I spent a most enjoyable day yesterday chasing my Tolan ancestors.
Found numerous references to them in the West Yorkshire Prison Records.
It was fun while I was finding the many references to the antics of my great granduncles. They were quite the lot, those Tolan boys. Martin, the eldest, had thirteen entries! James had seven and Anthony had two.
But it blew me away when I came across my great grandmother's 1891 arrest record. I had opened the document to see if Martha Tolan was Martin's wife. It was her all right, being arrested for using obscene language. Her partner in crime was her sister-in-law, my great grandmother, Mary Tolan Cherryholme, who in addition to using obscene language also assaulted a police constable for good measure!
Then I found a most disturbing record. Mary was arrested again in 1893, this time for "cruelty to three children." Her children at the time would have been nine, three and one.
My grandfather wasn't yet born when these arrests occurred but I guess her behaviour didn't improve much. His file, when he was sent to Canada as a British Home Child in 1912, had the following notation: "The boy had a somewhat bad start in consequence of mother's conduct." Until now, I didn't know for sure what that note meant.
A positive thing that came from finding these records is I now have a physical description of the Tolans.
- My great grandmother, Mary Tolan Cherryholme was 5' 4" and had dark brown hair. She had a scar on her left arm. (Her eldest son, John, who went on to have his own arrest record, was 5' 8" and had brown hair.)
- Her oldest brother Martin Tolan was 5' 5 1/2' and had dark brown hair, a burn scar on his left side, a scar on his eyebrow and the centre of his forehead, a mole on left forearm, and scar on his belly and back. (His wife, Martha, was 4' 6" and had red hair.)
- Brother James was 5' 6 1/4" with brown hair. (One of his arrests was for "neglect of family.")
- Brother Anthony was 5' 7" and had brown hair. He had a T and a kite on his left forearm (a tattoo?).
In the absence of photos, thanks to their nefarious behaviour, the Tolans left information about themselves that would have otherwise been lost to me.