John Bell, my great great grandfather, was born in Gortnaguig townland to a farming/weaver family. On his 18th birthday in 1825 he enlisted with the 33rd Regiment of Foot and was sent to the West Indies to protect the sugar plantations. He would have had to battle malaria and yellow fever outbreaks as well as enemies, and would have seen slaves, since although slavery was abolished in 1807 those still enslaved remained so till 1833. He earned two good service medals and was promoted to corporal.
In 1843 John was stationed in Guyana, then in St Johns, New Brunswick, Canada, where he was promoted to sergeant and married Emily Christiana Wylie (origins unknown). Their first son, my great grandfather Robert, was born there. On his return to Ireland he was discharged in 1847 and went back to the family farm in Gortnaguig - just in time for the Famine! He and Emily went on to have ten more children; no doubt his army pension was a good help in hard times.
Two of the children must have died young; of the others, five emigrated (to Australia, Canada, USA and Scotland). Their grandson James (my grandfather) and his family remained in the area until 1987.
John died in 1883 at age 75, and Emily on 27th October 1896. They are assumed to be buried in Ardboe Church of Ireland graveyard, but there is no headstone.
|Date of Birth||23rd Nov 1807|
|Date of Death||1883|
|Spouse (First Name/s and Maiden/Surname)||Emily Christiana Wylie|
|Number of Children||11 (2 seem to have died young)|
|First Child||Robert, born 'British America' on 1901census of ireland|
|Names of Children||Robert (Gortnaglough), John George (Scotland), James (Gortnaguig); Thomas and Anne Jane, (no record) Alice (Reedman, Aus) Eliza (Hayes, Stewartstown), Anna Maria (Martin, Winnipeg) Emily (McAdams, USA) Margaret (Bremen, Aus), Sarah.|
|Place of Death||Gortnaguig|