We love hearing about our members' incredible family history discoveries. On the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, we're delighted to share Joanne Murphy's story. Thanks to her family history research, Joanne found that not only did she have an ancestor who fought at Waterloo, Sergeant George Rose, but that he was an escaped Jamaican slave who went on to be the highest-ranking black soldier in a British regiment.

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Joanne's Story

"Records hold such a wealth of information and even death certificates have parents' names. It intrigued me to find my great great great great grandfather, George Rose, was a Methodist minister. It was an early time for Methodism in Scotland so I set about using search engines to see if the internet could offer me any information.

Getting Started

I knew his children were born in Gibraltar and I wondered if he could have been there to 'spread the word of God' so to speak. What I found was more amazing than what I could have wished for.

Up came pages and pages of information on George. From Findmypast to the National Archives, from the National Army Museum to research studies. It turned out I was not the first to realise quite how amazing his life was.

I knew his children were born in Gibraltar and I wondered if he could have been there to 'spread the word of God' so to speak. What I found was more amazing than what I could have wished for

"A true hero"

An escaped slave, Waterloo hero, highest ranked black British soldier on discharge and then Methodist minister. It seems George was born a pioneer and was unable to see life pass him by.

Every time I open the family tree I have to pinch myself, for I have found what everyone hopes they will find... a true hero."

Read George's incredible life story

George Rose, the slave-turned-soldier

George was born some time between 1787 and 1791, in Jamaica's Spanish Town. He escaped to England when he was around 20 years old, and enlisted in 2 ndBattalion of the 73rd Regiment of Foot.

He served in Germany, the Nertherlands and eventually at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo in 1815. He was wounded twice, and his Waterloo battalion suffered the heaviest casualties of any line regiment.

Rising through the ranks

George Rose was a well-regarded soldier, and his dedicated service was recognised when he was promoted to Corporal in 1829, and then Sergeant in 1831. He was the most senior black soldier known to be serving in the regiment at the time.

George was the most senior black soldier known to be serving in the regiment at the time

Following his discharge in Glasgow, George became a member of the Primitive Methodists, preaching regularly on Glasgow Green.

Going home

In 1849, George returned to Jamaica, where slavery had been abolished 15 years previously, to work as a missionary. He died on 27 July 1873, near his birthplace.

The Battle of Waterloo Records

Were your ancestors Waterloo heroes? Find out with our extensive records of the Napoleonic War and send us your discoveries at testimonials@findmypast.com

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