soule did not have a surviving wife or children. 


Manorial records, likewise, do not exist for Ashperton.  There are some surviving deeds for co. Hereford; these were searched, but contained no references to Soules.


In co. Gloucester, there are only five Soule wills, none of which provide any mentions of the name George.  They are:


Ø   William Soule of Slymbrydge, Gloucester, dated 20 June 1577.  Mentions son William, and wife Bridget.  Ref: 1577/206.

Ø   Andrew Soule of Brockthropp, Gloucester, dated 24 September 1598.  Mentions Robert Lymbrygg, Robert Payne, Elizabeth Lord daughter of Reynold Lord, along with Mary, Richard, Frances, John, William, and Edward Soule (no relation specified) and Andrew Soule (kinsman).  Also mentioned are Richard Smyth, minister; Robert Wynston, and Richard Harris.  Ref: 1598/5.

Ø   John Soule of Newport, Barkley, Gloucester, dated 14 September 1573.  Mentions “four children” (not named) and wife Alice.  Ref: 1573/100.

Ø   John Soule of Eveington, Leigh, Gloucester, dated 16 May 1634, yeoman.  Mentions son John, wife Johan.  Overseers John Eagles and John Cooke of Derehurst Walton, yeomen.  Ref: 1639/33.

Ø   Stephen Soule of Brockthorpe, Gloucester, dated 11 June 1551, husbandman.  Mentions children Thomas, Edward, William, Andrew, Margaret, and Anne.  Mentions brother Thomas, Jone (his sister’s daughter), Robert Awood the elder (friend), and William Payne and Thomas Graynger.  Ref: 1551/112.


At this point, we have exhausted every probate, manorial, deed, and tax records in the regions of co. Hereford, co. Gloucester, and co. Worcester known to have been the home of a George Soule.  All known George Soules’ in these areas can now be conclusively eliminated as having been the Mayflower passenger, with the possible exception of the George Soule of Redmarly d’Abitot who was baptized on 24 March 1593/4.  However, some doubt was also shed on that record, he still being baptized a tad too early to have made a likely candidate for the Mayflower passenger.


In Part III of this research, I will move on to the Soule families of Bedfordshire, where the name of George Soule is found in use in the parishes of Tingrith and Flitwick.


Caleb Johnson is the author and webmaster of the website, a website he has researched and maintained for the past eight years.  His research into the ancestry of George Soule is being funded by the Soule Kindred in America, Inc.  Simon Neal of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, is accessing English records, and translating them where necessary, in support of this project.  Simon is a noted genealogist and records researcher in England, has an M.A. in Latin, and has worked with Caleb on several Mayflower-related projects in the past, including a research project on the Dorking records of William Mullins’, funded in part by the Alden Kindred of America, and published with the Peter Browne discoveries in The American Genealogist 79(July 2004):161-178.  Caleb is a descendant of Mayflower passenger George Soule, and is also a descendant of John Alden/Priscilla Mullins, Myles Standish, Edward Doty, Henry Samson, and Richard Warren.


[1] Nils Wilkes, In Search of George Soule of the Mayflower (n.d. c1986), p. 45.

[2] Nils Wilkes, In Search of George Soule of the Mayflower (n.d. c1986), p. 22.

[3] Worcester Records Office, 008.7 / BA 3585 / 1576, No. 36.

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