The “Aha” Moment in Family Research – Solly and Flavel in my Muir-Buirchell Tree

The little I knew about my South Australian forebears was that my great grandmother was “… a Solly raised as a Flavel.”  Over recent years, I have been reasonably successful in documenting the Solly Family dating from the 1840 arrival of Henry Solly and Ann Colyer, and their seven children, in the Colony of South Australia from Kent, England, aboard the Royal Admiral.  One child had perished on the voyage and two more were subsequently born in South Australia (see Thomas Solly – Explorer, Mounted Policeman and Publican, November 2012).

George Head and Mary Ann Walton migrated from Suffolk, England, with four children, arriving in South Australia aboard the Duchess of Northumberland in 1839.  George Head established himself as a storekeeper at Thebarton and became a prominent community member when he secured the licence for the Morphett Vale “Emu Hotel”.  Henry Solly initially obtained a land grant in Adelaide in 1846 but by 1854 was established as a farmer and public works contractor at Leasingham in the Clare Valley region.

John Solly – the second son of Henry and Ann – and Ellen Head – fourth daughter of George and Mary Ann – were married in Adelaide on 21 January 1863.  This couple, then, were my 2nd great grandparents.  Not a lot is able to be discerned about their life together.  Of their children, Emma (1864-1954), John (1867-1931), George William (1869-1922) and Sydney (1872-1962) were each born in Leasingham.  Sydney’s birth place is shown on the Birth Register as “Skilly Creek”, actually Skillogalee Creek, and which is close to Leasingham.  John Solly is working as a Timber Carter when he is involved in an accident in 1868 at a saw mill near Skillogalee Creek.

The couple’s youngest daughter Edith Margaret Solly – my great grandmother – is born in Burra Burra 8 February 1877, the year the copper mine closed.  The township officially became Burra in 1940 but previously it was a conglomeration of small towns and villages including Redruth (Cornish), Llwchwr (Welsh), Aberdeen (Scottish), Hampton (English) and Kooringa, all being within the Hundred of Kooringa.  Kooringa was the first mining company township in Australia and was strictly a company-run town.  By the time of the mine closure, the townships had developed as the centre of a surrounding pastoral district and so managed to survive the closure.

Ellen (Head) Solly dies in Kooringa 8 January 1882 age 44 years leaving John with five children aged 4 – 17 years.  The eldest daughter Emma is married 18 months later to Leon Johnson in Adelaide.  John Solly and his sons John and George William move to the New South Wales “Corner Country” where there was a gold rush in the 1880s and 1890s.  John Solly senior dies in Tibooburra in 1896; George William Solly marries Emma Grey on Mount Sturt Station near Milparinka and is killed in a horse riding accident in Broken Hill in 1922 and John Solly junior marries Sarah Bamess in Milparinka in 1889.  John Solly junior and Sarah move to Katanning in Western Australia around 1904.

It would seem therefore that John and Ellen‘s youngest child Edith Margaret then age 4 years, and possibly Sydney then age 10 years, did not move to New South Wales with their father and siblings but were ‘fostered’ with families in South Australia.

Knowing that Edith Margaret Solly married my great grandfather Duncan Muir at Jeparit in Victoria, I set about looking for a Flavel family who may have moved from South Australia to the Jeparit district.  I identified a Henry Thomas Flavel who married Honor Alice Bailey, age 16 years.  The couple was married in the residence of Tom’s brother George at Gladstone, South Australia 2 March 1879.  The Victorian and Commonwealth Electoral Rolls later showed that Tom and Honor were living on a farm near Jeparit in 1909.

An unsourced account located on the Internet describes the move of Tom and Alice to a farm near Jeparit in 1893.  However, Tom and Honor’s seventh child – Daisy Honor Victoria Flavel – was born at Dimboola in 1891 and the eighth child – Albert Flavel – was born at Jeparit in 1893.  Therefore it would seem that the Flavel move to the Dimboola/Jeparit area took place earlier than claimed in the Internet account.  Honor Flavel was barely 20 years of age when her second child was born on 1 January 1882 just seven days before the death of my great great grandmother Ellen Solly.  Tom and Honour Flavel, therefore, were the candidates for being the foster parents of my great grandmother.  But – how could I ever prove this?

Just recently, I visited my mother in Western Australia and whilst there Mum’s sister delivered a copy of an oral history account recorded in the 1990s from their uncle Duncan Muir.  I had no idea this document existed; I fell on the account hurriedly scanning it and – aha!  There it was!  Asked for the name of his mother and how his parents met, great uncle Duncan explained:

She had two names really, because her mother died when she was four years old and an aunty on her mother’s side took her and had her for a few months.  They didn’t treat her very well, apparently, and a young couple – Tom and Honor Flavell who hadn’t long been married – they thought they’d like to adopt her.  But when she came to being married, the records showed that she hadn’t been legally adopted and she was a foster child.  So she was born Edith Margaret Solly but was brought up as Edith Margaret Flavell …. Yes, she was born at Burra Burra in South Australia. … Well she was from South Australia.  Her foster parents, they shifted to Victoria, to Lake Hindmarsh.  They took all their horses and stock from Gladstone in South Australia to Lake Hindmarsh which is now Jeparit the town built on the banks of Lake Hindmarsh.

So – after all this time; incontrovertible evidence of the accuracy of the family tale about my great grandmother: “She was a Solly raised as a Flavel”.  Uncle Duncan’s oral history account contains valuable detail about my Muir family’s move from Victoria and re-settlement in the Katanning/Kojonup area in Western Australia.  But that is for another time.

June (Muir) Jones with her uncle Duncan Muir (1908-1996) c.1934

June (Muir) Jones with her uncle Duncan Muir (1908-1996) c.1934

Tom and Honor Flavel continued as farmers at Tullyvea near Jeparit on a property known as “Pine View” and raised 12 children although two died at age 2 and 4 years.  Tom Flavell died in 1916 with death notices published in both South Australian and Victorian newspapers:

Obituary Notice - Henry Thomas Flavel Adelaide Advertiser 6 Aug 1916

Obituary Notice – Henry Thomas Flavel Adelaide Advertiser 6 Aug 1916

Honor (Bailey) Flavel lived to age 85 years passing away in 1947 and the couple are buried in the Jeparit Cemetery.

Jeparit Cemetery

Jeparit Cemetery

Headstone: Henry Thomas and Honor Alice (Bailey) Flavel, Jeparit Cemetery

Headstone: Henry Thomas and Honor Alice (Bailey) Flavel, Jeparit Cemetery

Tom Flavel’s brother George had 14 children and at least three of them also moved to Western Australia.  Elsie Annie May Flavel married Frank Purvis Murray in Albany in 1904 although the couple subsequently returned to South Australia.  Amy Anna Flavel married Peter McQuade in York in 1912 but died in childbirth just two years later age 27 years.  George’s youngest son John Gilbert Richards Flavel – and Tom and Honor’s nephew – married Robina Pennells Hunter in 1919 in South Australia but by 1931 they were farming at Ballidu in Western Australia and continued to do so until they retired to Perth around 1954.

The Flavel family were old ‘colonists’ arriving in South Australia from Northamptonshire around the same time as the Solly and Head families.  Departing London 12 September 1838 on the Prince George, Joseph Flavel and his wife Mary Bayes and their six children arrived at Holdfast Bay, Adelaide, 26 December 1838.  Also aboard this ship, from Hamburg, were 200 German Lutheran immigrants known as ‘Kavel’s People’.  Thomas Flavel – the father of Henry Thomas Flavel was aboard this ship.

On showing my research to Mum, she immediately asked whether ‘Flo’ and ‘Albert’ appeared in the tree.  I think Mum may have known more about this story than she has let on to me!  Mum says that her grandmother used to refer to the Flavel family members.  ‘Flo’ evidently is Florence Mary Flavel (1886-1959) who married James Melvin Bell ( a name also familiar to Mum) and ‘Albert’ would be Albert Norman Flavel (1893-1971) who married Harriet Elizabeth Pitt.  Both Florence and Albert remained in the Jeparit area.  There is also a curious photograph, in the album my mother compiled as a teenager, labelled – “Grandma Flavel’s cat”.

Grandma Flavel's cat

Grandma Flavel’s cat

Edith Margaret Solly was born in Burra Burra 8 February 1877 and married Duncan Muir 8 August 1903 in Jeparit, Victoria.  Margaret and Duncan and their children Norman (my grandfather), Duncan, Jean, Robert and Ronald moved to Western Australia in 1914.  Edith died 19 March 1959 in Northam, Western Australia, age 82 years and is buried in Karrakatta Cemetery.

Edith Margaret (Solly) Muir (1877-1959) raised as Edith Margaret Flavel

Edith Margaret (Solly) Muir (1877-1959) raised as Edith Margaret Flavel

While this story is not one of the classic ‘brick wall’ tales found in family history research, there was a side story to be explored to satisfy the inevitable curiosity.  We will probably never uncover the full story as to why my great grandmother was raised by the Flavel family but you never know – there could be another ‘aha’ moment!

Sources and Acknowledgements

  • Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.  Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources.
  • Australia Marriage Index, 1788-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.  Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources.
  • Australia Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.  Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources.
  • Genealogy SA
  • Family History South Australia
  • 1916 Family Notices, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), 4 August, p. 6, viewed 1 March, 2013,
  • 1868 ‘SKILLOGOLEE CREEK, September 15.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 21 September, p. 3, viewed 1 April, 2013,
  • South Australia State Library Pioneers and Settlers Bound for South Australia;
  • Muir, Duncan: Verbatim Transcript June 1994, Busselton Oral History Group; Busselton, Western Australia.
  • Headstone photographs provided courtesy of Carol and George Judkins, Carol’s Headstone Photographs,

About njsresearch6

Although raised in Western Australia, I have lived in the Northern Territory most of my life. Memberships include the NT Genealogical Society (Committee), Australian Museum and Gallery Association (NT Chapter Committee), and Chung Wah Society (NT Chinese Museum Coordinator).
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16 Responses to The “Aha” Moment in Family Research – Solly and Flavel in my Muir-Buirchell Tree

  1. Jess says:

    Fascinating post Neville! The ‘aha’ moments are the best! 🙂

  2. Pauline Flavel says:

    Interesting story. Edith is pictured in the Flavel Family History Assn with Honor and 9 of her children including Flo and Albert (probably taken in 1930’s or 40’s). She is listed as Edith Solly (fosterchild) but no history for her is given.

  3. Pauline Flavel says:

    sorry missed part of the sentence here. …in the Flavel Family History Assn…book “Far Called” published in 1982…

  4. MARY says:

    Loved your site. Have you looked at the lochranhanratty web-site on word press?

  5. Brian Crosby says:

    Thanks for the story. I have been trying to trace the origins of a Mary Ann Head that married William Freeman in NSW 1850 and had children in the 1860’s with Gabriel Izzard at Mudgee and Cotta Walla. Did you happen to come across any details of Ellen’s Sister Mary Ann, as she may have been my gg Grandmother?

    • njsresearch6 says:

      Hello Brian
      I suspect “my” Head family is not yours. MaryAnn Head born 1833 Hollesley, Suffolk, England arrived South Australia 1839; married Stephen Pilcher Allen Adelaide, South Australia 20 Sep 1857; died Nhill, Victoria 1925.

  6. Keith Solly says:

    Well I didn’t know all this, but WOW what a huge family we Solly’s are spread all along the bottom of Australia. Must have been a hard life. Wish I was there.

    • njsresearch6 says:

      It is a huge family with many stories and mysteries both in Australia and in England. Seeing you have accessed my blog, look at the story “Thomas Solly – Explorer, Mounted Policeman and Publican” of 29 Nov 2012. Are you resident in Australia? Are you the son of Leslie Solly and Laura Fawcett?
      You can contact me directly at

  7. Keith Robert Solly says:

    Yes they are my parents.

  8. Jacob says:

    I’m a descendant through Bell FREEMAN and Hannah Elizabeth HEAD.
    I’ve been trying to trace some of my family and this page was very helpful and confirmed some things I’d been able to find elsewhere. However one thing I’ve found isn’t mentioned here and contradicts your information about Edith Margaret SOLLY/FLAVEL

    Ellen HEAD seems to have had children with quite a few men:
    1856-07-01 Emily DALE/HEAD – F-William DALE, M-Ellen HEAD
    1860-11-04 Laura Elizabeth SAINT/HEAD – F-Alfred SAINT, M-Ellen HEAD
    1862-09-28 Alma Alice FREEMAN/HEAD – F-Bell FREEMAN, M-Ellen HEAD
    [1863-01-21 – Ellen HEAD Marries John SOLLY in Trinity Church, Adelaide]
    1864-11-16 Emma SOLLY – F-John SOLLY, M-Emma HEAD
    1867-06-05 John SOLLY – F-John SOLLY, M-Emma HEAD
    1869-08-30 George William SOLLY – F-John SOLLY, M-Emma HEAD
    1872-03-02 Sydney SOLLY – F-John SOLLY, M-Emma HEAD

    For a while I couldn’t find any record confirming Edith Margaret’s birth in SA but then I found the following on GenealogySA:
    1877-02-18 Edith Margaret SANDS Birth – F-David SANDS, M-Ellen HEAD

    I haven’t yet found a death record for Emily DALE/HEAD yet, but I’ve found death records for both Laura Elizabeth and Alma Alice and for both of them they used the surname SOLLY even though they weren’t John SOLLY’s daughters. (interestingly Laura dies 1876-01-29 and Alma Alice dies 1876-01-30 just one day later and I don’t yet know why)

    However, from the example of Laura and Alma taking the name SOLLY, I expect that Edith Margaret also assumed the name SOLLY despite her father being a SANDS.

    I’ve only just started more seriously trying to connect these dots myself, but I felt I should add this here for now.

    • njsresearch6 says:

      You are correct. At the time of writing in 2019, this information was emerging (to me) but I had not connected all the dots. Since then, both through genealogy and genetic research, these connections have reached a genealogical proof standard.

  9. Brian Oates says:

    Hi Neville,I just reread your aha story on our…ALL AUSSIE SOLLYS.Each time i read it a bit more sinks in.I went to Kojinup this year and found The Old Solly farm house.On our page old Aunty Edith from Milparinka tells the story of….To West Australia from Milparinka.In her story she talks of your Edie and Duncan coming over and having pig farm,also how their daughter Jean met and married Nathern Althams and moving off to Northam.He was killed on a tractor.I just thought i would ask if you had read the story.Regards Brian Oates. John Solly [arrived 1840] was my g g Grandfather.

  10. Ron Adams says:

    Also read “Far Called” a history of the Flavel family 1838 – 2015 revised edition. The Adams family of Mangowine are included in this family tree.

  11. Craig Hancock says:

    Wow what a eye opener
    My grand mother was Ivy Edith Allen
    My great grand father was Albert Theo Allen
    My great great grandfather was Stephen Pilcher Allen
    What is now ironic is that I drink at the hotel that George Head was the licensee
    Craig Hancock

    • njsresearch6 says:

      Apart from the Emu Hotel, had a drink at any of these pubs? Marrabel Arms, Eureka Hotel, Fountain Hill Hotel, Port Lincoln Hotel, Royal Oak Hotel, North Star Hotel, Kings Head Hotel, Old Bush Inn. All pubs associated with Head/Solly/Walton families over time.

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