The Book of Soden

Australia : Part 2 

History of the Soden Famly 1650-1950







Medieval  Barn, Swalcliffe, Oxfordshire, England  

A Source Book                                                                         

How often have I been asked:  Are you Irish? Is that a German name? Was your family English? or Dutch? Well , here is the answer , I believe, or at least part of it. This is intended as a source book for  the name Soden in Ireland , and for those Sodens  or otherwise , who may have connections in Europe , North America and Australasia or for those many families with Soden connections . This is my gift to my three children , Kristina ,Carla and Lukas  at the beginning of this third millennium  that they may know more about their family , their place in history  and it is my fervent  hope that this may provide   a good basis at which to begin any research to your Soden background ,  something I would have dearly loved to have had when I began.

The desire  to know something about my ancestors , what they did , where they originally came from,and many other questions were of central importance in pursuing this task .When I approached this subject , I knew how my name was spelt and pronounced and , of course  the many misspellings and mispronunciations of the name  but little more. My branch hailed from County Cavan in north central Ireland  and  the existence of the Sligo Sodens was known to us from early childhood. More than that we did not know.

The English Connection                                         

The Irish -English-German link  has to be established with certitude but the Irish - English  link is without doubt.

Claims as to Hugueneot origins I hold to be spurious  and unfounded. The Cromwellian link is beyond a doubt  the first link the Irish Sodens have with their English cousins in Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.

This link will be illustrated later. The origin of the English branch has been well treated by Ronald Soden,Aberwysweth in his work " The Sodens of Coventry - History of a  Warwickshire Family through Six Centuries". The possibility of a German connection  appeared when I came across the mention of German mercenaries in the Calender of State Papers ,1547-1553 of Edward III , who helped John Dudley , the Duke of Warwick to suppress the Ket revolt in neighbouring Leicestershire.

Many of the Sodens of the USA , Canada , Australasia originate in Ireland but also in Germany and England. The earliest in the USA I believe to be Thomas Soden of Marblehead ,  Massachussetts in  1654 but there has been quite a number of Sodens in the War of Independence , and indeed all the wars with US involvement. The Canadian Sodens have certainly a strong Irish and British origin in Ontario in the  1860s , some of whose direct descendants , I have been very pleased to personally meet  in Toronto and St.Catherine's , Ontario.

The New Zealand Sodens have  well-established Sligo connections, through the Davys and Winterscales though they are fewer in number linking them directly to the generation of Clotworthy and Edward Soden of the late 18th century. Several  Australian and Tasmanian Soden families  have their origins in  Athlone, Ireland at the beginning of the 19th century when they gradually emigrated to the antipodes , but the majority seems to have origins in  England,in particular Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.

Baptismal Font donated by Mauritius von Soden, Hildesheim, Germany


The fact that I  professionally have so much to do with the German language and Germany , but especially as Ute , my wife is German and therefore my children also are half-German  were  compelling reasons for me to eventually enquire how could a German name  like mine come to be in Cavan and other counties in Ireland.

There are four towns  with the name Bad Soden in Central and Southern Germany with links with the families 'Soden/von Soden' . There is  an old people's home in Hannover , the Soden Kloster in the Braunschweigerstrasse , a Soden Strasse just north of the Hannover Central Railway station and in the town of Bamberg ,Bavaria , not to mention the endowments of Mauritius von Sode to the Hildesheimer  Cathedral still to be  seen today and the southern Soden centres particularly , Soden-Fraunhofen , Bad Soden am Taunus , Bad Sooden Allendorff amongst others.

2 German Possibilities

The possibility of the German Mayor in 1500 in London and the presenceof German mercenearies fighting for the Duke of Warwick in 1549could prove the keys to establishing any early German connection.

The tendency of the German mercenary to remain in the territory  he fought  in , gave me cause to believe this may well have happened in this instance.

The German claim made by Julius von Soden in 1912   that a Dietrich vamme Sode , a Hannoverian burgher , was an alderman in London in the year 1500 was most exciting and encouraging.

{At this point in writing  I have found neither the Soden/von Soden/vamme Sode among the sparse records of this  event nor have I come across manorial records or such like which might corroborate this hypothesis.}

 However,this research  opened up exciting new areas of discovery, the well-documented and proud history of the Soden/von Soden families in North,Central and Southern Germany.  If for nothing else,the  German search was worth this effort and time , especially considering the many connections between our families in Ireland and that part of Germany and the English / German possibilities.

The presence of  a German Alderman in London in 1500 , a Hanse burgher;already mentioned , a U-boat commander; an admiral of the German  fleet in 1903; an ambassador to China ;a governor of West Africa, these are  just a few instances of the  contribution of this family to the development of German society in the past.

The Sodens , too , were effected greatly by the economic , political and social climate of the day. They  were of many religious and political hues , whether Church of England/Ireland , Roman Catholic , Quakers , Methodist   or Free Mason , whether gentry , Socialist , or Social Democrat.

I  have been blessed by a number of positive turns in my researches. I believe I may well be the first member of my branch to investigate the family history in Ireland , though not in England , America , Australia or New Zealand.

It was fortunate that so much had been already done by James Soden ,Toronto/Vermont in researching his pedigree in Sligo and Mohill , by Terry Soden in the eighties on his branch in County Cavan , Ireland , by Ronald and Geoffrey Soden in Warwicksire , England and by John Soden,Oregon and Ontario and Dorothy Soden ,Wyebridge ,Ontario.

The World Wars

It is extraordinary that the name is found in both countries simultaneously with a totally different etymological development. I recall in this regard the story of Ronald Soden , when we talked first about Alexander Soden , an Englishman resident in Munich at the outbreak of the First World War , was interned  in  Germany. 

One day there appeared in his cell a member of the German High Command, Baron Max von Soden . The baron  and he talked for over one hour in a private cell principally about the possibility of family connections , a conversation that did not understandably go down well with his superiors and colleagues.

They came to the conclusion no immediate connection could be established but since that meeting became very good friends and visited each other often in their respective lands. There is no record of Alexander Soden in Ruheleben Internment Camp , but it is more probable  that as he was working in Southern Germany , that he was interned there. The noble contribution of the various Soden families in both World Wars on all sides  is evidenced in these following pages. To discover that there were no less than 108 Sodens involved in the military activities of World War  was indeed a surprise but to find the heroic sacrifice of the Wincombe Sodens of Oxfordshire , amongst others , in World War Two , the DSO of Ian Scovil Soden and the death of the 3 brothers in action  was   a  proud but very sad  moment. The contribution of the Soden family in Great Britain in the  legal , military , naval ,clerical and business world can be assessed from the forthcoming pages with some pride.

 The Americas                                   

 There are a number of disparate branches in North America coming from Ireland , Britain and Germany.We know that the Canadian and some branches in New Jersey, New York , Oregon and Kansas have their origins in Ireland. They come from Carrick-on-Shannon, Cavan,Leitrim and Sligo.

The Thomas Soden of Cambridge , Massachusetts , may well be  of English origin , after whom a street has been named in that town. Indeed  another street in Oregon  city , Wisconsin   is named after William Soden , whose life is recounted in the ?Times to Remember? by Wayne Salisbury .

The Nebraska Sodens originate in Hook Norton , Oxfordshire , England , heading initially to New York , then to Nebraska where they still are. At least one branch is Afro-American , and we  know , too , the Cincinnati  Soden families have  immediate  German connections .

The participation of  William and Edward Elijah Soden in the breaking of the British blockade was one of the most interesting facts uncovered ,showing the early Sodens were with the American?rebels? at the earliest stage. The origin of the two brothers has yet to be ascertained.

 I hope you will take some joy and pride in the history of your  name . This is based on historical fact with the deliberate aim of avoiding myth or legend attached to the name which I believe unwisely distort the serious nature of the project . I hope that to whatever branch of the family you may belong you derive as much enjoyment and interest out of your researches as I have done. I look forward to learning even more of the outcome , deeds and achievements of all members of the Soden familyand their relatives.

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  Felix Soden. All rights reserved.