Our Family's Earliest Bolton Research
The family's search for John and Zilpah Bolton began years ago when a young Louisa Shove (1841-c1943) first asked her mother about her grandparents. Louisa's mother, Elizabeth Bolton Shove (1806-1864), tried to answer her daughter's questions but was very limited in what she could remember about her parents.
Elizabeth was only two years old when her mother died and she "thought" her father died in 1812, or when she was twelve, Louisa couldn't remember when she told the story to her daughters. Elizabeth knew her father's name was John Bolton, had come from England or was English, and thought her mother's name was "Gilpha". It wasn't until 2005, upon finding and linking a public transcription of the 1803 Boston marriage of John Bolton and Zilpah Peirce with a harder to find Boston church transcription of Zilpah Bolton's death in 1808 that Gilpha's name was joyfully and confidently corrected to Zilpah.
The Romantic Family Story
The story Elizabeth told her daughter Louisa, who was this researcher's Great Grandmother, was repeated verbally from mother to daughters for two more generations before it was written down in a short note by a 100-year-old Louisa to her granddaughter, who then rewrote the information, and possibly edited it, some 50 years later and sent it to this researcher, her niece. It's impossible to know how much the young child Elizabeth actually knew or remembered about her parents, or how many times her story was changed and "improved upon" through the 150 or more years of telling. The story the fifth generation of descendents of John and Zilpah learned was a romantic tale of love and loss. John was said to have been born in England or of English ancestry and was from "an aristocratic family with a crest." As a result of his marriage to Zilpah, whose family was, disdainfully, "of the trade's class", John was disowned. The story implied that John and Zilpah, because of his family's displeasure with his marriage, chose to live in Boston, Massachusetts because Zilpah had two brothers there who were bakers.
Our Search for the Truth
For years it was "assumed" that both John and Zilpah were in England together and immigrated to Boston together, however our preliminary research in England and of all the Bolton families known to have been in Massachusetts during the 1600s, 1700s and to the mid-1800s caused us to challenge this "assumption". As a result of our research, it appeared much more likely that our ancestor John Bolton, who married Zilpah Peirce in Boston in 1803, was the same John Bolton of Bridgewater and Boston, who had previously married (and divorced) Betsy Denny in Boston in 1796.
Upon reflection, Elizabeth's story, if it really was her story, as reported by her daughter Louisa raised several questions. There was no mention of Zilpah's place of birth or where John and Zilpah actually met each other. Records indicated that an individual named Zilpah Peirce, who may or may not have been "our" Zilpah, was in Boston a few years before John Bolton resided there. There is documented evidence that their marriage took place in Boston rather than England. We now know that John was born in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts and have begun our initial research, also in Massachusetts, for Zilpah's family and origins.
Bridgewater John's parents had both died before John married Zilpah, so that marriage would not have caused his disinheritance, if there was one. John's father, John Bolton (c1730-1762), died in the army in 1762 when his son was only six years old. His mother, Elizabeth Hayward (c1726-1801), who died in 1801, was still living when her son, Bridgewater John, married and very publicly divorced Betsy Denny. That marriage, and its subsequent aftermath, could certainly have resulted in his family's distress. Even that, however, seems unlikely to have resulted in his being disinherited. By the late 1700s the family was not wealthy, and no probate records, court records or any other documentation to support the story has been found. It seems more logical to this researcher that John and Zilpah Bolton decided to live in Boston, where Zilpah had relatives, to be away from John's dysfunctional first wife who lived in Bridgewater.
Although we are very excited about our progress so far in our search for ancestors John and Zilpah Bolton, we are fully aware of the need to continue our search for additional documentation about their lives. Many of our questions remain unanswered. We don't yet know where or with whom the orphaned young and minor Elizabeth lived until she married in Milton, Massachusetts at the age of 17. We have learned very little about Zilpah and need to identify her family. There would appear to have been significance in Elizabeth's middle name of Everett, especially since Elizabeth named her first-born daughter Elizabeth Everett also. Was it a reoccurring name in Zilpah's family? It hasn't been found in Bridgewater John's. Or did it become a significant name to their daughter Elizabeth after she was orphaned?
The Family Research "Team"
Elizabeth Bolton's second daughter, Louisa Shove Conger, our inquisitive little girl, lived a long and productive life. Before she died at age 102 she gave her notes and entrusted the search for John and "Gilpha" Bolton to her granddaughter, Mary Lou Heaton, whose full name was Mary Lou Heaton Skinner Ross. Mary Lou accepted the challenge willingly and enthusiastically and later enlisted the help of this researcher, her first cousin's daughter, to assist her in the search. Together they identified the 1803 marriage between John Bolton and Zilpah Peirce as an "interesting possibility" and continued to search in both England and Massachusetts for additional clues. When documentation of Zilpah Bolton's 1808 death was discovered, Zilpah was accepted as correct. When Mary Lou's life ended in 2001 at the age of 91, her family files were sent to her "genealogy partner" to continue the family's research.