When there is only one place bearing a name which has been taken as a surname, or when several exist but are far removed from each other, there is little difficulty in placing references to it. However, we are not only confronted with a great number of places named Bolton, but these are mainly in two adjoining counties: Yorkshire and Lancashire. Add to this that no less than thirty-two spellings of the name have been recorded and some of the difficulties encountered with family research become apparent.
The name is derived, says Whitaker, from 'Boel' (mansio), implying that it was the principal residence of some Saxon thane. As to the second syllable, the derivation may be from the Saxon 'dun' (a hill), producing 'the mansion on the hill'. Whatever the derivation, Richard Bolton of Montreal wrote, "I find it interesting that the name has remained unchanged for about a thousand years, yet occurs in no other language but English."
In the earlier days, the surname was often entered as 'Boulton'. The two different ways of spelling the name are interchangeable, depending on who wrote the entry in the register. Names were spelled as they sounded at that time and such things as local accents and dialects could make a great difference.
My earliest documented ancestor at this time is Edward Bolton of Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire. He married Mariah/Mary/Martha Gray, the daughter of Theophilus Gray and Ann Stratford, in Wooburn Parish in 1776. Theophilus was the son of Theophilus and Margaret (Stratford) and Ann is linked back to John Stratford/Mary MacChrill (c1650) and Daniel Oxlade/Mary Chilton (c1660), all in the Buckinghamshire area.
As so many of the Boltons seem to have originated in Lancashire or Yorkshire, did Edward emigrate to Buckinghamshire in the middle of the 18th century or have the records been lost (or have yet to be uncovered)? Andy Bolton of Chesham writes, "I have pieced together generations further back to the late 1500s (George Bolton, c1590, of Beaconsfield) but these include many assumptions and speculative connections." Whatever the case, this line has been rather substantially traced in this area to the present day.
My grandfather, John Henry Edward Bolton (1875-1964), only child of John Bolton (1844-1877) and Elizabeth Powell (1844-1888) - daughter of George and Sarah (Langdon) of Colmbrook, Middlesex - was sent as a Barnardo boy to Canada in 1889 on the SS Peruvian. Years later, he returned to England to marry his cousin, Frances Powell Thomas (1880-1961), daughter of William Henry Thomas (1836-1897) of Isleworth, Middlesex and Ellen Powell (1841-1899), sister of Elizabeth, before emigrating once again to Canada in 1912.
John appears on the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association (BHCARA) website. You can also submit data you might have.
Information on Barnardo's is available at their website.