Thomas Henry Porteus was born in West Hartlepool, Durham, England on 21 May 1878 and was baptised on 16 June that same year in St. James' Church in West Hartlepool.
He was the youngest son of Sunley Porteus (b. 1838 in Kirby Moorside, near Helmsley), a woodturner, and Elizabeth Betsy Moody (b. 1840 in South Otterington, near Thirsk), both of North Yorkshire who had married in Helmsley in December 1860, living in Stokesley, Yorkshire for a while before settling in West Hartlepool around 1864 where most of their children were born.
Thomas had eleven siblings, four of who died in early childhood: Sarah Jane (1861-1866), James (b. 1863), Robert (b. 1865), George Sunley (b. 1867), Thomas Henry (1869-1869), Ada (b. 1870, later Mrs Ezra Lee), Ann Elizabeth (b. 1872), Ellen (1875-1875), Edward (b. 1876), Hannah May (b. 1880, later Mrs Robert Marshall) and Clara Ellen (b. 1884, later Mrs Robert Masterson).
On the 1881 census Thomas and his family were shown living at Burbank Street in Stranton, West Hartlepool. The family left Hartlepool sometime after 1884 and settled in Rochdale, Lancashire, appearing on the 1891 census as residents of 101 Bury (?) Road; Thomas, then aged twelve, was indicated to have already left school and was working as an errand boy.
At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 28 Manchester Road in Rochdale, with Thomas by then described as a butcher. By 1911 the family home was The Butts Avenue in Rochdale where his mother ran a small restaurant: "Schofield's Dining Rooms"; Thomas was not listed, presumably at sea.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912, Porteus gave his address as 20 Upper Bugle Street, Southampton1, a lodgings address. His previous ship had been the Oceanic and as an assistant butcher, he received monthly wages of £4, 10s. For reasons that are not entirely clear, he signed on as "T. Parker"; present-day family attest that he signed on in another man’s stead, a man named Thomas Parker (b. circa 1886) who lived in Liverpool with his young family.
Thomas Porteus, who was unmarried, died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
Mr. Porteus, who is a young man of about 33 years of age. served his apprenticeship as a butcher with Mr. W. Earnshaw, of 254, Yorkshire Street. Rochdale, and for about half a dozen years he has travelled between Southampton and New York on White Star liners as a butcher. the principal ships on which he has been engaged being the "Oceanic," "Celtic." "Majestic," and "Teutonic." It was in the capacity of butcher that he was engaged on the "Titanic." and when visiting his people about three weeks ago be showed an eager desire to make the maiden voyage on the "Titanic." - Rochdale Times, 17 April 1912
Thomas’ parents continued to live in Rochdale at The Butts Avenue; his mother died on 24 July 1916 followed by his father four years later.