Sarah Bolton was my 3x great grandmother and one of my immigrant ancestors, coming to Canada from Ireland in the 1840s. She was the wife of my 3x great grandfather, Joseph Davis, and the mother of my 2x great grandfather, Joseph Henry Davis. She's also a "brick wall", meaning that no one knows the identity of her parents.
The earliest known record we have of Sarah is the 1851 census of Elizabethtown, Leeds County, Canada West (Ontario), which lists Joseph Davis, 32, and Sarah Davis, 21, both born in Ireland, belonging to the Church of England. They have two children, George, 3, and Sarah Jane, 1, and also a ward, Dorathy Kate Boulton, 7. This census was actually recorded in 1852, so when determining birth dates, I'll work from that reference.
Joseph and Sarah were possibly married in Canada in 1848, when Sarah was 17 and Joseph was 28, assuming that their son, George, was born 9 to 18 months after their marriage. I suggest that the marriage took place in Canada because Joseph Davis appears on voter lists in Ireland until February, 1847, which suggests that he sold his lease shortly afterwards and immigrated to Canada with his mother and siblings.
We know Sarah's maiden name because many years later, George married Eliza Boyle and recorded his parent's name as Joseph Davis and Sarah Bolton. A daughter also listed her parents on her marriage record as Joseph and Sarah Bolton Davis, confirming Sarah's maiden name.
So who were Sarah Bolton's people?
The first clue had to be Dorathy Kate Boulton. Who was this 7 year old girl with the same surname, also born in Ireland, living with them in 1852? Was she a niece? A sister? Some random stranger?
Kate did not live with Joseph and Sarah in 1861, instead living with the nearby Arnold family, presumably as a servant. However, in 1871, she appears back with her parents, William and Dorothy Bolton, along with an older sister and brother, Ann Eliza and William J, as well as many younger siblings. Kate later married, became a widow, and then lived with her sister for several years.
Her death record, which identifies her parents as William Bolton and Dorothy Davis. Her birth date is provided as April 15, 1844. Other records confirm Kate's parents as William J Bolton and Dorothy Davis, which suggest another relationship between the Bolton and the Davis families. This relationship is supported by the 1851 census, which shows Anne Eliza and William living with Joseph's mother, Catherine.
Kate's father, William J Bolton died in 1881. His death record was reported by George Davis, Sarah's son, my 3x great uncle. According to this record, William was 73 when he died, putting his birth date in 1808. According to the 1881 census, William and Dorothy Davis were married in 1840. An index to Dublin marriage licenses appears to confirm that.
The Representative Church Body (RCB) Library holds records of from the Ardamine Parish of the Church of Ireland. In that library, Those records show that Anne Eliza was born to William and Dorathea Bolton on December 6th, 1842 and that William was a shopkeeper in Killena (Killenagh), which is 3 km from Garrynew where Joseph Davis lived.
Several earlier records show the birth of children to a William Bolton, shopkeeper from Killena, and his wife, Deborah, including a record of a Sarah on December 1, 1841. Could this be my 3x great-grandmother? She is the right age and would have lived only 3 km from Joseph Davis. It would explain why she and Joseph took in Kate and why her son, George, is the one who reported the death of William Bolton.
On the other hand, the couple may have taken in Kate because she was Joseph's niece and George may have reported the death of his aunt's husband and Sarah was the daughter of some other Bolton family who lived nearby. While there are no other records of a Sarah Bolton in Canada, while there are several records of her full siblings in Canada West, it is possible that the Sarah of the birth record died.
So while the case for Sarah being the daughter of William Bolton and Deborah Redmond is good, there is no direct evidence. However, the evidence is strong enough for me to run with it until something comes along to contradict it.