The SOLE Family of New Plymouth, New Zealand
By Don Steel
This article was originally published in the April 1995 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
In our first journal we published a report by Dianne Thorstensen of a reunion held in November 1991 of descendants of Susannah Foreman, the widow of Edward Sole of St Nicholas‑At‑Wade, in the Isle of Thanet, Kent, who in 1841 emigrated to New Zealand with her second husband, Richard White Foreman, and six of her eight sons by her first marriage to Edward who had died in 1833. As noted there, for the reunion Faye Clark wrote a history of the New Zealand family and its antecedents called From the Marshes to the Mountain: an account of the Sole family 1791‑1991.
Richard and Susannah Foreman were accompanied to New Zealand not only by Susannah's six SOLE sons, but also by six of the seven children of Richard Foreman by his previous marriage. As Janet Hurst mentioned in her introduction to Dianne's report, they were among the earliest emigrants to New Zealand, sailing on a Plymouth Company ship, The Oriental, to New Plymouth in Taranaki province in North Island. That they ended up on a Plymouth Company ship and in New Plymouth came about quite by chance. Faye Clark tells us that they came out under a New Zealand Company scheme to settle in Wellington. A friend of Richard Foreman, a George Brett, came with them to see them off at Plymouth, and just as the vessel was leaving, expressed a desire to emigrate which he did without making any previous preparations for the journey. The Oriental had two parties on board, one organised by the New Zealand Company who were to be dropped off at Wellington, and the other organised by the Plymouth Company to be dropped at New Plymouth. As the agents of the New Zealand Company refused to accept Brett into their party, the entire family group switched to the Plymouth Company.
I am very interested in causation and motivation in Family History. If it were not for this account in the obituary of William Sole, who at eight was the youngest of the Sole children at the time of the voyage, we would have no idea why this East Kent family ended up with West Country families in a West Country settlement. Personally I am very glad of it, for it meant that subsequent generations of SOLEs inter‑married with West Country families I am interested in. James who was 21 at the time of the voyage married Sarah Hellier, who was also a passenger on the Oriental. My wife, Monica, has a direct HELLIER descent, though Sarah herself came from Dorset and I have not yet established a connection. One of James's and Sarah's grandchildren, Clarisse, married a PEPPERELL, a family I am descended from by three different lines. In 19th century New Plymouth, there were also three different lines of BROOKING, the other one‑name society in which I am involved, and from which my house is named. In 1863, during the Maori war, James Sole, accompanied by a T. Langman and W.H. Rowe was attacked by a party of Maori. All three managed to escape, James into the bush on the Maori side and the other two by outrunning their opponents even though Langman was wounded. The BROOKINGs were connected with both the LANGMAN and ROWE families. So although my SOLEs are Bedfordshire ones, I am almost as interested in the New Plymouth ones as if they were my own and it is nice to be able to link up different genealogical interests and find familiar names and places.
The book contains the names of more than 2,700 people, over 200 of whom were at the SOLE 1991 reunion. Although the price of $65 ($80 with postage) seems expensive, one must remember, firstly that there are around 3 New Zealand dollars to the pound, and also that family histories only have a limited print‑run and so are inevitably dearer than most other books. In fact this 350 page book is so comprehensive, has so many attractive illustrations, and is so beautifully produced that it is well worth the price and anyone connected with either Kent or New Zealand SOLEs should raid their piggy bank to purchase one.
The book is in two sections ‑ Historical Background and The SOLE Family Tree. Part 1 starts with the origin of the SOLE surname. Faye, quoting a 1912 surname dictionary gives the impression it comes from Old English sol, mud, a puddle. This is indeed very likely the ultimate origin of the surname as far as Kent is concerned (but not necessarily elsewhere) but only at second‑hand. As I mentioned in my article Kindred Souls, many Kentish SOLE families probably derive their surname from a place, Soles, in Nonington parish, south‑east of Canterbury and not all that far from Thanet. Muddy, Soles might have originally been, but by the time surnames started it might well have got cleaned up a bit! Ironically, Nonington is one of the few parishes missing from the map reproduced on page 3 of Faye's book. Other Kentish SOLE families may originate not from Soles but from Sole Street, near Rochester, but obviously Soles is most likely for the Thanet ones. One day we may know more.
From the derivation of the surname, Faye moves on to a description and history of the Isle Of Thanet in general and then the three villages particularly associated with the family: St Nicholas‑At‑Wade, Monkton and Sarre. Chapter 2 is on emigration to New Zealand. We are told about the New Zealand and Plymouth Companies and the various Plymouth Company ships. The Oriental was the third of these to sail on 22 June 1841, eight months after the first, the William Bryan. The Wellington passengers were dropped on 24 October and it arrived at New Plymouth on 7th November.
I can see why Faye Clark separated out the Historical background from the genealogical material as most of Part 1 applies to all branches. But it does lead to some anomalies, particularly with the early generations. When I started to read the book I got very confused. The first mention of a named SOLE is on page 1 and is of Richard Sole and his family in New South Wales, with no indication of who he was. The SOLEs are next mentioned on page 12 with a reference to the FOREMAN‑SOLE family, which meant nothing to me, followed a page or so later by a list of SOLE and FOREMAN passengers on The Oriental. I was told that son Richard did not go but emigrated to New South Wales in 1848 which now half‑explained the first allusion., but the SOLE‑FOREMAN reference and list of FOREMANs completely baffled me. It was not until I turned to the second part that found out (in Chapter 8) about Susannah and her two marriages. The book was obviously intended for descendants who can perhaps be presumed to have such basic family knowledge, but the arrangement with SOLEs bobbing up here and there like several jack‑in‑the‑boxes does bemuse the uninitiated. Much the same problem arises with the English topographical background. We learn about Thanet and Nicholas‑At-Wade before we know the SOLEs were there.
Although there is a good case for a separate chapter on the Land Wars as all the SOLEs were affected, I do wish the first three chapters ‑ the third is on Early Years in New Plymouth ‑ had been welded together with the genealogical material in Chapter 6 on Edward and Susannah. Even the fourth chapter on Soleville (owned by immigrants James and David Sole) and a beauty spot called Aotea (owned by Ernest and William Sole) would have been better integrated with the genealogy. When I first encountered Ernest and William on page 29, I went to the index to find out who they were. I learned on pages 261‑2 that Ernest was a son of the emigrant William, but although I was told he loved gardening, there was no mention of Aotea. But which William was it who jointly owned Aotea? Was it Ernest's builder uncle, to whom he was apprenticed? Or was it his older brother Oliver William, his partner in a butchery business? The index ascribed page 29 to neither of these but to a cousin, William Henry, son of Edward the immigrant. I hit the answer on page 31:
The SOLE brothers Ernest and William bought the 50 acres of land that comprised Aotea for £750 in 1892
But even that reference was ascribed in the index to the Aotealess William Henry. Clearly the indexer was as confused as I was. This may seem like nit‑picking, but there is a principle at stake. One of the glories of the book is the emphasis Faye Clark has placed on the historical background. I have seen so many family histories which betray a woeful ignorance of the whole historical context which is needed to make sense of the biographies. This book is not among them, and Faye is to be commended for that. But some of the glitter is lost because when you are actually reading the biographies, the historical background is often insufficient because it is elsewhere. It is a direct encouragement to those of a "mere genealogy" rum of mind ‑ or even those not too good at solving crosswords or putting together jigsaws, to ignore the first few chapters altogether.
Edward Sole, the first husband of Susannah was a labourer baptised at Monkton, Isle of Thanet 19 August 1792. He was the illegitimate son of Mercy Chittingdon and Edward Sole. Edward Soal (sic) and Mercy Chittenden were married on 10 December 1792. Faye says the younger Edward has not been conclusively proved to be "our" Edward who married Susannah Gore in 1817 at nearby St Nicholas‑At‑Wade but when he was buried in 1833 Edward was 41 so I would have thought the identification pretty firm and that perhaps Faye is being overcautious. If so, it is a fault on the right side. So many family histories make impermissible assumptions. It is refreshing to find the opposite extreme!
We are given no information about the elder Edward's antecedents. It maybe that the Innes Collection which I am in the process of calendering and from which I am abstracting all SOLE material will throw some light on them as the bulk of it is concerned with Kent and Sussex SOLEs. Be that as it may, once we have processed the SOLE entries from the IGI and Kent Marriage Index we will have a very good idea of how all the various Kent SOLE families hang together and I have little doubt that in the long run we can be as useful to Faye as she has been to us. But it will clearly take time.
Most of the book is taken up with the genealogy of Edward and Susannah's descendants. The work has been done with tremendous thoroughness and Faye and the Sole Family Reunion
Committee are to be congratulated on having traced so many and extracted such full details. I am at present in the process of contacting my STEEL relatives and getting dates and places of births, marriages, deaths, etc. as well as catching up with recent generations and know just how much time and effort this requires ‑ and I am not working to a deadline.
If I seemed a bit hard in my comments about the historical background I can surely redress the balance now, for the arrangement of the genealogical material really is excellent, making particular entries very easy to find. Each son is given a chapter ‑ John, James (by far the biggest chapter), David, Richard, Henry, Thomas, Edward, and William. Most of the immigrant brothers have very full biographies, usually of several pages. However, John and Henry have only a paragraph each. John's name appears along with those of his brothers in the Register of Emigrant Labourers applying for a free passage to New Zealand but he did not in fact go. He was 23 at the time. Perhaps he had a girl friend whom he didn't want to lose and who didn't want to go. Nothing more is known of Wm. Henry too, aged 15 at the time, applied but didn't go. Family tradition indicates that Henry may have gone to South America, South Africa or Australia. Una Sole recalls that her father, Oliver William Sole, son of William, as we have seen, the youngest of the SOLE emigrants, told her that one of his uncles went to Australia and died crossing the desert. Faye has done such an immense amount of work that anyone interested in SOLEs will be forever in her debt.
It would be nice if The Sole Society could go some way towards repaying this by, in due course, not only tracing the family back further but by finding out what became of John and Henry. In her genealogical notes and potted biographies on each individual Faye uses the same system as has been used by the Society of Mayflower Descendants for their volumes (one of which. incidentally, is of the descendants of Pilgrim Father George Soule and will be reviewed in Soul Search at some future date). Taking a name at random, number 320 is Carol Raelyne Gray. She appears in the chapter on James and the section entitled Fifth Generation. There is a little 5 surflexed over the Raelyne. This tells us two things. Firstly that Raelyne and not Carol is the name by which she is generally known and secondly that she is Generation 5 from Edward and Susannah, something we might not know if we were finding her from the index. There is no need to scratch back to see what section she is in. In brackets after her name we have:
Lloyd Coulter 4, Ronald Brooklyn 3, Sarah Isabel 2, James 1.
This is, in effect, a little pedigree telling us that she is the daughter of Lloyd Coulter Gray, the son of Ronald Brooklyn Gray, the son of Sarah Isobel Sole, the daughter of James Sole. James, as we have seen, was the second son of Edward and Susannah who was 21 at the time of the emigration. We can find out more about each of these by finding their potted biographies in the fourth, third, second and first generation sections respectively of the James chapter.
It is just as simple to go down as to go up. Raelyne is married to Graham Ronald Holland and they have two children 687 Barry Michael (6) Holland born 4 September 1969 and 688 Dayle Graham Holland born 20 October 1970. If either of these had children I would have found them a bit later on under "Sixth generation". Not surprisingly they don't appear there.
With one exception, the indexing to the genealogical information seems very thorough and it is perhaps significant that the only error I have found was in references in the historical section. The exception is that SOLE wives are indexed only under their maiden names. When compiling the pedigree accompanying this article I wanted to find the ancestry of the treasurer Joanne Sole. But the only Joanne I could find in the index was a student so I guessed, rightly as it turned out, that she is a SOLE wife. She appears in the list of patrons in Appendix 1 with a Waitara address. I looked up in the index all SOLE males in the patrons list living at Waitara and in the end found her, the wife of Peter David Sole. It was around about method of locating a senior officer and would have defeated me if her husband had not been a patron.
But although called an “index” it is in the main only an index to SOLE descendants. Place names, like St Nicholas‑At‑Wade are not included. Nor are some people in the historical section who are not relatives. When I read about Langman and Rowe, James's companions when he was attacked by the Maoris, I forgot to note the reference. Thinking about them later, I looked them up in vain in the index, read through the biographical section on James thinking I must have read about them there and only then looked at the chapter on the Land Wars where I found them. Some peripheral people are in, like Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the great inspirer of emigration to New Zealand. Perhaps Langman and Rowe were thought too obscure. But those who compile indexes never know what peripheral bit of information some damn fool user might want. So it is always best to index everything.
The genealogical information concerning the earlier generations is a full justification of those of us in The Sole Society who from the very beginning felt that we must be very generous in acknowledging variants. No one would have excluded SOAL, the spelling used by Faye's earliest known SOLE ancestor, as this is a common form in both Kent and Sussex. But it was interesting to learn in the very first reference to a named SOLE that in most entries before 1900, the descendants of Richard, one of the two brothers who did not emigrate to New Zealand, and who went to New South Wales in 1848 used the spelling SAUL. In the chapter on Richard, it seemed to me that in fact all his male line descendants were called SAUL. Richard had 3 sons and six daughters. One son died in infancy. Of the other two Richard Saul left only a daughter, and Jack (John Edward Thomas Saul) a son and a daughter. The son, Arthur J Saul, would seem to have died unmarried in 1948 when these SAULs became extinct in the male line. Otherwise the New Zealand SOLEs would have Australian SAUL cousins still. Clearly the SOLEs and the SAULs are not as distinct as most researchers have hitherto thought and no branch of SOLEs can afford to neglect considering the SAULs and vice versa. This was not a lesson I expected to learn from this book but it is so compendious I expect I shall have learned quite a few more unexpected things before I’m through with it. I shall return to it again and again. I only hope other Sole Society members keep me company by buying their own copies.
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