Every once in a while, the genealogy Gods smile on you and grant you a cousin. Not just any cousin, but a cousin with a kindred spirit. That’s Pam Bolton, on my Bolton side – without any doubt. Pam is even more committed than I am to finding the parents and history of our common ancestor Henry Bolton and his brother, Conrad, who arrived exactly 240 years ago, today, May 8th, 1775. In celebration, we’d love to confirm their parents and we’re hoping that someone who reads this article will be a Bolton, will know a Bolton, or will have some suggestions for how we might proceed to solve or at least further research this mystery. And it’s a doosey!
In honor of Henry and Conrad’s 240th immigration anniversary, Pam has researched and written most of this article. Thank you Pam! You can contact Pam through this blog or though the Bolton DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. In fact, if you’re a Bolton descendant, we encourage you to test and join. We welcome autosomal testers and transfers from other testing companies, along with the traditional Y line tests, of course.
Henry and Conrad aka “Condery” Bolton landed at Baltimore, Maryland on May 8, 1775, on board the ship HMS Culvert aka Calvert. Two days later, on May 10, The Second Continental Congress met, elected John Hancock president, raised the Continental Army under George Washington as commander, and authorized the colonies to adopt their own constitutions. Henry and Conrad arrived on the very eve of the Revolutionary War.
The Captain of the ship Culvert was William Sewell, who later, in 1777, captained the HMS Dolphin, the first ship to circumnavigate the world twice.
Upon arrival in Baltimore with Henry and Conrad, Captain Sewelll went before the “Baltimore Committee.” The Baltimore Committee in March 1775 had prepared an oath to be taken by all masters of vessels entering that port, swearing that they had not imported any products of the British Isles or British Colonies.
It read: You XX do make Oath on the Holy Evangels of Almighty God, that you have not Imported in the Ship or Vessell called the [blank] whereof you are Master during this present Voyage, except necessary Stores for A the use of the said Vessell, which are not for Sale, any Goods Wares or Merchandize whatsoever from Great Britain or Ireland or — of the growth or Manufacture of Great Britain or Ireland, or any Goods exported from them or either of them, or any East India Tea, or any Molasses Syrups, Paneles Coffee or Piemento of the Growth of the British West India Islands or Dominica or any Wines from Madiera or the Western Islands, or Foreign Indigo, or any Slave or Slaves.”
In the Baltimore Committee notes of May 8, 1775, it reads that “Captain William Sewell, of the Ship Calvert, from London, appeared, and made oath agreeable to the rules of the Committee, of his having imported no goods or merchandise whatsoever, excepting thirty-one Servants.”
Full notes of the Committee Meeting’s proceedings can be found here:
Below, a map from that time period of the Baltimore docks where they must have landed.
Henry and Conrad, or Condery, Bolton left the port of London between March 13th and 20th, according to the document shown below. They arrived on May the 8, 1775 in Baltimore. According to the passenger list, Henry was 15, so born in 1760, and Conrad was 16, born in 1759, and both were listed as indentured servants for 7 years, meaning they would have to work off the cost of their passage.
Family history tells us that the boys were either tricked or abducted onto the ship. One version tells us that an evil step-mother wished to be rid of them, “arranging” their departure. Another family tidbit tells us that they lived “on London bridge.” The interesting aspect of this second tidbit is that indeed, at one time, there were actual houses on London bridge itself.
That London bridge was destroyed in 1831, so no one in the past 185 years or so would have known about the historical houses on London Bridge. Henry himself was alive until 1846 and his children would certainly have known who his parents were and the story of his arrival. His son Joseph, Roberta’s ancestor, lived until 1887 and his daughter Elyann lived until 1903, so it appears that information we so desperately seek was only lost in the past 100 years or so.
On this map, from about 1300, we see that London Bridge, the Tower of London and St. Katherine’s, to the right, were all relatively close. How would relatively illiterate pioneers in Virginia and Tennessee know these details, or enough of these details, to construct accurate stories about London?
Who were Henry and Conrad’s parents? They obviously lived in London, or that’s at least where Henry and Conrad left from, so that is the first place to look for their records.
Indeed, Pam did come up with several documents. Not a smoking gun, mind you, but several very interesting puzzle pieces.
Pam found a marriage bond for Henry Bolton and Sarah Corry. It’s interesting that Henry is noted to be a “widower” in 1754, prior to the births of Henry and Conrad, in contrast to the family lore that their mother died and their father Henry remarried. Of course, their mother could yet have died, and their father remarried, yet again.
Henry Bolten [sic] and Sarah Corry were married at St. Botolph Aldgate in the parish of St. George in 1754, which was just Northeast of St. Katherine’s.
A Bolton family researcher and descendant of Henry’s son, Peter Bolton, wrote that it was family tradition that there always must be a “Sarah” in the Bolton lineage, as that was Henry’s mother’s name. Both Henry and Conrad had daughters named Sarah.
The St. Katherine’s area of London is very interesting. At that time, it was the dock area in the oldest part of the city. It was also an area where a great number of people were housed together. In essence, it was the ghetto, the poorest section of the city. According to Peter Ackroyd, in his book, “London,” the area smelled of too many people in too close of quarters, with their chamber pots being emptied into the streets. If you just went, “Ewwwww,” then you’ll understand why everyone left their cramped quarters as soon as they could each morning and only returned when they had to in the evenings. In other words, you could see why two teenaged boys would be out and about, hanging out on the docks and seeing what kind of mischief they could get into.
On the other hand, as an adult, Henry Bolton could write a letter, like the one below authorizing his daughter’s marriage, in sophisticated language and handwriting – which does not suggest he was a child of poverty.
The map below of London marks where Henry Bolton and Sarah Corry were married, where a son “Conrath” was baptized and where son Henry was baptized.
Their residence, shown as “Ship Alley” is shown on the map above and enlarged, below.
Pam found what could well be Henry’s baptism record – meaning our Henry who immigrated – although the date on the ship’s manifest is off by 2 years. However, if the two boys were indeed kidnapped, I doubt a lot of care was taken in giving correct ages. The Captain might also have obtained more money for older boys, since indentured servants were often auctioned to the highest bidder.
Pam also found a baptism for a “Conrath” Ditirnick Bolton, son of Henry and Sarah.
Conrath’s Baptismal record of February 24, 1765 indicates his birthdate would be February 18, 1765. This would mean Conrad was 5 years younger than stated in the ship manifest. Henry’s birthdate from his baptism record would be Aug 1, 1762, making Henry older than Conrad. This actually makes a bit of sense, as Henry married before Conrad. This means that instead of ages 15 and 16 as stated in the manifest, the boys would have been 10 and 13. This certainly could be correct. The Bolton men were notably large in stature, and the boys may have been large for their ages.
Pam found what could be Henry Bolton Sr.’s death record, but there is no way (that we know of) to be sure.
Accessing the actual record, we find that this Henry was indeed married to a Sarah, but that in 1806 he had two children under the age of 21, Sarah and Henry William Bolton.
This tells us that Henry William Bolton or his sister, Sarah, or both were born after 1785. This strongly suggests that this Henry who was married to Sarah who died in 1806 was not the Henry who was married to Sarah and had sons Henry in 1762 and Conderith in 1765.
If this is the Sarah who married in 1754, it would be extremely unlikely that she would be having children after 1785 when her age would have been approximately 50.
Pam then found what looks like William Henry’s birth (not Henry William), in 1783….to mother Ann.
So it looks like this entire episode of chasing Henry Bolton who died in 1806 was, well, a wild goose chase….unless he married Sarah, Ann and then another Sarah, named a second child William Henry or Henry William…and neglected to mention sons Henry and Conrad in his will, unless he assumed they were dead.
Unfortunately, we have nothing to tie these disparate records together with each other, meaning the 1754 marriage of Henry to Sarah Corry and the births of Henry and Conrath – or these later records. We also can’t tie any of these English records or people to Henry and Conrad (by any name spelling) Bolton in the US.
Was it the same Henry Bolton and Sarah Corry marrying in 1754 and having children baptized in different churches in the area near the docks where they lived? Were this Henry and Sarah the parents of our Henry and Conrad who set foot on colonial soil in Baltimore 240 years ago today? Was the Henry who died in 1806 related to the Henry who married Sarah in 1754? Is he the son, Henry, who was born in 1762? If so, then that son Henry obviously did not immigrate with Conrath. Is Conrath born in 1765 the same person as Conrad who was listed as Condery on the ship’s manifest? So many questions and no answers.
What we do have is Henry’s Y DNA, so we are very hopeful that these may not have been the only Bolton males born to Henry and Sarah, although Pam was unable to find other birth records. Obviously, this family had to come to London from someplace else at some point, probably in the English countryside, so we are hopeful that male Boltons from the United Kingdom will take Y DNA tests.
One rumor within the Bolton family was that Henry’s family was from Lancashire. Indeed, there is a town named Bolton in Greater Manchester, not far from Lancashire. We’d love to test a Bolton from Bolton or Lancashire.
Furthermore, we’d really like to figure out where to look next, for paper records. Let’s just say we dream of finding an old letter, Bible or will, maybe that says something about my “sons Henry and Conrath, now living in Virginia.” Indeed, to identify the parents of Henry and Conrad would be the best 240th anniversary gift we can imagine.
Suggestions from people experienced in British research gratefully accepted!