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Thomas Wood Horsman

Thomas Wood Horsman from Leeds has been one of my ‘brick walls’ for as long as I can remember,  and as I’m in contact with several of his descendents, I thought  he would be a good person to feature.

In all the censuses in which he appears, Thomas Wood Horseman [TWH I] is consistent about the fact that he was born in about 1803/4 in Dunsforth, Yorkshire.  But where was he baptised?  Dunsforth is in the parish of Aldborough,  and he was not baptised there, or in any of the surrounding parishes or in Leeds itself .  Looking at the churches where his children were married, makes me wonder if he was baptised in a Non Conformist chapel somewhere.

We do know who his Mother was,  as “Elizabeth Horseman,  Mother, Unmarried, aged 68, born Kirkstall” was with him in 1851.  Elizabeth was described as a ‘former Burler’.

Thomas Wood Horseman  was described as a Corn Miller from 1834 onwards,  and was at one time in charge of  Kings Mills, a Corn Mill on Swinegate.  So how did the illegitimate son of a manual worker achieve such a position?  Is the clue in his name ?  The forename name ‘Thomas Wood’ is passed down for several generations.  Was his father called Wood,  and did he support young Thomas?


TWH I  married Mary Ann Mitchell on 27 Oct 1823  at Leeds, St Peter,  and they subsequently had 10 children.  

Elizabeth (c.1824- ?)  married Richard Parker, a schoolmaster,  in 1861.

William (c.1827-1890)  was also a Corn Miller,  and married Mary Craven in 1848,  and had 7 children.

Mary Whitfield (c.1830—?),  had a son George in c. 1857, before marrying John Oates in 1861, then John Tiplady in 1865.

Thomas Wood  [TWH II] (c.1832—1866) married Mary Ann Piddleston in 1856 in London.  They had 5 children (including TWH III), before Thomas died of Phthisis [TB] at the age of 33.  Mary Ann was probably unable to cope after his death,  as in 1871, (with the exception of TWH III) all the children were living with different members of the family.  I’ve not found TWH III in 1871 —possibly by then he was in the army as a boy soldier.

Sarah Ann (1834—1894) never married,  as in 1871, she was living with her parents, and described as an imbecile;  in 1881 she was in West Yorkshire Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Wakefield,  and in 1891 in Bramley Asylum.  The web site History to Her Story  http://www.historytoherstory.org.uk/  is about women in Yorkshire,  and if you search for Horsman, you will find images of Sarah’s medical history.

Maria (1836– 1915) married Samuel Poskitt in 1861 and had at least 6 children.

Eliza (1839—1898) married Thomas Lockwood in 1861,  and had at least 3 children.

Ann (1841-1841) died in infancy.

George (1843- 1845) died young.

Joseph (1845—1918) married Ann Elizabeth Wake in 1867  and had 10 children.  He was a traveller for a Timber company.


TWH I died at Burley, Leeds  in 1871 aged 67,  and is buried at Headingley, St Michael and All Angels.  Sadly when I visited the graveyard several years ago it was exceedingly overgrown  and I could not find his grave.  His wife Mary Ann died almost a year later  and is also buried there.  Disappointing Thomas did not leave a will.


What of Thomas’s descendents ? These are only three of the branches.  As I am doing a One Name Study, I have only followed the male lines in detail.

William Horsman  (1827 - 1890) was TWH I’s eldest son,  and like his father he was a Corn Miller until his death in 1890.  William married Mary Craven at Leeds St Peter in 1848, and had 7 children.  Most of his descendents remained in the Leeds area, with only recent generations moving away.


Thomas Wood Horsman (TWH II)  (1832 - 1866) was TWH’s  fourth child, and second son. He died young, and his son was also called Thomas Wood Horseman [TWH III].

Thomas Wood Horsman (TWH III) moved to Canada.  The historic records of the New Brunswick Garrison Artillery give us a clue as to how TWH III ended up in Canada.  It tells us that TWH (III) enrolled as a bandsman in the 2nd Bn. Royal West Kent Rifles when he was only 14 years old.  He obviously had musical talent as he was sent to Kneller Hall, the Royal Military School of Music in England; where he studied for 2 years.  He rejoined his regiment (now known as the 97th) in 1874 at Bermuda, and then served in Halifax, Gibraltar and South Africa.  The records tell us that he was then discharged in Dublin, from where he returned to Halifax [Nova Scotia, Canada].  Had he met his wife to be when he was stationed there?

In 1878  TWH III married Agnes Ann Shiers in Halifax;  and they subsequently had 13 (that I know of) children.  By 1883 Thomas had joined the NB Garrison Artillery Band,  and became bandmaster of the 3rd Regt  in 1890.

Thomas died in 1915  and was survived by his wife and 10 children.  He is buried at Fernhill Cemetery, St.John, N.B.  

Joseph Horsman (1845 - 1918) was TWH I’s youngest son, and 10th child.

Joseph married Anne Elizabeth Wake in 1867 and had 10 children.  Family legend has it that he was allergic to flour dust, so did not go into the family business.  Instead he became a Commercial traveller in the Timber trade.  He died in Caversham in 1918.

Joseph’s son Ernest emigrated to Australia in 1911, but returned to England in 1914.  However in 1922, the family returned to Australia and settled in Melbourne.  Judy Ransley was Ernest’s granddaughter, and lived in Queensland until she passed away in February 2018.


Now, to a more debatable topic.  Who was TWH’s mother Elizabeth?

Elizabeth died in 1851 aged 68, and is buried at Holbeck St Matthew.  Fortunately she was alive for the 1851 census, when she tells us she was unmarried and from Kirkstall.  Her age at death puts her year of birth as about 1782/3.  When I first began researching this family, it was before any  on line records, and in the days of the old IGI.  The latter contained an entry saying that Elizabeth was born 24 Oct 1782 at Kirkstall, daughter of William Horsman and Mary Mason.  I believe that this then led people to believe that she was the daughter of William Horsman and Mary Mason who had married in 1773 in Little Ouseburn.

In reality Elizabeth was baptised at Leeds, St Peter on 8th December 1782,  daughter of William Horsman of Kirkstall, and had been born on 24th October.  The parish register entry does not give a mothers name,  so I believe that the ‘member submitted’ IGI entry which gives her mother’s name and leads you to the Little Ouseburn marriage is a case of people trying to fit available data together, without looking at original records.

Analysing the parish records more closely, I would suggest that this is the true story:

William Horsman, a Cordwainer (otp) and Grace Brooke, Spinster of Guiseley were married at Leeds, St Peter on 23 March 1773

Luckily the couple were married by Licence , which tells us that William was 31, a Cordwainer from Bramley; and Grace was 23

The following events then occur:

Birth 3 Aug 1775,    Sarah d/o William of Kirkstall,  Bp. 10th Sept 1775, Leeds St Peter

Burial 12 March 1778 child of William, Kirkstall  @ Headingley St Michael

Birth 12 Dec 1779  Mary  d/o William of Kirkstall Bp: 24 Jan 1780, Leeds St Peter

Birth 24 Oct 1782  Elisabeth d/o William of Kirkstall Bp. 8 Dec 1782, Leeds St Peter

Note: there is no mention of a mothers name

Birth 26 Dec 1785  Hannah d/o William of Kirkstall Bp. 26 March 1786,  Leeds St Peter

Birth 06 July 1788 Martha d/o William of Kirkstall Bp.  24 Aug 1788, Leeds St Peter

Burial 1 July 1798  Grace Horsman of Kirkstall @ Headingley St Michael

Burial 1 July 1813  William Horsman  of Kirkstall @ Headingley, St Michael  aged 74

Again,  there is no burial evidence that  William has a wife called Mary


Who were William’s parents ?

When he was married, his year of birth worked out as 1742,  but when he died it was 1739;  so it must be sometime around then.  I’m still working on this  mystery.  If anyone has any ideas—do let me know.


The final puzzle, with a Hypothesis.

The final puzzle is who was TWH’s father?  The fact that three generations of the family were named Thomas Wood Horsman, leads me to believe that his father was  called Thomas Wood,  and the fact that TWH became a Corn Miller may indicate that his father was a Miller also.

Was there a Thomas Wood, Miller,  in the Kirkstall area at the right time.  Yes.  Could this be him ?

On 10 July 1810, Thomas Wood,  otp, Miller,  married Hannah Storey at Leeds St Peter.

In 1816 they had a daughter Betina baptised at St Peter,  and Thomas Wood gave his details as Corn Miller from Kirkstall.  Likewise in 1819, when their son Jacob was baptised,  Thomas Wood said he was a Corn Miller from Kirkstall Bridge.

In both the 1841 census Thomas Wood gives his occupation as Corn and Oil Miller,  and in 1851 he is a Miller and Seed Crusher; aged 67,  born Headingley.

When both his children married, they were described as being from Headingley,  with their father being a Corn Miller.

The final fact is that Thomas Wood died in 1854  and was buried at Headingley, St Michael.

I recently visited the Borthwick institute in York and looked at Thomas Wood’s will.  Unfortunately he makes no mention of Thomas Wood Horsman.  Could it have been his father who had been keeping a watchful eye on young TWH.

Please note that this is Hypothesis only.  If anyone reading this has any  information which can confirm this theory, Please do get in touch.


Can you help ?

Are  you a descendent of Thomas Wood Horsman? If so please do get in touch.   Have you got any family photographs which you could share?


A Warning

There are many on line  trees, for this family,  which contain incorrect information, which has been copied from other trees, and not researched properly.  DO NOT believe everything you find on line - do your own research.

Equally if you find any of my facts to be incorrect, please let me know.