Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Long Lost Uncle

I recently purchased a genealogical book that traces my family's history (through my maternal grandmother) back to colonial New England. I already knew a great deal of information, but I wanted this book since it provided sources to validate the various family trees. It was apparently written by one of my distant cousins in the late 1960s after spending nearly twenty years doing research, and traveling throughout New England and England itself.

Anyways, I was excited to get validation for what I already knew, but was even more excited to learn some new things about my family history. One major surprise centers on my seventh great-granduncle, Jonathan Curtis (1708-?) of Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was a twin brother of my seventh great-grandfather, John Curtis. In 1740, Jonathan likely enlisted in the 43rd Regiment of Foot to fight in what was later called the War of Jenkin's Ear, which lasted from 1739 to 1748 - though the major operations largely ended by 1742. The war pitted the British against the Spanish in the Caribbean and was essentially caused by trade disputes and accusations of piracy. New England men like Jonathan Curtis were recruited to serve in the 43rd Regiment based on appeals to their patriotism and promises of extracting great wealth from the Spanish. A drawing of a soldier from the 43rd Regiment of Foot is shown here. Jonathan (who was unmarried) was known to have drawn up his will around 1740 before leaving with the rest of the regiment for the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, according to this genealogy book, Jonathan was never heard from again. He was later declared legally dead on November 25, 1747. I can only imagine how traumatic the experience must have been for his family. After doing some research, my (educated) guess is that Jonathan went with his regiment to modern-day Columbia where a large battle was fought against the Spanish, known as the Battle of Cartagena de Indias between March and May 1741. The battle ended in absolute disaster for the British, and many of their soldiers (including several from the 43rd Regiment of Foot) also died from disease. Therefore, I suspect that Jonathan was either killed in battle or died from yellow fever while he was in Columbia.

Like I wrote earlier, I knew nothing of this before reading it in the genealogy book. I feel fortunate to know at least this much about Jonathan, but wish I knew even more. Anyway, I felt that it was fitting to honor him here with this posting. I look forward to learning more about this conflict, as well as the 43rd Regiment of Foot in the near future!

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