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

Who was Thomas Saul

By John Amos

This article was originally published in the December 2004 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

Thomas Saul was my great-great-great grandfather, and whilst I have found some information about him, I have not been able to find his parents.

Thomas Saul married Elizabeth Addy at Womersley, near Pontefract, on the 24 July 1800. According to the licence, Thomas was 21 and Elizabeth 19. The Sauls were a Catholic family living in Stubbs Walden, a township in the parish of Womersley. Other members of the family lived in Norton, less than a mile away but in the parish of Campsall.

The Sauls appear in the records of two nearby Catholic chapels, Burgwallis about 4 miles away, and Tanshelf about 7 miles. In the Burgwallis register there is Thomas Saul, born 11 June 1779 who being in peril of death was baptised the same day without ceremony. His godmother was Catherine Saul. Unfortunately the missioner at Burgwallis at the time chose to record godparents and not parents – ugh! The baby probably survived as his death is not recorded. So who was Thomas Saul, assuming that my ancestor was this baby?

The Womersley register provides a clue. Thomas Saul, age 35 of Womersley, married Mary Wheater, 21 also of Womersley, 24 October 1765. In the Burgwallis Catholic register there is a baby Thomas, born 7 October 1771, and baptised in Stubbs the 13 October. Godparents were Thomas Singleton and Elizabeth Clarkson, but again no mention of the parents. I have found no mention of the death of this little Thomas, so was he a cousin or possibly a little brother who didn’t survive childhood of the Thomas born in 1779?

My great (3) grandparents had ten children, three boys and seven girls. One of the girls, Elizabeth, married my great (2) grandfather, Isaac Hirst. Their eldest daughter, Sarah Hirst, born 1826, wrote a record of her parent’s family sometime in the 1890s. She says her grandparents were Thomas Saul and Elizabeth Addy, and her great grandparents Charles Edward Saul and Catherine Heptonstall. Although Sarah lived in South Milford about 12 miles from Stubbs, she almost certainly met her grandfather, Thomas Saul who died in 1845; and she certainly met her grandmother who died at her parent’s home in 1852. So it is more than likely that Sarah is recording what she was told by one or both of her grandparents.

If Sarah Hirst is correct, we need to look for a Charles Saul, born before 1760 (to have a son born 1779). So far I have found no such Charles Saul in the records. The Heptonstalls were a Catholic family, several of whom are recorded as ‘papists’ in the Womersley register.

So was Thomas Saul the son of Thomas Saul and Mary Wheater or was he the son of Charles Edward Saul and Catherine Heptonstall?

A possibility is that Sarah was a generation out, and that Thomas Saul and Mary Wheater were her great grandparents, and that Charles and Catherine were her great great grandparents. A possible clue that this might be right is from the list of recusants (another term for papists) in Womersley in 1767. There is TS, age 40 and MS, age 23 – surely Thomas and Mary, nee Wheater, and a female CS, age 67 – who might be Catherine Saul, nee Heptonstall? Or is this just clutching at straws?

Any information or further ideas on research on Thomas Saul and his family are welcome.

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