By The Late Fred Sole
This article was published in the April 2017 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society
Ed: I hope you have enjoyed the Fred Sole’s Memory Rambles, which have appeared in the journal over the last few years. It is probably time to stop them as they move into more recent times and cover his family life and so are of less general interest. However they do include a bit on how he got interested in family history, met Don Steel and so set up the Sole Society. There is also something about the cars he owned, including pictures, which might be of interest to car enthusiasts. So if ever I need a filler for the journal I might well put it in!
Both Fred and his wife June had retired in 1984, and…
The majority of the planned retirement projects in the house and the garden being complete, our thoughts and curiosity turned to the history of our families.
It was sparked by the visit of some American friends we had met during a band concert on one of my band exchange visits to Austria. Maria was Austrian born and had lived in the town (of Ried) whilst her husband Lloyd Hixon was an American ex-serviceman. They arrived on my 60th birthday and brought with them a 5 gallon (22.5 litres) barrel of Austrian lager (the real stuff) – the event went well! Conversation revealed that Lloyd was trying to find a connection between a supposed ancestor and a monk at a Cambridge Priory, later to become Jesus College. We offered to take them to the local library to see what could be found but, as we suspected, found nothing of value.
What it had done, however, was awaken us to the fact that neither of us knew very much about our families. Beyond our grandparents or great grandparents was a closed book, and we decided to see if that could be remedied.
My family appeared not to present many problems as there were quite a few Births, Marriages and Deaths of the two surnames [Sole and Overall] in the records of the Cambridgeshire/Suffolk borders, but June’s was a different proposition. Her mother was from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, and her father from Heanor in Derbyshire. We joined the local Family History Society and, having exhausted the registers deposited in the local record offices we began making visits to the National Records Office at Kew, London (now The National Archives). I bought an early computer (Amstrad PCW8512 with extra RAM and an additional 31/2” floppy drive) to help with keeping records but we had no internet facility. Like personal computers, at that time the internet was in its infancy and any internet access at all was ‘Dial-Up’ – very slow and potentially quite costly because of the time taken for things to download.
Having come to a stop with my great great great grandfather Sole who served in the 30th Regiment of Foot (The Cambridgeshire Regt.) and became a ‘Chelsea Hospital Out Pensioner’ in 1813, I had to consider other avenues. There was very little genealogy information on the ‘Web’ at that time.
I subscribed to The Genealogical Research Directory – an international listing of who was looking for which surname/s – and I found that Don Steel, a well known genealogist, author and bookseller, was also researching the surname Sole. He lived in Somerset so I wrote asking what his interest was, which resulted in June and I lunching with him and his wife after visiting my ex-service colleague Norman Wills at Bristol.
I mentioned that I had considered starting a One Name Study for the surname to perhaps further my research but Don suggested creating a One Name Society instead. As he had done this before for other names, he offered to help through the early stages. The society was formed in October 1991 and rose to a [peak] membership of over 250 worldwide.
In 1996 I had to pass on the secretary work due to hospitalisation but with a good committee the society was not unduly affected. When I was able to return I was elected President and June and I still attend meetings when possible. Subsequently I located great great great grandfather and was able to research back to a Valery Sole (French?) at Thriplow in Cambridgeshire in 1584, which gives me a 9x great grandfather and a 400 year ‘Fenman’ history, (would that account for my ‘independence’?) and a sizeable family tree.
By now, circumstances had left me in a genealogy vacuum so I began a One Name Study for mother’s maiden name – OVERALL. I have amassed a database of several thousand OVERALLs worldwide and have managed to compile many of them into ‘Family Trees’, some quite large – my own running to 169 A4 sheets. Like gardening, a never ending hobby, but whilst being demanding it never palls.
Other things have to be attended to of course. The house (bungalow) always needs some attention, the garden even more so, but fortunately the car is less demanding these days.