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

Name Changes and Overlaps

By Tim Soles

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

It's not unusual for the spelling of surnames to change from generation to generation, and this is sometimes caused by a misinterpretation of handwriting. It is quite common for the letters 'S' and 'F' to be confused, and sometimes the letter 'L'.

In the last edition of Soul Search we heard how Ken Hermon found his Sewell family under the name of Lewell. Tony Sewell had a similar experience with a Sewell shown as Lewell in the IGI. Tony also found an error in the 1881 Census where Sewell had been incorrectly entered as Senell. A Solley family in Kent had been listed under Lolley. There is a well researched family tree where the surname originates as Soly in the 1400s, becomes Solly, then Soley, returns to Solly and becomes Solley all before 1600.

In the process of transcription names can be listed wrongly, so keep an open mind when looking at lists. However, we do sometimes see some unusual changes to surnames that are genuine and become permanent.

In the early days of the Society it was thought possible that our research would prove some direct links between the four main surnames, SOLE, SAUL, SEWELL and SOLLEY.

I asked Don Steel whether he knew of any direct links and this was his response:

There has been some overlap between SAUL & SOLE with people baptised as Saul and married as Sole or vice versa, but basically they are different surnames.

There is some overlap of SEWELL & SOLE via SOWELL. David Sole, former rugby captain of Scotland descends from Cambridgeshire SOWELLS, almost certainly related to the Bottisham Sowells who became Sewells. But again, basically they are separate surnames.

There is no known example of overlaps between SOLE and SOLLEY, though originating from the same area of Kent. The Worcestershire Solleys may ultimately stem from Saul on the Severn near Gloucester early in the surname forming period when it was Sallege.

The Oxfordshire Sauls may ultimately come from the same place a century or so later when the place name had assumed its present form. But both hypotheses are speculative.

So it seems that for the moment, there are no proven links between the main surnames being researched by the society - unless you know better?

We would like to hear from members if you think you have a direct link between the surnames, and we would also be interested to hear about any more unusual surname changes, either by way of transcription error or genuine changes. Details will be included in future editions of Soul Search and in our web pages for the benefit of others

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