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2,395 study surnames with us
and a further 6,089 variant names.

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About the study

The Solesbury One-Name study was formally registered in 2002, although its roots go back several years before that.

Like many one-name studies, it grew out of an attempt to trace my own ancestry, and more particularly that on my maternal side. Initial research started at the Family Records Centre in Islington, which provided hands-on access to the GRO's registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales and also access to microfiche / microfilm copies of all the censuses then available.

The name SOLESBURY only occurs sporadically in the registers. After I had built up my notes on the immediate family, I found I was increasingly returning to the same volumes as I followed new leads in a widening circle. After a while the penny dropped - and I started keeping more systematic records of what I found: recording all occurrences of the surname, on the presumption that sooner or later I would later be able to piece the records together, soon proved to be much more efficient.

The metronomic 'scrape-thump-rustle-thump-scrape' of regular researchers systematically reviewing volume after volume of GRO registers in the FRC is indelibly etched in my mind. Over the course of my monthly visits, I began to understand the etiquette of performing such searches: the occasional delay while someone else accessed the next volume in sequence; the pauses while trying to find an adjacent workbench to use; the friendly swapping of workbench space with someone scanning in the opposite direction all featured - not to mention the hidden, internal frustration at researchers going slower (or faster!) than me. At my prime, I think I counted on knocking off a year a minute - helped by there only being one event every five years or so to break up the rhythm. All memories now, unfortunately, in this computerised age!

A similar approach was followed for Census Returns, in particular compiling transcripts of the census returns for Milton Ernest in Bedfordshire, and surrounding villages. I think I calculated at one point that about 60% of that particular village was related in some way to a Solesbury!

A visit to a Family History Fair in London included a stop at the GoONS stall, where I realised that my own approach was similar to a formal One-Name Study, albeit in a rather more geographically limited manner.

The study is primarily pursued by just me, although some other Solesbury family members have contributed for their own respective parts, which has been most welcome. Progress is thus fairly slow as I have competing demands on my time.

Variant names

The only formally-registered name is  SOLESBURY , although it quickly became apparent, particularly from Census Returns, that the spelling was quite fluid before the beginning of the 20th century.

As a result, comprehensive records are also being built up on the following Variants: Solesberry, Solesbery, Solisbury, Solsberry, Solsbery, Solsbrey, Solsbury, Soulsberry, Soulsbery and Soulsbury. Most of these variants haven't persisted into the 21st century.

Broadening the net somewhat further, a second group of Variants is also monitored, but not comprehensively: Solesbey, Solsbry, Solzbery, Solzbury, Soulsby and Soulsbry .

Of course, that just leaves 'the elephant in the room': Salisbury (which introduces yet another set of variants). I've hardly attempted to even quantify the size of that particular elephant, but it must be least 60:1 compared to Solesbury - and I just don't have the time or resources to tackle them systematically. Where I can demonstrate that a particular lineage of Salisbury's has evolved to/from or through one of the more orthodox variants listed above, I will attempt to track it - but I'm certainly not going looking for them!

Name origin

The suggestion has been made elsewhere that the name originated in the middle ages and is locative in origin; i.e. that it derived originally from one or more placenames. If that is so, then the two frontrunners are Salisbury (of cathedral fame) in Wiltshire and Salesbury, in Lancashire.

My research has not extended back that far, so I am unable to corroborate that assertion.

Just to add to the mix, however, evidence is being accumulated that suggests the original surname may actually have been Shrewsbury. If so, that offers up a third candidate placename; Shrewsbury, in Shropshire.

Historical occurrences of the name


The annals of history seem to have mostly passed the Solesburys by, or at least overlooked their exploits.

Military Service

Many Solesburys have done their 'Duty for King and Country' in the UK's various wars, including the Crimean War; most theatres of the First World War (not least the trenches of the Western Front, Gallipoli and German East Africa); and also in the Second World War. Most were in Infantry Regiments or the Army Service Corps, but some also served in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, the Royal Artillery and the Tank Corps. Most were simply Privates or Gunners, with only a few NCOs and even fewer Officers - none more senior than Lieutenant.

Only three made the ultimate sacrifice during WWI, but several were wounded, with some suffered life-changing injuries.

Current Solesburys

There are a few notable Solesburys around today - the most prominent (at least as far as Search Engine hits) being:

  • Bill Solesbury is a much-published Public Policy Consultant and, amongst other positions, is a senior visiting research fellow at Kings College, London
  • Tom Solesbury has been in the UK national rowing squad since 2005, competing in both the Beijing and London Olympics, as well as numerous world championships in between
  • Wendy Solesbury was awarded an MBE in the 2013 Queen's Birthday Honours list, for "services to the British Red Cross and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games."

Name frequency

Based upon a database from ONS covering England, Wales and the Isle of Man, in 2002 there were 99 people called Solesbury and 16 people called Soulsbury listed. However, there are no people called Solesberry, Solesbery, Solisbury, Solsberry, Solsbery, Solsbrey, Solsbury, Soulsberry or Soulsbery. In contrast there were 6,179 people called Salisbury and 1,520 people called Soulsby listed. The list covers 54.4 million people, which means that Solesbury & Soulsbury account for just 0.0002% of the population, whilst Salisbury accounts for a little over 0.01%.

To put those figures in perspective, approximately 1 in 473,000 people will have the Solesbury or Soulsbury surname in England and Wales.

Distribution of the name

For much of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Solesburys were concentrated in Bedfordshire, in particular Milton Ernest and the surrounding villages, with gradual movement into the surrounding counties.

Increased mobility and perhaps econonic necessity towards the end of the 19th century drove some Solesburys further afield. One family travelled north, establishing a confectionary business in Sheffield, Yorkshire. Another family travelled south, becoming chauffeurs and grooms in the Berkshire / Sussex / Surrey / Hampshire area.

Migration wasn't limited to within the UK, either. At least one offshoot is known to have emigrated to the American Colonies in the mid-18th century and has a township in Philadelphia named after them, while at least one other found themselves transported to Australia for housebreaking in the 19th century and went on to create a large family there. Other migrations doubtless occurred to other places and for other reasons.