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




by John Slaughter


 This article was originally published in the April 2008 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society


Maureen’s report in the last journal, detailing the current status of research on the Sole name, has prompted me to produce something similar for the Sauls.  There is far too much material for one article so this will be the first in a series of articles over the next few journals. 


As has been highlighted before, the Sauls in the UK can roughly be grouped into five main geographical areas of England, these being East Anglia, South Midlands, North West, Yorkshire and the Sawles of Cornwall.


I will begin with East Anglia and in particular the county of Norfolk. This is the home county of my own Sauls, so I have always taken a particularly keen interest in the Norfolk Sauls and have carried out substantial research there. Norfolk is also of considerable significance in that it is very likely to contain one of the sources of the name. Situated approximately 12 miles north of Norwich is the village of Salle (pronounced Saul). It is probably very significant that, though Norfolk covers a considerable geographical area, the vast majority of Sauls in Norfolk are to be found in an area to the north and east of Norwich. It is reasonable to conclude that the village of Salle is the source for the name in Norfolk, though we have to accept that we are never going to be able to link the genealogical lines back far enough to produce absolute proof.


The largest Norfolk tree that we have originates at Stalham and is headed by John Saul and Jemima Francis who married at Stalham in 1778. This tree currently contains 272 individuals. I should mention here that the trees only contain individuals who carry the name Saul, except for the husband’s and wife’s who marry Sauls. John and Jemima had eight children, all baptised at Stalham, and we can trace some of their descendants right up to the present day. John was buried at Stalham on 2 August 1793, his age being recorded as 41 years. He was not baptised at Stalham and we have not found a suitable baptism elsewhere. One possible theory as to his origin can however be advanced.


Approximately five miles to the west of Stalham is situated the village of Tunstead, and there on 18 March 1750 a John Saul married Frances Tinker. The baptism register for Tunstead records the baptism of nine children of John and Frances, the earliest being an Elizabeth on 3 April 1754. None of the children was named John and it is tempting to think that John of Stalham may have been their first child, he would fit very nicely into the gap between the marriage in 1750 and the first baptism in 1754. Is this perhaps a situation where the first child was born in the mother’s parish and that the missing baptism will be found there? Alternatively, horror or horror’s, the baptism was not recorded. The tree that John and Frances head is relatively small and contains only 30 individuals. Though they had nine children, only two were boys and one of these died as an infant. The surviving male had eight children but repeated the pattern by having only two boys, one of who died as an infant. The surviving male died unmarried and had no issue. So this tree quickly dies out in the male line. Both John and Frances lived to a good age and both spent their last days in the workhouse at Smallburgh. John was recorded as 86 years of age when he was buried on 13 May 1812 and Frances as 91 years of age when she was buried on 14th September 1819. This suggests that John was born circa 1726, but no suitable baptism has been found.


The second largest tree we have, contains 236 individuals, and originates at Cawston, a village only about 1 mile from Salle. Thomas Saul and Elizabeth Alexander, who married at Itteringham on 13 October 1761, head this tree. Their descendants can be found at Cawston right through to the end of the 19th century. Some, though, spread their wings a bit further, including two brothers who emigrated to Australia in the 1850’s and about whom a good number of articles have previously appeared in the journals. Establishing the origin of Thomas has so far proved illusory. He was buried at Cawston on 13 June 1790, with his age being recorded as 59 years. Interestingly the next Saul burial is of an Elizabeth Saul, aged 66 years, and who is described as a single woman. She was not therefore Thomas’s wife, who appears to be have been buried on 23 March 1805. It is possible that Thomas and Elizabeth were brother and sister, in which case we are looking for an Elizabeth born circa 1727 and a Thomas born circa 1731. Curiously there is such a combination at Little Plumstead, but this Thomas can be accounted for, as there is a gravestone at Little Plumstead to Thomas Saul who died 11 February 1777 in the 44th year of his age.


Thomas is stated as being “of Cawston” at the time of his marriage at Itteringham in 1761 and which appears to have been the home parish of his bride. There were however some earlier Sauls at Itteringham, in particular burials of a Samuel Saul, married man, on 26 February 1748 and Rebecah, widow, on 22 August 1751. Fortunately both left wills. Samuel’s will reveals that he was a gardener and owned land at Itteringham and Trimingham. He mentions therein his wife Rebecca, and his nephews and nieces Richard, Samuel and Mary who are stated as being the children of John Saul, late of Roughton but now deceased. Also mentioned are his wife’s sister Hannah Farr and her children. Rebecca’s will mentions only her sister and her sister’s sons. I think it is safe to assume from this that Samuel and Rebecah left no surviving issue, so we can discount them as being the parents of Thomas.


Next, in order of size, are the trees for the Little Plumstead Sauls. There are two trees the largest of which is headed by a John Saul and his wife Alice, containing 177 individuals. They were fairly affluent and Wills and Monumental Inscriptions aid us. John’s Will, describes him as a Gentleman, and he appoints his wife Alice as his sole executrix leaving his entire estate to her. Alice’s Will is a little more informative and refers to her sons, John and Edmund and daughter Alice, the wife of Thomas Nudd. The gravestone to John’s memory, records that he died on 10th September 1767 in his 72nd year. So he was born circa 1696. John and Alice had ten children baptised at Little Plumstead, though several died as infants and it appears by the time of Alice’s death in 1780 only three were alive. John and Alice had a period away from Little Plumstead between about 1722 and 1731, when they resided at nearby Blofield, and their descendants can be traced at Blofield as well as other nearby villages such as Acle and Lingwood. John and Alice’s marriage has not been located.


The second Little Plumstead tree is small, containing only 12 individuals. The tree consists of a Richard Saul and his wife Ann Wigg, who were married at Norwich in 1721, and their six children. It appears that none of the male children had any issue. Richard died in 1768 and his gravestone records that he was born in 1694. It is probable that Richard and John were brothers.


We also have a tree that originates at Acle and which may link to the larger Little Plumstead tree but, if so, it is not clear how. This tree contains 71 individuals and is headed by John Saul and Phoebe Kerrison who married at St Clement Dane, Westminster, London on 15th October 1817. They had three children baptised at Acle, i.e. John (1821), Edward (1823) and Matthias Kerrison (1826). They may have had a further child Phoebe Kerrison who married Benjamin Howard at Great Yarmouth in 1840, the marriage certificate showing her father’s name as John Saul. It is possible that she could have been born between 1817 and 1821, perhaps in London. John’s wife Phoebe appears to have died in 1828 and John remarries a Sarah Kerrison at Great Yarmouth in 1836. One of the witnesses to this marriage is Phoebe Kerrison Saul. I have not established when and where John died nor located him on the censuses so have no clear idea of his birth year. I am hoping that the marriage certificate of John and Phoebe, which I have not yet viewed, may provide a clue.


Mundesley, where my Sauls are to be found, is also a significant Saul village. Though it is very likely that all the Mundesley Sauls are, in some way, related I cannot, despite substantial research, amalgamate them all into one tree. There are three separate trees. One difficulty I have encountered is that the parish registers at Mundesley prior to 1724 have not survived. Bishops Transcripts have helped a little but the main aid in trying to establish the genealogical lines is that the early Sauls at Mundesley were people of some standing and wealth so I have the benefit of documents such as Wills, Manorial Records and Land Transfers. I can find no evidence for there being Sauls at Mundesley prior to the middle of the 17th century. Amongst the earliest evidence I have found is a document relating to the renewal of an alehouse keeper licence for Gabriel Salle of Mundesley dated 1662 and the Hearth Tax Assessment of 1664, that records the payment of Hearth Tax by John Sall, John Sall (jnr) and Gabriel Sall. The earliest will is for an Alice Saul proved in 1669. She was a widow and because she mentions her brother Robert Hippar she must be the Alice Hippar who married Gabriel Saul at North Walsham in 1655. Gabriel was presumably the alehouse keeper and had died by 1669. The marriage entry for Gabriel and Alice records that he was a widower of Mundesley, and a yeoman. Alice was described as single and also of Mundesley so it seems odd that they married at North Walsham, but it has been to our benefit as it pushes back the earliest known date for Sauls at Mundesley to 1655. The will of Alice and other 17th century wills provide some help with constructing the family units pre 1724, as do Manorial records, but some speculation is required in order to construct a joined up tree. It is not entirely clear, for example, how the three Sauls in the 1664 Hearth Tax Assessment are related, whether John the elder is say a brother of Gabriel or his son. The tree assumes the latter and treats Gabriel as the patriarch but the absence of any information about ages makes this highly speculative. It is this tree that I have attached my Mary Saul to, though, as I have said before, I have a real problem in the identification of her parents. This tree is the largest of the three Mundesley trees containing 79 individuals. However I cannot extend the Saul genealogy of this tree beyond 1801.


The second Mundesley tree can be extended through to the present day. However, I cannot extend it back beyond a marriage of a Robert Saul and Mary Pye which took place at South Repps in 1801. Robert was described as single and of Mundesley and one of the witnesses was Mary Saul. They are the only Sauls for whom gravestones can be found at Mundesley. Robert died in 1834, aged 63, and Mary in 1874 aged 89. Assuming the ages are accurate Robert was born circa 1771. I think he may be an earlier child of a John Saul and Mary Bower who married at Mundesley on 15 December 1771 or perhaps a child born to Mary prior to her marriage who then adopted the Saul name, but I have no evidence for either scenario. This tree contains 44 individuals. 


John Saul and Mary Bower who married at Trimingham in 1750 head the third Mundesley tree, which contains just 22 individuals. On the marriage entry John is described as John Saul (Jnr) of Mundesley. John and Mary had five children baptised at Mundesley between 1752 and 1760. I think she is the Mary who was buried at Mundesley on 24 September 1811, aged 86, and described as a widow. There is no burial at Mundesley however that could be John. Mundesley at that time was largely a fishing port and we know that some of the Sauls were mariners. We do not know John’s occupation but could he have been “lost at sea”? The absence of a burial entry robs us of an approximate year of birth for John and there is no Mundesley baptism post 1724 that fits. 


A William Saul and Mary Waterson head the final Norfolk tree of any significant size where I can trace descendants through the 19th to the 20th century. William and Mary married at Sustead on 10 January 1786, both being recorded as of the parish. They had two children baptised at Sustead, Hannah in 1786 and Samuel in 1788. They appear to have moved to Metton, a neighbouring village, for in 1790 they baptised a third child, Mary. William was buried at Metton on 9 May 1829, aged 73. The eldest child Hannah had an illegitimate son, Samuel, who was baptised at Metton in 1808. It is Samuel’s descendants that we can trace through to the 20th century and who form the bulk of the 46 individuals contained in this tree. A William born circa 1756 remains illusive.


I have a number of small trees for Saul families in other locations, generally in the 17th and 18th centuries, but I cannot link these to the main trees shown above and often they appear to die out, at least in the Saul line.


The next article will cover the counties of Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.


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