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

Mistaken Identity?

by Lynne Burlingham

This article was published in the March 2000 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society. 


My father, Thomas William James (Bill) Solley, son of Thomas Walter Solley and his wife Ethel May (nee Sidders), was born on 15 November 1914 at Stuppington Farm, near Canterbury in Kent, the home of his maternal grandparents.

The birth was not registered until 9 January 1915, at which point there seems to have been some confusion in completing the registration form. Whether the confusion was on the part of my grandmother, Ethel May, who registered the birth, or on the part of the registrar, who took down the information, I do not know but, whatever the reason, my father’s name was entered as Ethel May and his sex as girl!

The mistake went undiscovered for more than ten years until, in 1926, my father gained a place at the County School for Boys, Dover and a copy of his birth certificate was required by the school. There must have been consternation all round. My grandmother and great-grandmother (Emily Frances Sidders) were required to make a Statutory Declaration and the entry was officially corrected on 6th July 1926 by the then Registrar, Harry Rose, with the following note in the margin of the birth certificate copy:

"In entry no 291 Col 2 for “Ethel May” read ‘Thomas William James’ and in Col 3 for “Girl” read ‘Boy’. Corrected on 6th July 1926 by me, Harry Rose, Superintendent Registrar on production of a Statutory Declaration made by Ethel May Solley and Emily Frances Sidders".

TWJ Solley as a child with his parentsNeedless to say, the mistake continued to cause raised eyebrows and mirth for many years to come, whenever his birth certificate had to be produced for official purposes.

The photo is of my father with his parents and was taken in August 1926, just before he started at the County School for Boys, Dover. I still have all his school reports from the school. The comment at the end of his first term’s report reads ‘His work and conduct are excellent, and reflect great credit on his former schools (Temple Ewell School) as well as on himself. His quiet manner and excellent conduct make him a useful influence among us'.

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