From The President
This article was originally published in the June 1992 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
Anyone with a hobby has their own anecdote of how they became involved with it. My introduction to family history was entirely accidental yet it probably changed the course of my life.
In 1974 a friend and I decided we would like to do 'something different' at evening classes. The two subjects on the curriculum that appealed to us were Jewellery Making and Tracing Your Ancestors. We chose the latter simply because the course was held on the one night of the week when we could both get out together!
The first talk of the session was given by Mr Fred Markwell, an experienced genealogist with a wonderful way of inspiring enthusiasm, a headmaster by profession and something of a talent spotter on the side. He was then secretary of the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry, a society which I joined fairly soon after that first session and with which I have subsequently had a long and happy association.
In April 1979 I attended the weekend conference hosted by the Nottinghamshire Family History Society; this was my first encounter with the Federation of Family History Societies en masse although as its President, Col. lain Swinnerton, was also that of the BMSGH I had a vague idea of what it was all about.
It was here that I met for the first time Elizabeth Simpson, Don Steel, Jeremy Gibson, Stella Colwell, Derek Palgrave, George Pelling and others who were well‑known, highly respected genealogists, many of whom had already played a big part in bringing genealogy (as it was popularly called then) into the lives of 'ordinary' people like myself. I was pretty awe‑struck by the whole proceedings, I can tell you!
But I need not have been. I was welcomed into their midst and over the years I have learned a great deal from them. Many's the time I've had good advice, an attentive ear, constructive criticism maybe, and I'm proud and happy that I can now refer to these folk as my friends.
I do not intend to bore you with a run‑down on my genealogical career; suffice it to say that I'm considered a pretty good all‑rounder. What started out as a hobby has become almost a way of life yet in addition to widening my circle of friends it has improved my knowledge of history and geography and even resulted in my compiling a well‑acclaimed book with Fred Markwell.
I hope, therefore, that as members of the Sole Society some of these aspects of family history will rub off on you and that you will derive as much pleasure from your contact with it as I have. It is appreciated that members of a one‑name society may not necessarily be family historians in the accepted sense of the word ‑the thought of perusing old documents or tramping round graveyards etc. may fill you with horror ‑ but you can still make a contribution towards the Society's success, if only by sending in your own family details or writing a piece for the Journal. It's a hackneyed phrase, but try to 'put back a little of what you take out'.
As for my Saul interests, on my marriage in 1972 I acquired three teenage stepchildren whose mother had died some years previously. Oral evidence could account for some details of their earlier childhood but there was little written evidence compared to the Baby Books I kept for my own daughters. Questions like 'How heavy was I at birth?' and 'What day of the week was I born on?' were fairly easy to resolve, others were not. So, when I eventually took up genealogy it seemed a good opportunity and only fair to investigate the Saul and Oakley families too. My husband has always been very supportive but only vaguely interested and he wouldn't entertain the prospect of entering a record office. When the subject of genealogy crops up in company however, lie is proud to adopt the royal 'we' when stating 'We have got our family back to the year such‑and‑such'!
But the infuriating thing about all this is that ‘we’ have got the Saul and Oakley families back much further than any of my own. For starters I cannot find my paternal grandfather…. But that’s another story.
I hope that I shall have the pleasure of meeting many of you in the years to come and I wish the Sole Society a happy and successful future.
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