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

How It All Began

A brief account of the events leading to the formation of the Society

by Fred Sole

This article was originally published in the June 1992 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

In 1987 Fred and June Sole were visited by two friends - Lloyd and Maria Hixon - who live in Massachusetts, USA. During their stay the subject of genealogy arose because Lloyd had done some research on his family name and had traced a connection to a onetime monk in Cambridgeshire in the 15th century and he was at a standstill at that point.

A visit to the local library confirmed that a name Lloyd had recorded was associated with a long-gone priory on or near land now occupied by Jesus College, Cambridge. Lloyd went away happy with his snippet of information and that was that ...

It wasn't, of course, because the seed had been sown - both Fred and June began to look more closely at their respective family histories.

On Fred's side all went well, with no great excitement, until he found himself in difficulty with a gt gt grandfather and began to collect Sole data of all and any kind in an attempt to solve the problem. More than a year of searching for this gentleman's origin caused Fred to wonder if someone else might be looking for the same person, or might indeed know all about him! It soon became obvious that very few family historians locally were interested in the name and so the net must be cast wider.

An entry in the International Genealogical Research Directory prompted Fred to write to the well-known genealogist Don Steel who, apparently, was seeking information on the Soles of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. This interested Fred because of the possibility of there being some connection with a family he had previously researched for another American friend, Don Sole. In his letter Fred mentioned that he had begun to consider the registration of the name with the Guild of One-Name Studies at some time in the future when more information was to hand.

A convenient visit to the home of friends in Weston-Super-Mare in September 1991 made it easy for Fred and June to meet Don and his wife Monica, who live in Somerset, and enjoy their hospitality over lunch and throughout an afternoon. One of the main points established was the fact that, whilst many one-name groups had comparatively few variations to deal with, any society or group purporting to be concerned with SOLE and its various spellings must also seriously consider several other names which, although they appear to be totally different, have already been found to overlap or to have been confused with Sole.

Don's interest in the name was through a distant ancestor and therefore not so direct as Fred's but he was willing to help as much as possible for a year or two and set up a recording system that had been successfully used by him previously with other one-name groups.

The outcome of the meeting was a decision to make contact with several Sole researchers with whom Don and Fred had corresponded in the past, to find out if there was sufficient interest to support a society, leaving the question of surname coverage to be considered later.

Several people responded enthusiastically so it was decided to go ahead and Don was able to arrange accommodation for the inaugural meeting of interested parties at the home of a cousin, Anna Pye, at Steeple Morden in Cambridgeshire.

Before the meeting took place Don received information from a correspondent in New Zealand that some descendants of a couple who emigrated to New Plymouth during the mid 19th century were planning a family reunion in that town in early November. The original couple had both been married before and each had a family, most of whom accompanied them to their new life. The lady was Susannah Sole (nee Gore), with seven of her eight sons and her husband Richard White Foreman. The reunion was to be attended by more than 400 descendants of the Sole sons, but the organising committee had traced over 3,000 living descendants in New Zealand. This news prompted Don and Fred to decide that, if the forthcoming meeting agreed, any Society would, if possible, be formally inaugurated before or at the same time as the reunion. The two diametrically opposite points on the globe would then have (almost) simultaneous Sole events.

Seven people attended the inaugural meeting: Anna Pye, Don Steel, Fred Sole, June Sole, Rosemary Bailey, David Parsons and Tony Weston. The gathering was very informal, butl agreement to form a society was reached and interim administrative positions were accepted to allow activities to commence. It was also agreed that formal business should begin on 2nd November (All Souls Day) 1991 and all who joined the Sole Society on or by 31 December that year would be considered as Founder Members.

By 31 December 1991 the Sole Society membership numbered 41, representing several countries.

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