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

German Sauls

By Dorothy Hughes

This article was originally published in the December 2001 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

In late 1883 a young man of only seventeen years left his family and homeland bound for far off Australia. (Johann) Martin Saul had been born on 22nd February 1866 to Hermann & Christine (Hofsommer) Saul in Rotenburg-Neustadt, Germany.

Although the ship “Catania” sailed from Hamburg, it called at London, where Martin is reputed to have visited cousins before continuing to Australia. At his baptism in 1866 he was named for his “uncle living in Australia” since 1854. Could this uncle (Johann) Martin Saul have returned home to Germany to visit or did young Martin simply keep in touch by mail and then migrate to Australia? We know he came to Victoria to assist his uncle on the farm and in the butchering business established to supply the gold miners around the Timor /Bet Bet district.

He was an intelligent, highly educated young man who had completed his training as a locksmith; he brought his workbooks, drawings, and equipment with him to a strange land. Did he fit the criteria for tradesmen required in Australia at that time?

At some time just before he left Germany he stood sponsor for his sister’s child at her baptism. Martin’s sister, Christina, had married Rudolf Schweinitz and had a daughter Maria. The only knowledge we have of this young woman comes from the one and only surviving letter from her to her Uncle Martin then living in Victoria.

Young Maria writes this priceless gold embossed letter-card

A young Maria writes this priceless gold embossed letter-card in an impeccable hand, to her godfather at the time of her impending Holy Confirmation. She petitions God that He will grant her godfather “continuous health and long life and repay you for all the good you have done for me”.

Most Esteemed Godfather,

Since the important moment has arrived when I am to be accepted into the Adult Christian Community by means of Holy Confirmation it is therefore my foremost Holy duty to convey to you my sincere gratitude because it was you who during the first days of my life next to God and my dearest parents, who supported me by presenting me to the Lord in Holy baptism and who promised in my stead to remain faithful to God and to virtue as well as keep His commandments. Please accept my gratitude for the kindness you’ve shown me.

May the most gracious god help me to keep your continuous good will by my Christian and virtuous way of life. Let us therefore prayerfully raise our hands together on this so holy day for me, that He may grant His keep. May Almighty God grant you continuous health and a long life and repay you for all the good you’ve done for me. 

Your grateful Godchild asks you for your continuous favour.

Your thankful Godchild,

Maria Schweinitz.

Martin Saul was a successful, God-fearing, honest and upright butcher/farmer who lived on and worked his farm until he died aged nearly 91 in 1956. Maria had obviously been well educated as evidenced by the content of the letter. Conservatively dated around 1895, there was an obvious bond between the two. Did Martin look on her as his heir, as his uncle had indeed looked to his nephew?

A letter Martin wrote to his late cousin’s wife in New Zealand following the accidental death of his cousin in 1915 stated that he and his wife had no family and could she tell him if they (Fred & Lucy) had any children? At this time Martin Saul was alone in Victoria except for his wife of eight years. They eventually had two sons, Norman and Peter.

But what happened to Maria? Did she enter a convent as the tone of her letter suggests? Did she marry and have children? Maybe she migrated to America where Martin’s Cousin Lucine (Lucy) Saul had moved in about 1885, after which all connections between Lucy and Martin were lost.

The above (Johann) Martin Saul was my grandfather, whom I can only remember as a very old man with a long white beard, sitting in a wheel chair, following the amputation of a leg following a bad fall on his farm. He passed away when I was 10 years old.

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