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

SOLE Survivors

by Fred Sole

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

Being an account of ten generations bearing the name of SOLE who have lived (and are living) in the county of Cambridgeshire. No connection with any person or persons of note (living or dead) is claimed or inferred, such possibility being extremely unlikely


My little history begins with my earliest (assumed) SOLE ancestor and ends with present day bearers of the name. I personally find reading in that direction easier and make no apologies for my arrogance in assuming that many will agree.

I have numbered the males of each Christian name in order of their appearance upon the scene to facilitate any referencing back.


1. THE DARKEST AGE (with apologies to Tolkein)

The Parish Register of Elmdon in Essex records the following marriage


Whence MATHEW came and his age at the time of his marriage is not known. The only known references to such a SOLE who might have married at that time are in respect of baptisms in London (a Stranger or Walloon) and in Northumberland. For the time being, therefore, he is MATHEW (1).

Mary was baptised at Elmdon on 24 January 1668 the daughter of JOHN and JONE MOULE.

Two children were baptised at Elmdon:

MARTHA the son of MARTHA by MARY his wife

on 20 September 1703 and

MATHEW the son of MATHEW and MARY on 15 February 1706.

Presumably MATHEW (2) ‑'MARTHA' died but there is no mention of his burial. There is however, a record of the burial of MATHEW (1) on 18 March 1715 and of MARY on 15 November 1718 at Elmdon.

If he had survived to that time, MATHEW (3) would have been alone in the world at the tender age of 10 or 11 years. The Elmdon Parish Chest has yet to be searched to see if the Parish Elders took any action (e.g. put the boy out to an apprenticeship etc.) For the present he seems to have returned to the darkness from whence his parent came and ended the first age.


I cannot yet confirm that the MATTHEW SOLE who surfaced in the Cambridge parish of St. Peter in 1734 was, in fact, MATHEW (3) but because no other eligible candidates have been revealed, it is FAIR assumption. 

On 14 May of that year MATTHEW SOLE married ANN SMITH at the parish church of St. Peter's. Once again no earlier mention of the name appears in the register so MATTHEW must be considered an immigrant.

MATTHEW and ANN baptised 3 children at the church of St. Giles, Cambridge before MATTHEW went to an early burial on 26 January 1745:‑

ALICE                                     28 December      1734

MARY                                     11 March               1738

MATTHEW (5)                       28 March               1743

The baptism date of MATTHEW (4) is unknown ‑ his burial is recorded on 20 October 1736.

ANN did not re‑marry and was buried on 12 April 1770 at St. Giles. Again, an only son left to survive the new twilight.


Shortly after the death of his mother, MATTHEW (5) married MARTHA GRAY at St. Giles in Cambridge, on 30 April 1770.

MARTHA, baptised on 19 January 1745 was the youngest of nine children baptised by WILLIAM and MARTHA GRAY of St. Giles and this union seemed to herald a new age. Twelve children were baptised and although six died young, four of the survivors were male:‑

ANN                                    1771-1772

ANN                                    1773-1778

JOHN(1) WILLIAM?          1773

MATTHEW (6)                   1774-

JAMES (1)                         1779-1783

WILLIAM                             1781-

JOHN (2)                             1783-

SUSANNAH                       1785-1787

MARTHA                             1787-

JAMES (2)                          1788-1790   

JAMES (3)                          1790-

ANN                                      1793-

In the early years the family seems to have been somewhat mobile. The first ANN was baptised at St. Giles, the second at Barley in Hertfordshire, JOHN(I) and MATTHEW(6) at St. Giles and the rest in St. Mary the Great, Cambridge.

The foray into Hertfordshire is, as yet, unexplained ‑ ANN was baptised on 14 February 1773 ‑ but parish chest entries a few years later (payment of monies to SOLE at Cambridge) suggest that MATTHEW's(5) stay was either the result of a removal order, or for the purpose of obtaining settlement.

MARTHA was buried at St. Mary the Great on 25 September 1801 but the final resting place of MATTHEW(5) is unknown. Inexplicably another darkness descends.


Beginning in 1803 WILLIAM(1) and MARY SOLE baptised four children at St. Giles Cambridge.

WILLIAM (2)                                     1803‑1835

GEORGE (1) Peters                       1806‑1808

STEWARD (a daughter)                 1807‑1808

GEORGE (2)                                     1809‑

But was he WILLIAM1(1)? Undeniable proof has yet to be found but the other possibles in the county and over not too far distant borders all seem to have been claimed by other wives or earlier burials. FAIR assumption therefore says he it is ...

Once again death visited a SOLE family early ‑ WILLIAM(1) was buried at St. Giles on 8 March 1813, "husband of MARY".

MARY did not re‑marry but baptised a daughter HARRIET in 1824. Whether HARRIET was baptised late, or the result of an indiscretion is not clear but no father is mentioned in the Baptism Register. In any event, the poor girl was buried in 1831 and her mother MARY died the following year being buried on 2 July 1832 aged 50 years.

The disturbing thing about this marriage is that it doesn't seem to have taken place! That is to say, not in Cambridgeshire. Much searching has been undertaken to no avail but recently a Removal Order and Examination have been found which could refer to WILLIAM(2). The order is to remove him to his parish of settlement ‑ Barley in Hertfordshire (!) ‑ when recovered from illness and able to travel safely. During his examination WILLIAM had stated that his father had belonged to Barley, being relieved by that parish "when he came home from soldiering".

So WILLIAM (1) was a distant "Army" bridegroom? (The thought of all those Parish Registers makes one think of taking up something easy like stamp collecting).

The burial of WILLIAM SOLE a single man at St. Giles on 17 May 1835 suggests WILLIAM (2) never made it back to Barley.

At least WILLIAM (2) lived long enough to see his younger brother GEORGE(2) married and in a position to carry the family banner. 

GEORGE(2) for his part strode into the full daylight of the fourth age, a true survivor. His marriage to SARAH MULLENOX on 26 September 1832, at St. Giles, Cambridge, produced eleven known children and eight survived childhood. 

WILLIAM(3)             1832-

HARRIET                 1834-

SUSAN                    1836-1838

GEORGE(3)            1838-

ALFRED(1)              1840

SUSAN                     1842

HENRY(1)                 1845

ELIZABETH              1844-1844

SARAH                      1847

FREDERICK(1)        1849-

ELIZABETH               1851-1851

GEORGE(2) was a brickmaker and no doubt had to be mobile. WILLIAM(3), SUSAN(1836) and GEORGE(3) were born at Cambridge. HARRIET at Chatteris, and the remaining children at Holywell near St. Ives in Huntingdonshire.

Unfortunately SARAH died after the birth of ELIZABETH in 1851 and was buried at Holywell on 17 August of that year. The family then moved to Little Downham where GEORGE(2) was buried on 10 November 1865.

Little research has yet been done on the other children but WILLIAM(3) became (a) a brickmaker like his father (and later a railway platelayer) (b) the husband of KEZIAH PATE and (c) by great grandfather. 

WILLIAM(3) and KEZIAH were married at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Ely on 7 December 1859. Their five children were all born at Chatteris where WILLIAM(3) moved to work on the railway.

WALTER(1)           1860

ALFRED(2)            1862

EMILY                      1864‑

JULIA                       1868‑1871

ANNIE                      1877‑

WILLIAM(3) was buried at Chatteris on 13 December 1892 and KEZIAH on 17 July 1909.


WALTER(1) is the subject of current research but little is known of him. ALFRED(2) did not marry SARAH JANE FULLER of Chatteris until his 34th year. They were married in the parish church on 18 July 1896 (ALFRED's birthday). SARAH JANE's parents were THOMAS and ELEANOR FULLER, a long established Chatteris familly name.

Three children were born before SARAH JANE died in 1905.

THOMAS(1) William                 1899‑

EDITH EMILY                             1901‑

ALFRED(3)                                1903‑

ALFRED(2)'s sister ANNIE had not married and she shouldered the burden of looking after her widowed brother and the children. ALFRED(2) lived to the age of 82, being buried in 1945 ‑ no doubt he missed the company of ANNIE who had died the previous year.

THOMAS(1) (always known as Bill) became a baker and was employed in the town of March where he met his employer's housemaid EDITH MAY OVERALL, the eldest daughter of JOHN and ANNIE MARIA OVERALL of West Fen, March.

THOMAS(1I) and EDITH were married at the Baptist Chapel in Gracious Street, Whittlesey on 31 January 1923 and went to live at Eastrea, near Whittlesey where THOMAS had found new employment. A son ALFRED(3) was born in 1924 but, always in failing health, he died in 1926. Before their second son FREDERICK(2) was born on 11 June 1927 ‑ that's me, incidently ‑ THOMAS's health finally rejected the rigours of a country baker's life and he died in January 1927.

So you see, I never knew my father, much less know anything about his predecessors.

I knew his sister EDITH EMILY who married first in Canada and secondly in London and I knew her children. I must have met his brother ALFRED(3) but memory is unclear. ALFRED's wife however I knew quite well in later life and his two daughters.

All have their own families now and my own is three strong with five grandchildren. SOLE families are thriving ‑ is the name a survivor? 

To eliminate as much FAIR assumption as possible, information on any SOLE/SOUL/SOAL/SOULE etc. would be greatly appreciated and reports of any of these found wandering during the twilights will be received with unbounded delight.

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