Polperro Family History
The CURTIS family of Polperro
The long line and interwoven branches of the Curtis family in Polperro certainly extends as far back as the 17th century. Later church records record the marriage of William Curtis on 27th December 1766 to Jane, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Jesper at Lansallos.
Descendants of their eleven children have married into many notable local families including, Pearne, Puckey, Holten, Libby, Skinner, Jolliff, Minards, Roose and Langmaid. One such linking of local families occurred in 1843 when William Henry Curtis, then aged just 20, married Elizabeth Swartman the daughter of William Swartman (of the Lottery) and granddaughter of the infamous Roger Toms. By 1851 they had four children but that was the year Scarlet fever swept thorough Polperro. Nowadays so easily treatable, then it was a killer and the three youngest of the four children all died. As with so many families of that time, when more children were born, they were given the names of the lost brothers and sisters and so it was in William and Elizabeth began their family again with a second son William Henry and a second daughter named Elizabeth.
William Henry Curtis (1853 - 1919) at work in his workshop in Polperro in September 1904
These children grew up in their parents twilight years, William Henry was apprenticed as a cordwainer and so began a life time making boots and shoes for the people of Polperro. He married the postman's daughter, Maria Victoria Minards and their daughter in turn married a 'foreigner,' one Police Constable Rothwill, posted to the village from St. Budeaux in Plymouth. William's sisters married too; his elder sister Mary Jane to George Stevens, a sailmaker, and his youngest sister Elizabeth emigrating to Liverpool where she married John A'Lee, so adding yet more Polperro names to the list of families with a Curtis connection!
There are many variations of the name to be found, from Curteys to Courtis, Curtis to Courtice, some individuals managing at least three different spellings of their name on different parish records. With the increase in literacy (both Elizabeth and William Henry had beautiful handwriting) Curtis and Courtis have become the two accepted spellings, with families of both still to be found in Polperro today.
[Text by Janet A'Lee]
Further details of the Curtis family of Polperro can be obtained from Jeremy Rowett Johns:
Further information on the family would also be welcomed.
Jeremy Rowett Johns, Polperro Heritage Museum © 2000