Ernest Sorell was born at Deloraine on 19 Aug 1873, the seventh of ten children of Hugh Percy Sorell (1831-1909), surveyor, and his wife Dora Forbes Coverdale (1839-1932), who had married in Richmond in 1860. The Sorell family are direct descendants of Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell (1775-1848).
Ernest married Clementina Bennett Clark at St David's Cathedral in Hobart on 18 Aug 1906. Their two sons and two daughters were born in Hobart between 1907 and 1913. Ernest was the manager of the Industrial Department of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, and lived at 'Edinburgh', 305 Macquarie Street, Hobart. He rowed with his friends Harold and Oscar Cox and was a long serving member and president of the Royal Hobart Regatta Committee. He was awarded an MBE in 1954. Ernest died on 24 Jun 1957 aged 83, and Clementina died in 1982 aged 97.