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

Saul Research

Tracing my family through the CD-ROM

by Peter Saul

This article was originally published in the August 2003 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

Within the last year or so, there have been two major improvements in genealogy, and one specific to Sauls.

The first was the availability on-line of the 1901 census. Although it first became available over a year ago, the computers and software could not cope with the demand, but that was subsequently corrected. Before looking at the site, it is useful to assemble all your known facts, and have a good idea of what you want to research. The information is a snapshot of who lived where in March 1901, and who was the head of household. It also states relationships to head of household and in most cases the occupation of the individual. It is possible to download the image of the relevant page, at 75p per page, or a modern transcript at 50p. The former is preferable, for a reason I shall explain below.

Second, the 1881 census became available on-line at:-

This has been made available by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The information is all in transcribed form.

Most important for Sauls is the CD-ROM. As most of you will know, the “Saul” CD-ROM was issued earlier this year. This combines the two census results with the IGI and other sources, with the addition of all of the Saul family trees researched so far by members of the society. This means that virtually all the known Saul information is available, in a single resource.

My family research has been at best patchy; time has always been the limitation. I had also hit a problem; male Sauls in my line died relatively early, so handed-down family history was almost non-existent. I wrote up just about everything I knew in the article “Sauls in Bury” in April 2001. I knew the name of my great-grandfather, but no dates or other information, except that he died at about 35 and may have come from the Lake District.

The Census results and especially the CD-ROM changed all of that! I now have an extensive family tree, tracing back the main line to Robert Saul, born in Arnside in 1601, and I think it may be possible to go back a little further. I also have several branches of the family listed. The only potential link I have identified with existing family trees on the CD-ROM is John Saul, born in 1667, grandson of Robert, but there are differences in other dates, so it is not yet clear.

John Thomas Saul and his wife Beatrice MaryIt’s obviously necessary to start from what you know. In my case, that was very limited. I knew that my grandfather, John Thomas Saul, died in 1924, and that his father was Joseph, dates unknown. The 1901 census did not at first show either of them. Only after a good deal of work was I able to find a John F. Saul, of the correct age and approximate location, living with his mother and step-father. The original document was in immaculate “copper plate” script, but the modern transcriber had copied John T as John F. It does illustrate how useful the document images are; without it, I could never have got past that point.

John T was born in a location, Woodhouses, in Lancashire which I have still not found on a map. However other documents refer to Haslingden, which is close to Bacup in South-East Lancashire.

There remained problems in going back a further generation, because there were no Joseph Sauls who fitted with the location. After some more work, I traced them, primarily through locating his brothers first. I knew that they had been in Bacup Borough Police, and was therefore able to locate through occupation. Much later, my mother found a ‘souvenir’ booklet of Bacup Borough Police. It was available on the web, but I could not find it on checking for this article. It lists the names of all members of the force, including Joseph Saul, John Saul, and Henry Saul, my father. The force was formed in 1887, which made my great grandfather and his brother John among the earliest members. They also had a brother-in-law in the same force at the same time. One of them, although I’m not sure which, had the number 5, which was re-issued to my father when he joined that force in 1947, just before it was amalgamated into Lancashire Constabulary.

After tracing Joseph, it all became a great deal easier, primarily with the use of the CD-ROM. It seemed that most of the family had moved in the mid to late 1880s from Witherslack in the southern part of the Lake District to Haslingden in Lancashire. Once more the Bacup link came to the fore. The first Chief Constable of the new force had been recruited from the Barrow-in-Furness police, and in all probability took some local policemen with him, or at least recruited people he knew. John Saul was in 1881 a policeman in Witherslack, so the link is probable if not certain.

I just have to put in a word about the location of Witherslack. Most of the records mysteriously refer to it as in Westmorland, and of course modern records refer to Cumbria. In reality it was, and some would say still is, in Lancashire. The “Friends of Real Lancashire” site:-

shows a map of the historic Lancashire boundaries. These include much of the southern part of the Lake District, up to Ambleside, and including Windermere and Coniston. Witherslack is in the peninsula below Windermere, and could never be interpreted as Westmorland. Most of the locations I have for the family in the years 1600-1880 lie within a few miles of this point.

Back beyond Joseph, the male longevity is a great deal better; indeed, his father John only died in 1918, at 87 years old. I found him in the 1881 and 1901 census returns, but only after identifying the Witherslack connection. Even that wasn’t all easy. I have yet to visit Witherslack, but it’s clearly not a big place. However, I had two potential candidates for Joseph Saul, born only 3 years apart, and it meant some very careful checks on the IGI records on the CD to be confident of the right links.

Then things somehow became easier. Perhaps I was just getting used to using the sources, but it seemed that every time I spent an hour or two looking at the CD-ROM, or the on-line sources, or both, I was able to add one or two generations. I also added in some of the collateral lines, mainly to avoid the many similarities of names and even close dates. Of the males, it seemed that Thomas, Joseph and John would cover most possibilities.

One other problem area came with Mary Ann Saul, who had two sons; John Saul in 1831 and Thomas Walker Saul in 1847. She had no husband listed, i.e. she was presumably a Saul by birth. Common enough now, but possibly less so then! Back past her, the generations seemed easier again, until I stopped at Robert Saul, born in 1601. They all had jobs like shepherd and farm labourer, and all lived in the Lake District, mainly around Witherslack and Cartmel, but some across the water in the main part of Lancashire, at Arnside, Yealand Redmayne and Warton.

One of the collateral lines turned up an interesting story, with a coincidence. Last year, we had a caravan holiday in the Lake District, staying at a site which was formerly a gunpowder works. Norman Saul’s records show a Thomas Saul, actually a son of Joseph Saul’s great-uncle, had been sacked for asking for a pay rise there in 1863. Something to casually mention to the site warden when we return!

So, a Lancashire Family for at least 400 years! Not a grand one, its true, but what a pleasure to put it all together. I really could not have done it without the e-mail help of John Slaughter, Norman Saul, who provided a great deal of help and data from his files, and of course the invaluable Saul Research CD-ROM.

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