|The Leeds Liverpool Canal at Wigan Pier|
First, I said that her father John Holt was a boatman, and guessed that this meant he was a labourer on the docks. But after doing more research I've realised that it's more likely that he worked on the actual canal boats.
Even before the Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, there was an extensive network of canals all over England, which were used for transporting raw materials and goods. It was much more efficient to have a horse (or a man) pull a fully laden boat along a canal than it was to have the horse pull a cart along an unpaved road.
Some of the canals dated back as far as Roman times, but the canal system was greatly expanded during the industrial revolution. The port in Liverpool was linked to industry in Manchester and Yorkshire by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and there was an extensive network of canals linked into this. Eventually the railways took over as the main means of transporting goods. But the canals still exist and it's apparently still possible to travel from London to Lancaster without setting foot on dry land.
Many boatmen lived on their boats, since the journey between the port and their destination could take several days. In some cases their families lived with them. But it seems from the census returns that John Holt and his father William had homes that they returned to regularly.
John and Elizabeth Holt's children
The second thing I need to correct is my statement that Mary Ann, the first child of John Holt and Elizabeth Hardman, appeared to have died in infancy. In fact I've now found her as a seven year old in the 1861 census, staying with her grandparents Patrick and Margaret Hardman in Eagle St, Pendleton. Whether she was there just for the night of the census or more permanently is unclear. I haven't been able to trace her in the 1871 census, but she would have been a teenager then and may well have been working away from home. In March 1876 she married Thomas Ogden in St John the Evangelist Church in Salford. She was still living in Salford, though widowed, in 1911.
While on the topic of John and Elizabeth Holt's children, I've recently discovered their baptism records on the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk site (which is where I also found Mary Ann's marriage). They were all baptised in the Catholic Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist, in Salford, except for the youngest, John, who was baptised in Christ Church, Salford, which is an Anglican church.
Perhaps this was because his mother Elizabeth, an Irish Catholic, had a say in where the other children were baptised, but she had already died before John came for baptism. I haven't been able to find a burial record for Elizabeth but her death was registered in the first quarter of 1870 and John was born on 13 March 1870, so she probably died towards the end of March. When John was baptised on 6 April, his father, or his father's family, apparently chose to have him "done" in the Church of England.
I usually try to check my facts before posting, but if you come across any errors in any of my blog posts, do please let me know, either by posting a comment or messaging me.