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

SALE Report

by Don Steel

This article was originally published in the March 1993 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

When we formed the society, the interim committee discussed at some length which surnames we would define as our sphere of interest.

We decided upon SOLE, SAUL, SEWELL and SOLLEY and their variants, and excluded (for the time being at least) SALE, the roots of which were known to be quite different from those of the others. Allegedly, it is derived from Norman French sale meaning hall, atte Sale indicating someone who worked at the local manorial hall. Some SALEs doubtless derive their name from Sale in Cheshire. However, it soon became obvious that there was crossover between SALL or SALLE, (pronounced like 'ball', 'call', 'hall', 'pall', 'tall', 'fall' 'gall' and 'stall') which were common early forms of SAUL, and SALE and its variants.

Moreover because of poor writing, many SOLEs have been transcribed or indexed as SALE and vice versa. The first of our team to start collecting SALEs on a systematic basis was Geoff, who decided it was essential to include them in his database, and all SALEs from the IGI for Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire as well as all SOLEs, SEWELLs, SAULs and their variants ‑ there are few SOLLEYs in those counties ‑ have been keyed in.

Apart from taking the SALEs out of the Bedfordshire FHS 1851 census index, my own active involvement in this surname began when I visited my distant cousin Timothy Kitchiner of Astwick, Bedfordshire, like Anna Pye and me, descended from the marriage of William Kitchiner and Frances Sole daughter of the elusive Gregory. His wife Jenny was a Hertfordshire SALE and of course I took down what she knew. Her father, John Sale of Letchworth, told me more and put me on to a distant cousin, John Sale of Hinxworth, Herts. I spent many hours with him, taking notes of wide ramifications of the family tree. He told me he had had photocopies of huge family trees of SALE of Hinxworth and related families of SMYTH and FOSSEY made by a distant relative, John Smyth of Bygrave in 1886. However, he had lent them to a distant cousin, Joyce Sale of Cambridge who was researching the family. He also gave me the address of another distant relative, Mr Beverley Sale of Croydon, Surrey, who was also a family historian. Joyce and Beverley have sent me much interesting material from their own researches and Joyce had John Sale's enormous trees copied commercially for me. (Although I had agreed to reimburse her, when it came to it she generously returned my cheque as I had sent her copies of the SALE charts in our collection.) Huge though they were, (5 feet by 2 feet 6 inches), the three charts had been over‑reduced from the original, so that everything was difficult to read and some was illegible even with a magnifying glass since the print of the letters had merged together. It is clearly important to locate the originals (which must be colossal), which are probably in the possession of the Smyth family. However, poor though the photocopies were, I was able to make many charts from them. Smyth derived the Hinxworth SALEs from a Richard SEARLE, who had rented a farm in Hinxworth, Herts in the early 18th century and was buried in 1739. His work will be easy to check for it is meticulous and well‑documented, representing the very best Victorian genealogy at a time before there were any county record offices and hardly any records were transcribed or indexed.

However we are now in a much stronger position than Smyth was. The published Bedfordshire Parish registers series and the Bedfordshire FHS index to the 1851 Census shows that there were SALEs in the nearby Bedfordshire towns and villages of Langford, Stotfold, Silsoe, Edworth, and Biggleswade, albeit of much humbler status ‑ labourers as against the fairly substantial farmers of Hinxworth. There is little doubt in my mind that the Hinxworth SALEs will eventually link with these. Moreover there were SALEs in Hertfordshire in the 13th century. The late Victorian Hertfordshire historian J.E. Cussans mentions a Thomas Sale who held 12 acres at Ickleford in the reign of Edward I and the early 19th century Hertfordshire historian Robert Clutterbuck, a Robert de la Sale, burgess of St Albans who witnessed a document in 1327.

Whether the Hinxworth SALEs were SEARLEs, we must wait and see, but if Smythe turns out to be right it will be yet another example of a major cross‑over between quite different surnames.

Another chart concerns the family of George Sale, an early 18th century orientalist who was the first translator of the Koran. He was the son of Samuel Sale, a London merchant. In all we now have 30 SALE charts in the collection.

The Bedfordshire 1851 census index revealed a Kitty SAYEL, born in Buckinghamshire. While lecturing in Cornwall to the Fal Family History Group a few months ago, I met Trixie Gilliam who is researching SAYELL of Bedfordshire, near the Bucks border. A few generations back they were SAYWELLs (like Geoff's ancestors). I wonder how many have become common or garden SALEs. Yet another odd link with one of "our" families.

I have purchased a copy of the World Book of SALEs published by Halbert's Family Heritage. In the mailshot to people of the surname, Halberts give the impression that these computerised catchpennies are family histories. In fact they are nothing of the kind. The SALE information is from standard reference sources most probably available in your local library and much of the rest is generalised material on surnames, genealogy, and heraldry. About 50 pages are taken up with a world address list of SALEs. Most people who buy these books (and they have probably done one for your surname) feel they've been had, but if you know what you're getting they can be very useful. Though they are expensive (£19~95) it would cost much more than this in time and expenses to list all the SALEs from directories all over the world.

As yet our work on this family has been confined merely to collecting easily available data and to the Beds‑Herts­Cambridgeshire area. Whether or not we should add SALE to SOLE, SEWELL, SAUL and SOLLEY as a major interest (which would involve nationwide coverage, active recruitment of SALEs, allocating space in the journal and even redesigning our logo) is something the committee will be considering at their next meeting.

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