John Thomas TATTERSFIELD (1853-1917) of York and of Chicago, USA

It is not known if there are descendants of John Thomas TATTERSFIELD. This article has been written by John Tattersfield.

John Thomas Tattersfield was another young man who left England, on his own, for the advantages of the United States, which, presumably, included anonymity.

John Thomas’ father, also called John, (1824-1902), was born in York, a grandson of the Thomas Tattersfield who first moved to York from Dewsbury, in the late 1700’s.

John Thomas was born in York on 28th May 1853, and was baptised in York St. Dennis on 19th June. Unusually, for those times, he seems to have been an only child. Some time after 1851, when the family had appeared in the Census in York, they moved to Hull, a distance of some 35 miles as the crow flies. The father John was a labourer, and the reason for the move is not known.

John Thomas, the son, was a labourer too, as shown in the Census records of 1871 and 1881.

His early years included a number of scrapes with the law.

On Dec 27 1867, “John Tattersfield, aged about 14, was fined 1s with costs for drunkenness and incapability of taking care of himself on the Victoria Dock Quay the previous day. The mother of the prisoner told the magistrate that her son had not previously been before him. Her son had been prevailed upon by some friends to drink gin and afterwards sherry”.

On Oct 30, 1868, the following was reported. “STEALING GUNPOWDER. JOHN T. TATTERSFIELD was charged with stealing five sample cases of gunpowder, the property of Mr E. Balchin, gunsmith, Mytongate. He was remanded, and sentenced to 21 days imprisonment.”

On Jan 28, 1870, “FELONY. JOHN Tattersfield and Henry Prior, alias Cunningsworth, youths, were charged on remand with having stolen 7s from the till in the Albany (?) Beerhouse, Day St., kept by Henry Martin.  Tattersfield, (this not being his first offence) was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment; Prior was committed to prison for two months.”

Nov 10, 1871, “ROBBERY IN A PUBLIC HOUSE. Two apprentices, named George Wilkinson and John Tattersfield, were placed in the dock on a charge of stealing a bottle containing coloured water, the property of H. Rogerson of the Lord Durham, in waterworks-street. ” Detailed evidence followed. “The prisoners, who pleaded guilty, were committed to the Sessions. ” No result has been discovered.

On 4 Jan 1872, in the General Quarter Sessions of the Borough of Kingston upon Hull, a John Tattersfield was convicted of Larceny, and sentenced to eight months in prison, and police supervision for seven years. There had been one previous conviction. It is very probable, though not certain, that the culprit was John Thomas.

A John Tattersfield, or John T. Tattersfield, is listed in PCOM2–Stafford Gaol, Staffordshire: a copy of the distributed National Alphabetical Register of Habitual Criminals, piece 404—see findmypast.co.uk. He was aged 18, Height 5′ 6″, hair and eyes brown, labourer. He had been liberated from Hull Prison on 8 Sept 1872 after an eight month sentence for Larceny, simple. Supervision was to be for seven years. Intended residence after Liberation was Near Rifle Barracks, Hull. He had two previous convictions for felony.” This record clearly refers to the above conviction on 4 January, 1872.

On 1st May 1882 he married a Hull girl, Clarinda Dibnah, daughter of a joiner, in Sculcoates Parish Church. A daughter Ethel was born to them in Sculcoates in early 1883. She was to live until 1958 in Yorkshire, without marrying. A second daughter, Alice, was born, rather surprisingly, in Homerton, Hackney, Middlesex, on 31st Jan 1885. In effect this was on the eastern edge of London.

After the birth of ALICE in 1885, there is no further Census record of JOHN THOMAS in the UK. In the 1891 Census Clarinda was living with her parents, brother, and 2 daughters, and was listed as Married. In the 1901 Census, she was with father, brother and 2 daughters, and listed as Widow.

The family seem to have moved back to Hull soon after. He was immediately in trouble. On 28th Aug JOHN THOMAS was taken into custody. A warrant was issued on 2 September. The Hull Packet and East Riding Times of Friday Sept 4, 1885 reported “ROBBERY BY A WATCHMAN. At the Borough Court on Wednesday, before the Mayor (Dr Rollett), Mr B.B. Mason and Mr W.S. Bailey, JOHN THOMAS Tattersfield, labourer, was charged with stealing three padlocks, and other articles, the property of Messrs T. Wilson, Sons & Co. Prisoner was further charged with stealing 23 bottles of wine, the property of the Estate of the late Mr. C.S. Todd, Town Clerk. Mr. T. W. Hearfield prosecuted. It appeard that a few days ago, acting on information received from Tattersfield’s wife, the police searched his house. ” Details of the charge follow. “He had previously been imprisoned for felony, and he was now committed to the Borough sessions for trial”.

On 22 October, JOHN THOMAS was brought before the General Quarter Sessions of the Borough of Kingston-Upon-Hull, charged with larceny. He pleaded guilty to both charges. Previous convictions at Hull Petty Sessions were listed

26 Dec 1867,   drunk, etc           1s and costs

24 Oct 1868,   stg gunpowder     21 days

18 Jan 1870,   stg money           4 cal. months

25 Aug 1885,  threatening sureties

He was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment with hard labour on each of the two charges, to run concurrently. He had been detained on 28 August 1885, so presumably was released 6 months after that date.

What effect all this had on his marriage is a matter of speculation. As his wife gave information to the Police about his theft, it is not surprising that the marriage broke up about that time.

In the 1891 Census Clarinda was back in Hull, living with her parents, daughters Ethel and Alice, and another child called Charles Dibnah. John Thomas was not recorded in the 1891 Census.

Clarinda lived on in Hull . In the 1901 Census, and on her Death Certificate, she was described as a “widow”. She earned her living as a shopkeeper, and is listed in Kelly’s Directory for 1913, 1921, 1933 and 1937. She died on 21st May 1941. The Hull Daily Mail notice of her death reads “Loving Mother of Ethel and Alice”.

Soon after his presumed release from hard labour, John Thomas sailed for New York on the ship WA Scholten , arriving on 18th Oct 1886. His stated age was 33 (ie born about 1853). His name, possibly changed in transcription and publication, was J.J.Tattersfield. He was described as a labourer.

On 3rd Feb 1889 John Thomas married Anna Elizabeth Koertel in the Presbyterian Church, “Newport, County of Campbell, Commonwealth of Kentucky”. He was 35, born in England, and she was said to be 28. In fact, she was born about 1858 in Germany, and seems to have migrated to the USA about 1868.

The circumstances of the wedding deserve some examination. John Thomas paid a Marriage Bond of $100 to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, surely a very large sum for him to have raised in those days. The Bond, although taken out on the same day as the wedding, became void as soon as the marriage had taken place.

Although married in Kentucky, both bride and groom gave their residence as Cincinatti, Ohio. This is just opposite Newport, on the other bank of the Ohio River. Enquiries have been made in Newport. They revealed that it was, and still is, easier to get a Marriage License in Kentucky than in Ohio. Apparently fewer questions are asked , and less proof is required. People still cross the Ohio River to get married in Kentucky. Was this John Thomas’ best way of avoiding awkward questions about his first marriage, which, as far as is known, had never been dissolved? Divorce in England was unheard of in those days, at least among the poorer classes.

A comparison between the Marriage Certificate in England and the Marriage Bond in Kentucky, shows that the two signatures of John Thomas are clearly by the same hand. It is interesting to note that he had an elegant signature for a man who was a labourer most of his life.

On 22 Dec 1891, John Thomas became a naturalised American citizen at the Supreme Court, Cook County, Illinois. The only personal detail recorded about him was that he was born in England. Clearly, few questions were asked in those days!”

In the 1892 Directory of Covington, Kentucky, an entry for the couple is in the names of Thos. Tattersfield, porter of 1116 Orchard, Newport, and Mrs Lizzie Tattersfield.

A first child, also confusingly named John Thomas, was born in Newport on 19th Jan 1891. Other children, Bessie (Dec 1895), Harry (1899) and Alice (1901) followed, plus another who died very young. The parents and three eldest children were recorded in the US Federal Census of 1900 in Chicago, and again in 1910, this time with Alice. In the former the father was a day labourer, and, in the latter, a City park attendant. It is interesting to note that the last child was named Alice. His second daughter, born in England in 1885, was also called Alice.

Rather surprisingly, the New South Wales, Australia, Police Gazette, dated 5 Mar 1902, contains the following notice: ‘Missing Friends. Inquiries are requested at the instance of Mr. John T. Tattersfield, of 286, east 43rd-Street, Chicago, USA, as to the whereabouts of John Tattersfield, said to have been a resident of Violet Hill, Bathurst district—IR 1902-3-177.” Another version with the same date records the missing person as Mr. John T. Tattersfield. Neither version mentions that the missing John was JOHN THOMAS Jr, son of JOHN THOMAS Sr, and only 11 years old.

The Cook County Genealogical Records (Deaths) show that John T. Tattersfield died on 19 Nov 1917. He was buried in Fairmont-Willow Springs Memorial Cemetery, Willow Springs, Cook County.

In the 1920 Census, his wife Anna E., stated to be a widow, was living with Harry, Alice, Bessie and her husband Arthur Baylis and daughter Margie A. Baylis, in Chicago.

John Thomas Jr married Rosina Anna Boehler before 1920. They lived, at the time of the 1920 Census, with their three-year-old daughter Charlotte, in the same street and only a few doors away from John Thomas’ mother, brother and sisters. In the 1930 Census the family, still in Chicago, are in the index under Tattersall. The age-old habit in England of mixing the names Tattersfield and Tattersall seems to be alive and well in USA!

John Thomas Jr obtained a World War 1 Draft Registration Card in June 1917, but does not seem to have been called into active service. He applied for a Social Security Account in 1936.

Anna E. Tattersfield, wife of John Thomas Sr, died at the age of 88 in 1946/7.

On 5 Mar 1951, John Thomas Jr contacted the branch of the Tattersfield family in Philadelphia PA, and spoke to my father’s first cousin, Marjorie West, to see what relationship there might be. I still have the note she made, on a small scrap of paper. His address was 6462 S. Dante Street, Chicago, Ill.  His phone(?) was Midway 3-9728. The note reads ” From Hull- Merryneath. Father John T Senior moved first to Cleve, Ohio-then to Kentucky, finally Chicago. Grandfather in the carpet business in England-Yorkshire.” Much, though not all, of the note is correct. His grandfather was not in the carpet business, but was a labourer, but he did work at one stage in a “color mill”. The word Merryneath may have been a miss-spelled reference to his grandmother’s maiden name, which was Merryweather. Did the younger JOHN THOMAS know his father had left a wife and two daughters in England?

What became of the family? John Thomas and his wife Rosina Anne moved to San Joaquin, CA, where he died on 11 Sept 1976. Rosina (Rose) Tattersfield, nee Boehler, died in Stockton, San Joachin County, California on December 15, 1990 at the age of 101. It is not known whether their daughter Charlotte married. John Thomas’s sister Bessie and her husband Arthur Baylis also moved to San Joaquin, where she too died in 1990. It is not known whether their daughter Margie A. Baylis, born in 1915, ever married. The other sister, Alice, married John Kraemer about 1929. No children are known. Alice may have married a second time in 1936.

John Thomas and Rosina Anne had a son Harry, born in 1896, but he died in 1897. Their next son, born on 19th June 1898, was given the name Henry, but throughout life was called Harry. He appeared with his parents and siblings in the Censuses of 1900 and 1910, and with his mother and sisters in 1920 in Chicago. He was single. Harry, signed Attestation Papers, on 20th Aug 1918, for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, claiming, incorrectly, that he was born in Hull, Yorkshire, England. His Next of Kin was Anna, his mother, and his address was #6354, Maryland Ave, Chicago, Ill. He signed on in Toronto for one year, or until the end of WW1, and for six months thereafter, if wanted. His Regimental Number was 2501082.

Harry was medically fit. He was 5 ft 7 ins tall, complexion Medium, eyes Blue and hair Blond. He had a birth mark on his left side. His Religious Denomination was Baptist.

The documents were signed by the Lieut Col Commanding the Canadian Railway Troop Depot, which was where Harry served, as a Private, for 102 days, until he was demobilised on 2nd Dec 1918, in Hamilton, Ont. His character and conduct were “very good”, and his “Special Qualifications of value in Civil Life” was clerk. He had no medals or decorations. On discharge he was diagnosed with Goitre.

Harry is recorded as arriving in New York on 3rd Feb 1927 on the ship Volendam from Cuba. His correct date of birth was given, and his address now was 172 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, Ill. He was said to be married, but was unaccompanied.

Harry cannot be found in the Censuses of 1930 and 1940. No records of his marriage or death have been found. He was mentioned in the obituary of his brother John Thomas, who died in Stockton, San Joaquin, Ca on 11th Sept 1972, as “brother…..the late Harry Tattersfield.”

It seems very unlikely that there are any descendants of this family who still have the surname Tattersfield.

Header Image: The strange double life of John Thomas Tattersfield. To the right, Hull Prison, forbidding in any century, where John Thomas likely served time. To the left, the ship WA Scholten, on which John Thomas sailed to a new but in some ways eerily similar life in the United States. Hull Prison: Mail on line; WA Scholten: Public Domain.