This document told of a crime but was it “our” George Houseman?

The full record from Ancestry, Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records, 1637-1914

The year was 1707. Queen Anne was on the throne: Queen in her own right, her husband merely a consort. Britain was now just about a “thing” as the negotiations over The Scottish Union were to conclude the following year. We had survived the Glorious Revolution, the Nine Years War and were now fighting the War of Spanish Succession “to preserve the balance of power in Europe”. Despite the heavy land taxes (four shillings a pound) government borrowing increased leading to the formation of the Bank of England in 1694. England was polarising and, in the countryside, successful (tenant) farmers were beginning to dominate the rural economy leaving the less successful to drift downwards into the life of the landless labourer. Closer to home the medicinal powers of the Harrogate springs were starting to draw increasingly large numbers of people to test the purported curative powers.

1707 was also the year that Jeremiah Wilkinson “of Wooten” [likely Weeton] was recorded as being buried at Harewood on 8 December. Jeremiah could be our 9x great grandparent through his son, John, a product of his first marriage to a woman called Ellen rather than Grace Moore who our Jeremiah may have married at Harewood on 4 July 1671. Jeremiah is a rather typical example of the nearly 100 ancestors I can name who were alive in the year 1707. I know nothing more than can be gleaned from church records. This brief paragraph is the sum total of everything I know.

Imagine my excitement then when ancestry offered the hint of a record from the Yorkshire Quarter Sessions of a George Houseman of Winsley indicted on 7 October 1707 with a copy of the original document.

Houseman is not like Smith or Cooper. www.freebmd.org.uk currently shows records for just 2,639 births in England & Wales between 1837 and 1997(*) of which just under half were born in Yorkshire. The Housemans of Nidderdale database records 674 that are proven to directly connect to us and Hartwith cum Winsley was a township right in the centre of it all.

I opened it and realised eighteenth century handwriting was the least of my worries as the record was in Latin…….More tantalising still when I searched the database there was a second indictment for Georgius Houseman, also of Winsley, in 1717. Was it worth investing in translation? What did I know of my Houseman ancestors at that time? Who could have been of an age to commit crimes in 1707 and 1717? Was it, in fact, my 6x great grandfather George Houseman, the father of the George Houseman who married Margaret Grange and was the founder of our local dynasty?

Which George Housemans were in contention? Own miro board.

I spent the evening on two trusted (but secondary) genealogical websites. It seems there are two potential contenders. A father’s cousin or a cousin’s nephew, in modern parlance a first cousin once removed

A. My ancestor, baptised on 14 May 1689 at Kirkby Malzeard, son of Thomas Houseman and Elin Carrick. This George married twice, first to Mary Jackson on 11 June 1710 at Kirkby Malzeard who was buried on 1 February 1722 at Ripley and second to Margaret Wilks in 1723 at Pateley Bridge. George’s only recorded children come from his second marriage. Three of his children were recorded as being on Winsley in 1685, 1687 and 1701 in their baptisms.

B. My ancestor’s father’s cousin baptised on 27 April 1661 at Hampsthwaite, married Anna Leuty on 21 January 1686 at Kirkby Malzeard. Two known children: Grace (baptised 1 May 1697 at Ripley) and Ann (baptised 29 November 1689 also at Ripley). One of his daughters, Grace, was recorded as being from Winsley when she was baptised in 1687 and this George was also recorded as being from Winsley when he was buried in Ripley in 1729.

(And as an aside for future the original John Houseman was apparently “slain in Mr. Wythes barn of Eastkeswick with thunder” – how hard was that not to drop into a rabbit hole).

I had no choice, I had to get the Latin translated and here we are:

The full record from Ancestry, Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records, 1637-1914

Knaresborough October 7th 1707

George Houseman: And that George Houseman, late of Winsley in the aforesaid county, labourer, on the first day of June in the 6th year of the reign of lady Anne, by the grace of God now queen of Great Britain, etc, at Burton Leonard in the West Riding of the aforesaid county, extortionately, injuriously and unjustly exacted, received and had from a certain John Dickinson four shillings and six pence in ready cash, under colour and pretext of a fee due to a certain Robert Stephenson and John Hardcastle, special bailiffs for executing a certain execution upon the body of the aforesaid Dickinson, where in truth no such fee was due to them, to the serious damage of the aforesaid John Dickinson and against the peace of the said now lady queen, her crown and dignity, etc.

Witnesses: Thomas Fox, gentleman, John Dickinson.

Acknowledged: fine 6d.

The full record from Ancestry, Yorkshire, England, Quarter Session Records, 1637-1914

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Knaresborough 5th October 1714

George Houseman: And that George Housman, late of Winsley in the aforesaid county, husbandman, on the first day of October in the first year of our lord George, by the grace of God now king of Great Britain, etc, at Winsley, aforesaid, in the West Riding of the aforesaid county, unlawfully and unjustly permitted and still permits his hedges and fences in a certain close of the same George called Fleak Bank to be in ruin and decay, to the serious damage of his neighbours, and against the peace of the said now lord king, his crown and dignity, etc.

Witness: Lawr[ence] Danson, gentleman.

Acknowledged: fine 1s.

So we have a labourer in 1707 who extorted money and a husbandman in 1714 who didn’t keep his hedges cut….

George A (my ancestor, the younger) was married for much of this period. George B (the older) had two daughters. Both have links to Winsley. Was it youthful exuberance (George A would have been aged 18 & 25 when the crimes happened) or an older man not knowing how to stay solvent in a changing world with only daughters to see him through (George B would have been 46 & 53)? My gut feel knowing George A left a legacy is that it was the other but who knows? And either way they are both part of my history and understanding of the world in 1707.

*On 28 April 2022, the Houseman count on www.freebmd.org.uk stands at 2,639, the Wellock count at just 1,239 – if I ever do a one name study, I will do two. These two family surnames are heavily concentrated around specific locations in Yorkshire. If you are a descendant of anyone bearing either of these surnames, there is a high chance we are related and a good chance I can prove how – please do get in touch!

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