Harriet Bolt (52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #6)

9 February 2015, Chriss Coleman

When I look at the records for Harriet Bolt, my husband’s 4th great-grandmother, I wonder how she felt. Record after record showed she lived most of her adult life on her own, raising her children without her husband at her side. Whilst she was not financially trying to make her way through the world as a single woman, she certainly lived the life of a single mother.

Harriet Bolt was born in Sidmouth, Devon, the daughter of Christopher Bolt and Sarah Perriman, and was baptised at the local Anglican church on April 26th, 1812.1 She grew up in Sidmouth, along with her siblings. This was also where she met her future husband, William Oaten.

Portrait of William and Harriet (Bolt) Oaten
Photo of William Oaten and his wife Harriet (Bolt) Oaten, taken in Bristol, Gloucestershire, by Charles J. White.2

I do wonder how they met. Were they living in the same neighbourhood? Or perhaps (and a likely possibility), were they both working as servants in the same household? We know that William was a servant, however little information is available on Harriet until their marriage on September 4th 1832,3 and the birth of their first child 4 months later.4

From the records we can tell that Harriet did follow her husband as he moved around to the various households he served.5,6,7 In fact, most of the time she lived within the same civil parish as her husband. Many women married to servants would often have lived 10, 20 or 30 miles from their husbands in locations where the cost of living was less expensive. Even though he was close, how often did she really get to see her husband? Running a household essentially on her own must have made her a strong and independent woman, both in terms of the daily needs of her family and her emotional state.

1861 England Census for Harriet (Bolt) Oaten
1861 England Census for Harriet (Bolt) Oaten. Harriet is the head of the house, but listed as “Wife”. Enumerated in Walcot, Bath, Somerset.8

Harriet Oaten, Wife, Married, female, 49, Servant’s Wife, born Sidmouth, Devon.
Elizabeth Oaten, Daughter, Unmarried, female, 19, Dressmaker, born Bath, Somerset.
Clara Oaten, Granddaughter, female, 8, Scholar, born Bath, Somerset.

The four known children of William and Harriet (Bolt) Oaten are:

  1. William Oaten (born Sidmouth, Devon, ca. 1833)9
  2. Harriet Oaten (born Boulogne, France, 1840)10
  3. Elizabeth Oaten (born Bath, Somerset, 1841)11
  4. Martha Oaten (born Bath, Somerset, 1843)12


When her children grew up, Harriet became a lodgings housekeeper — taking in lodgers at her home at 4 Burlington Street in Walcot. She also took in her grown daughter, and even her grandchildren at various points over the course of her life.

1871 England Census for Harriet (Bolt) Oaten
1871 England Census for Harriet (Bolt) Oaten. Harriet is the head of the house, and was enumerated in Walcot, Bath, Somerset.13

Harriet Oaten, Head, Married, female, 59, Lodging House Keeper, born Sidmouth, Devonshire.
Clara Oaten, Daughter, Unmarried, female, 17, Dressmaker, born Bath, Somerset.
Adelina Oaten, [grand]Daughter, Unmarried, female, 15, Dressmaker, born Bath, Somerset.

William and Harriet lived out their golden years together, something that was foreign to most of their married life. After William retired from his life as a butler, he joined his wife at their residence in Walcot where the family continued to take in lodgers.14,15

Harriet predeceased her husband by seven days, passing away at her home at 4 Burlington Street on March 7th, 1894, at the age of 81.16

Death notices for William Oaten and Harriet (Bolt) Oaten
Death notices for William and his wife Harriet (Bolt) Oaten, published in The Bath Chronicle, March 15th, 1894.17

Harriet Bolt is my husband’s 4th great-grandmother. Our ancestral line:

  • 7. Harriet Bolt (c.1812-1894)
  • 6. Harriet Oaten (1840-1914)
  • 5. William Christopher Chappell (1869-1941)
  • 4. Rosemary Cecelia Chappell (1900-1985)
  • 3. James Francis Walsh (1931-2001)
  • 2. My husband’s mother (living)
  • 1. My husband (living)


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is a blogging prompt started by Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small. My stories will include both sides of our family, including collateral lines.


  1. “Devon Baptisms”, digital image and index, Find My Past ( : accessed 9 Nov 2014), Sidmouth, entry for Harriet Bolt, 26 Apr 1812; citing South West Heritage Trust and Parochial Church Council, “Devon Baptisms”, ref 1885A/PR/¼. 

  2. “William and Harriet (Bolt) Oaten photograph, photograph by C.J. White, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, undated; original privately held by Joan [surname witheld for privacy], [address for private use], Simcoe county, Ontario, Canada; digital scan held by author, scanned Sep 2014. 

  3. “Devon Marriages”, digital image and index, Find My Past (http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 9 Nov 2014), Sidmouth, p.111, entry for William Oaten and Harriet Bolt, 4 Sep 1832; citing South West Heritage Trust and Parochial Church Council, “Devon Marriages”. 

  4. “Devon Baptisms”, digital image and index, Find My Past (http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 10 Nov 2014), Sidmouth, p. 198, no. 1579, entry for William Otton, 20 Jan 1833; citing South West Heritage Trust and Parochial Church Council, “Devon Baptisms”. 

  5. Boulogne Episcopal Chapel (Boulonge-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais, France), Baptisms, 1839-1896, page 4, Harriet Oaten, 26 Jan 1840; index and digital image, The Genealogist (http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk : accessed 14 Feb 2014); citing The National Archives, Kew, “Boulogne Vol. 3: Baptisms”, reference RG33/39. 

  6. “1841 England Census”, Somerset, Bath, population schedule, enumeration district 15a, parish of Walcot, page 4, line 12, William Oaten; index and digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 Dec 2014); citing The National Archives, London, “Census Returns of England and Wales, 1841”, class HO107, piece 970, book 15, folio 6, GSU roll 474610. 

  7. “1841 England Census”, Somerset, Lansdown, enumeration district (ED) 12a, parish of Walcot, page 9 (stamped), family of Harriet Oates; index and digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 Jan 2015); citing The National Archives, London, “Census Returns of England and Wales, 1841”, class HO107, piece 970, book 213, folio 33, GSU 474610. 

  8. “1861 England Census”, Somerset, Bath, parish of Walcot, page 8 (stamped), household 45, family of Harriot Oaten; index and digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 May 2014); citing The National Archives, London, class RG9, piece 1695, folio 67, GSU roll 542852. 

  9. “Devon Baptisms”, entry for William Otton, 20 Jan 1833. 

  10. Boulogne Episcopal Chapel, entry for Harriet Oaten, 26 Jan 1840. 

  11. BathBMD (http://www.bathbmd.org.uk : accessed 19 Jan 2015), birth entry for Elizabeth Oaten; citing Register Offices, Bath, Somerset, 1841, reference LNS/3/338. 

  12. BathBMD (http://www.bathbmd.org.uk : accessed 19 Jan 2015), birth entry for Martha Oaten; citing Register Offices, Bath, Somerset, 1842, reference BEA/3/159. 

  13. ”1871 England Census”, Somerset, Bath, parish of Walcot, page 2 (stamped), houshold 12, family of Harriot Oaten; index and digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 May 2014); citing The National Archives, London, class RG10, piece 2495, folio 4, GSU roll 835198. 

  14. “1881 England Census”, Somerset, Bath, enumeration district 15, parish of Walcot, page 24, household 198, family of William Oaten; index and digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 Dec 2014); citing The National Archives, London, “Census Returns of England and Wales, 1881”, class RG11, piece 2442, folio 53, GSU roll 1341588. 

  15. “1891 England Census”, Somerset, Bath, enumeration district 40, parish of Walcot, page 1, household 7, family of William Oaten; index and digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 Dec 2014); citing The National Archives, London, “Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891”, class RG12, piece 1938, folio 53, GSU roll 6097048. 

  16. BathBMD (http://www.bathbmd.org.uk : accessed 5 Feb 2015), death entry for Harriet Oaten; citing Register Offices, Bath, Somerset, 1894, reference WL1/41/052. 

  17. “Deaths”, Bath (Somerset) Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 15 Mar 1894, page 1, column 1; digital image, British Newspaper Archive (http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk : accessed 9 Aug 2014), Historical Newspaper Collection.