Author Topic: How rare were tattoos before 1930?  (Read 545 times)

Offline Chris Anderson

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How rare were tattoos before 1930?
« on: Thursday 07 December 17 23:12 GMT (UK) »
Turns out my ancestor (person in my profile pic actually) had a criminal past and records say he had tattoos on his forearms and hands.

Is this rare for 1929?

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Offline Jebber

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Re: How rare were tattoos before 1930?
« Reply #1 on: Thursday 07 December 17 23:22 GMT (UK) »
They go back to before Christ. I suggest you Google ‘History of Tattoos’ you will find plenty of information.
CHOULES All ,  COKER Harwich Essex & Rochester Kent 
COLE Gt. Oakley, & Lt. Oakley, Essex.
DUNCAN Kent
EVERITT Colchester,  Dovercourt & Harwich Essex
GULLIVER/GULLOFER Fifehead Magdalen Dorset
HORSCROFT Kent.
KING Sturminster Newton, Dorset. MONK Odiham Ham.
SCOTT Wrabness, Essex
WILKINS Stour Provost, Dorset.
WICKHAM All in North Essex.
WICKHAM Medway Towns, Kent from 1880
WICKHAM, Ipswich, Suffolk.

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Offline Rena

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Re: How rare were tattoos before 1930?
« Reply #2 on: Friday 08 December 17 00:38 GMT (UK) »
My grandfather was born in the 1880s and had a couple of red & blue tattoos on his arm.  One was of an anchor and the other was a heart with an arrow through it and the word "mother". As many other men of his generation seemed to have them, I always assumed they were done during WWI.  As he wasn't a sailor, I made another assumption that the anchor meant his heart was anchored at home.
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Online hurworth

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Re: How rare were tattoos before 1930?
« Reply #3 on: Friday 08 December 17 01:08 GMT (UK) »
My ancestor's brother's WW1 record mentions a tattoo.  In his teens he was briefly at Coldbath Fields prison in the 1870s.

Offline Ruskie

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Re: How rare were tattoos before 1930?
« Reply #4 on: Friday 08 December 17 04:55 GMT (UK) »
Through the decades/centuries the demographic seems to have changed but they have always been fairly common in some populations, and for different and varying reasons. They're fairly mainstream these days for example. Common for sailors and criminals in the 30s probably when your chap got his. I read that centuries ago they were done so it would be known what tribe a person belonged to in the afterlife. The Maori in NZ have traditional tribal tattoos.
A lot of tatts on criminals had meaning (and still do) - you may be able to work out the meaning of those your man had if you have photos or descriptions of them.
Just a few thoughts and examples .... I'm sure some googling will supply you with loads of detailed information.

Offline Chris Anderson

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Re: How rare were tattoos before 1930?
« Reply #5 on: Friday 08 December 17 11:17 GMT (UK) »
Thanks guys, google is ok but on here you get a more personal account sometimes

He was in WW1, then had a life of crime. His forebears were sailors but he himself was not.

So I guess the tats could be any combination of those. I'll probably never know.

Offline LizzieW

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Re: How rare were tattoos before 1930?
« Reply #6 on: Friday 08 December 17 12:40 GMT (UK) »
I'm transcribing Royal Navy records including the period of WWI and I would say that the majority of the men, some who enlisted as boys, all had tattoos.  When I was a child in the 1940s/50s, the only people who had tattoos were sailors and people who'd been in prison.

Offline Rena

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Re: How rare were tattoos before 1930?
« Reply #7 on: Friday 08 December 17 13:38 GMT (UK) »
I'm transcribing Royal Navy records including the period of WWI and I would say that the majority of the men, some who enlisted as boys, all had tattoos.  When I was a child in the 1940s/50s, the only people who had tattoos were sailors and people who'd been in prison.

I've already described that my grandfather had a red and blue anchor tattoo, I think I might revise why he had it because he worked loading and unloading ships.

He and his brothers were born in Wisbech, Norfolk and travelled north to the larger port of Hull in Yorkshire, for the seasonal dock work. When his brothers returned home, he stayed behind because he'd met my grandmother.  She was a domestic servant but was also a tamborine girl in the Sally Army.  He must have been star struck because he also joined the band and played the big drum. They married in 1911, which is the same year he joined the Northumbrian Territorial Army, known as the RAMC, Royal Army Medical Corps.
Aberdeen: Findlay-Shirras,McCarthy
MidLothian: Mason,Telford,Darling,Cruikshanks,Bennett,Sime, Bell
Lanarks:Crum, Brown, MacKenzie,Cameron, Glen, Millar
Ross, Urray:Mackenzie
Moray: Findlay; Marshall/Marischell
Perthshire: Brown Ferguson
Wales: McCarthy, Thomas
England: Almond, Askin, Dodson, Harrison, Maw, McCarthy, Munford, Pye, Shearing, Smith, Smythe, Speight, Strike, Wallis/Wallace, Ward, Wells
Germany: Flamme,Ehlers, Bielstein, Germer, Mohlm, Reupke

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Re: How rare were tattoos before 1930?
« Reply #8 on: Friday 08 December 17 13:52 GMT (UK) »
I remember that my mother's elder brothers both had tattoos which I think were done during or just before they served in WW1 (RWF)
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