by Ian Sewell
This article was originally published in the April 2009 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
As you may be aware I have been away, travelling though India, Australia and New Zealand for the last 6 months. Although the main aim of the holiday was to enjoy the countries I was visiting, I just couldn’t help but do a little genealogical research whenever the chance arose.
In Australia and New Zealand there is, like the UK, a war memorial in nearly every town and some of the bigger cities, like Invercargill and Adelaide have very impressive ones. Whenever I passed one of these I looked to see if any of the names on the monuments were the society’s names or variants.
Invercargill War Memorial
The only time I actually found one was in Cairns where the name of JC Sewell was given as fallen in battle. However on return to the UK I could not find the name in the Roll of Honour.
The next name to appear caught me by surprise. I was in the town of Roturura in New Zealand watching a film about ‘B’ Company of the New Zealand 28th Battalion. This battalion was composed solely of Maoris and gained considerable fame in Africa and Italy and ‘B’ company was the local company raised around Roturura.
I was rather shocked when one Sonny Sewell came on the screen to recount his part of the battle for Crete. I didn’t think the Sewell name was a Maori one! However it seems that Maoris trace their descent from the female line but their surname from the father’s line.
Although I only had one day in Wellington I could not help myself and spent a few hours in the National Records Office. With only limited time I could only look at a few of the records and was able to transcribe some of the immigration records. Only one of them was for a Sole and the rest for Sewell’s. It seems that New Zealand was not a destination for Sauls and Solleys. I hope to pass these records on to Diana soon if anyone wants to have a look.
Whilst staying with cousins in New Zealand my eye was caught by a small advert in the local paper for Geoff Sewell, who seems to be a singer of some note (www.geoffsewell.co.uk). In fact my cousins knew of him and said that he has a very good singing voice but had not realised the connection with myself. Although actually born and based in England he seems to have greater popularity in New Zealand
Driving though Hokitika I was looking for a book shop when suddenly I found myself in Sewell Street, which was one of the main roads in the town. The book shop owner was able to find a book that said that it was named in honour of Henry Sewell the first prime ministers of New Zealand who held the post for just two weeks.
Sewell Street in Hokitika
When I first joined the society I wrote an article about a soldier I researched thinking he was in my line. Later research proved this not to be the case and so I left him, given that I could not find any trace of the family after 1871. Then whilst I was travelling through South Australia I was surprised to receive an email from Peter & Glennis Sewell regarding my article.
It seems that Henry and his family had emigrated to Australia in 1880 and Peter & Glennis were descended from him. They had started their researches into their family again after many years, this time using the internet and the first thing they did was Google his name, where my article appeared.
Finally, whilst I was walking around Adelaide a sign caught my eye, it was in poor condition but you could still see the words that said “SF & JE Sewell Fruit & Produce Merchants”. It looks like the business has been closed for many years.
SF & JE Sewell Fruit & Produce Merchants in Adelaide
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