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

William Solley (or Files)

By Keith Parry

This article was originally published in the July 1998 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

My maternal grandmother, Pauline Selina Cook (1872‑1960), formerly Solley, was proud to have descended

from the SOLLEYs of Richborough, Ash. Pauline was the fourth child of William Solley (1842‑1921) and Charlotte. They had thirteen children, of whom four died in infancy. Pauline lived at Richborough until her early twenties. In the Census of 1891, when she was  nineteen years old, her occupation is given as 'mother's domestic help'.

It is unlikely that my grandmother would have known of the doubt regarding her father's Solley pedigree. George Solley (1815‑1899) and Mary Ann were married in 1847, when William was nearly five years old. His birth certificate and baptism were recorded at Tilmanstone, six miles from Ash, the home of Mary Ann Files. His name is given as William Files, base born, with no entry regarding his father. But that may not be the end of the story!

The Census of 1841 records that George and his sister Jane were living with their parents, Thomas Solley (1772‑1845) and Elizabeth at Castle Farm, Richborough. The farm servant was none other than Mary Ann Files. William would have been conceived in November 1841, with the possibility of George being his father. However the marriage of George and Mary Ann took place eighteen months after the death of his parents in 1845. It is difficult to give reasons for such a delay.

The Census of 1861 records William as being a 'farmer's son', also listing his three brothers and two sisters. Mary Ann died in 1865 and in the following year, George Solley married Selina Spooner. He had two children by his second marriage, George Christopher and Constance. George Solley did not appoint either William, or his younger brothers as executors, but chose their stepbrother George Christopher for this role. George Solley's will provides for the proceeds of a trust to be divided equally among his children, specifically stating "...including my eldest son William".

Personally, I think that George was the natural father of William, but I am prejudiced in wanting it to be so. Reasons can be argued either way, but from the evidence available, no conclusion can be reached with certainty.

The Reverend Keith Parry (retired) is one of the members interested in the SOLLEY name. The link is through his maternal grandmother, Pauline Selina Cook (formerly Solley).

Although we had no information about his ancestors, Thomas Solley and Elizabeth Smith, who were from a wealthy family, living in Richborough, Kent (in Ash parish), he has provided more detail about later generations. Our original chart was designated KTM and this has now been considerably updated. 

Keith is currently tracing a branch of the SOLLEY family in the village of Nonington, and has been looking at the parish registers in the archives Canterbury Cathedral, together with Census and Will information as well as his  own family records.

Bob Solly

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