Researching Cornish ancestors

MikeMcC / Pixabay

At the moment, I only have one ancestor from Cornwall. He is John Boyd, born in Maker, Cornwall but on his convict record his native place was Plymouth, Devon (across the river from Maker). When he married in VDL he was a carpenter which was a great trade at that time of building in Tasmania.

I’m late to the session tonight – I have none in Australia but I have 3 Cornish lines via my American ancestry – Ladock – Anne Courtenay Mylor – Gilbert Holcombe Warleggan – William Parker – I haven’t researched these lines yet so this session will help

My one Cornish Ancestor migrated to South Australia. That’s all I know. More to research on him after tonight

My James Henry Trevaskis and Elizabeth Rosewarne both from St Hilary parish Cornwall married in Moonta South Australia

Places my ancestors and their families resided include Rose in Perranzabuloe, Falmouth, & Cape Pennance in Budock. They migrated to NZ, to continue mining in Wales and Montana in the USA. More distance relatives, I have not researched, went to South Aust.

I have three brothers who came together then later they were joined by sisters and their husbands

Cornwall! Yay! My Cornish ancestors were a recentish discovery. From West Cornwall: Penzance, Newlyn, Paul, Perranuthnoe – only know 1 occupation, builder/stonemason. Blewetts of Penzance (some of) arrived in Melbourne 1853

Secombe from Mawgan in Meneage and Ruan Minor to Wauhope near Port Macquarie. Other surnames Williams, Gyles, Thomas.

Occupations = a thatcher, a brick maker. farmer. The youngest to emigrate was Josiah Secombe aged 14 years who became a travelling Methodist minister after arriving in the Port Macquarie area.

My great grandfather migrated to NZ from Cornwall. He was a tailor where most of his family were miners in his and earlier generations. I was told we had no other Cornish ancestors in NZ however I have found a brother and sister that also migrated

I have a 2nd great grandmother from Cornwall but haven’t as yet done any research on her line. Looking forward to all your research tips tonight

I have so many ancestral lines in America where my Cornish lines fit that I set up a page “Origins of my Adams Brown Ford Ancestors before they came to America”…

My second great grandfather was an agricultural labourer from Cornwall. He emigrated to Sydney and worked as a labourer on various railway projects such as the Woy Woy Railway Tunnel. He was also a gardener.

ASUKLTD / Pixabay

What record repositories or sources help with ancestors research in Cornwall or overseas where they migrated?

GENUKI – Genealogy for UK and Ireland – Cornwall specifically

Online Parish ClerksCornwall specifically

Dusty docsCornwall specifically

Cornwall family history society which has both free and paid information available

Transcriptions from some Cornish newspapers

Cornwall council including museums, archives and libraries

Cornish surnames website

Cornish descendants and diaspora – beware all the ads

Cornish associations – New Zealand, Victoria, New South Wales,

Cornish Downunder facebook group – this is private and you will need to ask to join

Cornish mining sites in Australia

Cornwall’s archives called Kresen Kernow

Philip Payton’s book The Cornish Overseas talks about it being not uncommon for people to go home and migrate again.

I have recently spoken about the Blewetts of Penzance to the Cornish Association of Victoria, online here: – my sense of Cornish identity, how I researched them etc. A great resource for maps of all types, covers the UK and wider afield.

MonikaP / Pixabay

Is there anything unique or to consider especially with regard to Cornish research? Have you had any unusual finds?

My only unusual find was that the 14 year old who immigrated to NSW with his older brothers was baptised at his mother’s funeral. She took her own life after his birth. her 13th child. V sad

Cornish people migrated to many places so your research can expand to places you never thought you would be researching. Makes for interesting #familyhistory when you follow down new paths.

I always look for chain migration now Fran. My Cornish rellos came in 3 waves to Victoria, 1853, 1854 and 1859. One went back to Cornwall for a year or two and returned to Melbourne, married, in 1862 (& promptly died)

Interesting that town names of Launceston and Falmouth are places in Tasmania, there may have been a Cornish influence there

To track families over time, I like the Eng & Wales census for its data every 10 years. It’s found at big paid for, FH websites. FamilySearch provides interesting data and the family tree can give you useful hints to check out. + OPC

Cornwall OPC has been mentioned. I’ve found limited, but fantastic, information on my family in Cornish newspapers via FindMyPast/BNA

most of my Cornish anomalies are around the spelling of Trevaskis and Rosewarne. So many variants to search for

I have found watching the TV series Poldark has helped me to visualise what it would have been like for my Cornish miners

NSW Archives has been helpful (e.g. for shipping records.) Trove. NSW Registry of BDM (e.g. for death certificates, which showed places of birth). I learnt a lot about my 2nd grt g’father through these certificates, including who he worked for. @nlagovau

My ancestor’s family name was Soady. The name was spelt differently at times, e.g. Soddy, Sody. No unusual finds just yet.


TimHill / Pixabay

Have you been and what do you love most about Cornwall? Or do you have a different favourite county or country for researching?

Back in 1990 on my first big trip overseas, I drove from John O’Groats in Scotland down to Land’s End in Cornwall

Yes! Penzance in 2017, a quick trip to the archives in Redruth, walked to Mousehole through Newlyn & to St Michael’s Mount! Have been enjoying the Portillo series on SBS on Cornwall and Devon

Cornwall is a stunning place. I went down to research the family for a few week back in early 2009 and ended up staying 7 months. I found so much material at the various repositories. Some items in Cornwall record office I held in my hand (gloves on) were 15C

Ah Poldark. Hadn’t read the books or watched the series before I visited Cornwall, but have now read/watched several times. I think Winston Graham was an excellent researcher

Since I discovered my great grandfather came from Cornwall I feel attracted to the place. I have visited a number of places family lived although no buildings survive.

I had planned a research trip to Cornwall last year but it was cancelled. I have researched in other counties and perhaps my favourites are Hampshire, Kent and Sussex (where Morton farrier researches!)

I was quite thrilled to discover via Ancestry DNA that I have 14% ‘ethnicity’ from Cornwall (reflected in the records). Can’t explain this thrill really, Cornwall just speaks to me

I should follow this up Sharn. In the talk given recently by A/Prof Cate Frieman she noted that re the genetic profile of the British Isles shows that the Cornish basically marry other Cornish people – always unique and different! There you go, something unique

I had a look at Ancestry and I have East Cornwall as a Community.

It has a certain romance to it as a place Helen. Pirates and smuggling and breathtaking scenery

I haven’t been to Cornwall but it looks beautiful. I spend most of my English research time in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire.

Probably evident that Cornwall is my favourite place (after Victoria) to research; very happy to connect with any #ANZAncestryTime researchers with Cornish ancestors to compare notes and research strategies

If any of our overseas friends drop by later I would love recommendations of a good on the ground researcher in Cornwall I could pay to research things I can’t because the likelihood of doing it in person is very slim now (thanks pandemic) – Helen

From this link you can search for researchers who are members of @RegQualGenes who might be able to help

I visited Cornwall in 1987 – my favourite places were St Ives, St Annes, Penzance, St Davids and Tintagel – I’d love to return one day – maybe in 2023

Cornwall is on my list of places to visit in 2022 – probably on my way to visit my first grandchild who will be born in Sweden next year.

I haven’t been to Cornwall, and the one time it might have been possible (UK conferences in 2017), everything was CRAZY expensive there, and I couldn’t afford the side trip. Would love to go one day.

Babyboomer100 / Pixabay

Great chat here:

Cornish Pastie! My favourite. I have been thinking of it since we started. Would love one now

Sharn, I watched a TV show just a few days ago, and there was this Cornish lady making pasties, amazing how much work went into getting the pastry just right

Ha! Yes, via the Cornish Association of Victoria I discovered the Aussie Oggie Pasty Co in Ballarat – & get them home delivered sometimes 😀

Something my mum said to me (not a Cornish gene in her body) is that they must have swede in them! Every family probably had its particularities

It’s one of the things I had to have when visiting. Wanted one with savoury at one end and sweet at the other like the miners apparently ate.

If you come to Bendigo and do an advanced mine tour, they give you a traditional Cornish Pastie for lunch. Loved the tour and the pastie

We really have ‘degenerated’ into food haven’t we?! But that is part of the fun of family history research. I state on my website blurb that I’m a family historian (jam first) – the Cornish know what I mean!

I have no Cornish family, but I do have ancestors from Devon. So that explains the cream first leanings in this household. (Also my artistic daughter says the pop of red on top of the cream is more aesthetically pleasing.)

Readers: Have you been to Cornwall or do you have any ancestors from Cornwall?


Advice for beginners

Another great #ANZAncestryTime twitterchat. Hope these tips and mistakes not to make help you in your journey as family historians.

Tips for starting your family history journey

Free-Photos / Pixabay

The most common tips were:

  • Start with yourself and work back one generation at a time.
  • Get proof for every fact by having documents, certificates, newspaper reports etc
  • Talk to the older members of your family including cousins – record these stories if possible with their permission; photos and newspapers are good prompts
  • Keep records using charts, notebooks, digital files, folders – whichever suits you best
  • Buy certificates if possible – check all information on these including witnesses; in New Zealand get printouts rather than certificates
  • Don’t believe everything that you see online without seeing the proof
  • Keep a note of where you searched (research log), and what you found (or didn’t).
  • Cite your sources so you find information again
  • For beginners listen to this brilliant podcast (see link at end of post)  it talks you through every single step in a logical sequence brilliant for beginners @AFHpodcast
  • There is not just one way to do family history research. We need to be able to adapt to the circumstances when necessary for better results.
  • BACK UP your research. You don’t want to lose all those hours of work!
  • Surround yourself with support by joining a local family history society
  • Do a workshop or course in the how.
  • Look for a list of questions to use when asking your elders about ancestors. eg
6689062 / Pixabay

How and where to record the information you find

Thinking about slow cooking, slow family history might be a thing. Many variations of way to record your family history being listed. Use the method that makes it easy for you such as paper, charts, or digital with software.

When I volunteer with people at the library, we start with pedigree chart, family group sheets then if they want to connect to others especially DNA, then online tree with ancestry

Can I be an alternate voice? I loathe being straight jacketed by those forms, even back in my earliest days decades ago. I probably kept the same info but in my own way.

Try a few genealogy software programs and pick one you like, where you record everything you find. Also, think about a digital filing system for your computer. I started out mostly using A5 notebooks, and I still use them, but am waaaay behind in transferring info

I decided to put all my digital stuff in one folder with useful file names. Searching for things on the mac has always been easy (according to me) and I only need one copy in one place. Not multiple versions for different people. (Make sense?)

I’d recommend a software program or spreadsheet at first to get started

A few people have suggested spreadsheets & I’m curious to know how you use them

I’ve used them for shipping data, census details, timelines and a checklist for possible sources and if I’ve checked them. Do as I say not as I always do 😉

I use them for my DNA matches adding them from every source where I have it. Add info on whether has tree, what likely family, & if added to my tree & the relationship. I download DNA data from some sites.

Spreadsheets for timeline of a persons life, or for downloading a range of search results for analysis and sorting or for keeping track of certificates bought, or #genealogy expenditure just a few for starters

One way I use them is for NZ electoral rolls, for example. I have all the names down the left and dates of electoral roll across the top. Black out cells when people to young to vote, migrated or dead. Then mark of in each cell when found with a ref. FH software.

I do this for UK census records – note the ages down for each census I’ve found them in, group with family, mark off years before born and after died, so I know who I’ve found in each census (and who I haven’t). Interesting to contrast ages across decades too!

I have columns for DOB,DOM, DOD, Where Living, Where died, Occupation. IF you’re clever, and I’m not you can have the spreadsheet do the calcuations of age etc and codes to cross ref

Export the names and info from your family tree software. It is so much easier to see the gaps with a spread sheet. Have another one with UK census info. It is easy to see families together and then when person moves.

Use 1. pedigree charts 2. family tree charts 3. research logs so you know what sources you have already consulted and when, this very much helps avoiding unnecessary repetition

I would suggest an online tree either public or subscription based plus family tree software for recording your tree. A research log for information and sources

Assuming you have a computer try various software programs or start a blog

Write it down and store it somewhere safe. I would say type it up too but PLEASE back it up.

Invest in the best family tree software you can afford e.g. if you think you might want to publish a book down the track, look for software that will help you do that. Also record on paper using standardised templates available for free on Ancestry. Back up!

Always & Everywhere. Go mobile – start with audio recording & scanning apps & build up to local family tree software alongside online platforms with confidence & affordability + keep a notebook or journal whether paper or online to record progress

join a free website such as @WikiTreers where you can keep living family private but connect to deceased ancestors

I started with a dedicated notebook, still precious to me, moved to a timeline format in Word, supplemented by narrative format in Word

depends on how comfortable one is with computers. Pen and paper initially is good start to see what info you have. Talk to other family historians before using genealogy software. Spreadsheets can a good way to record too.

Craig_Steffan / Pixabay

Mistakes to avoid when starting out

Remember no family is perfect. We all have black sheep ancestors and skeletons on the closet. Don’t ever assume all your discoveries will be happy.

Ensure you record all the details and look at first few pages and last pages of a book and for margin notes or errata message

And I use their bibliography for future reference.

Never assume family stories are correct, or that you are getting the full story. Details change, recollections alter over time and sometimes people muddy the truth for a variety of reasons

Don’t think that everything is online. Visit libraries, archives, societies

I have found that libraries in larger towns can have resources for other places. I used to spend time in the @Library_Vic doing NZ research. So pays to check in larger places.

When I lived in Darwin I would keep a running file for future research in QLd archives and libraries, then hit them hard when visiting. Did better then than I manage now.

Do not copy other people’s online trees or information. Research and find the evidence yourself

Don’t dismiss anything as hearsay make a note and look for proof

Assuming everyone in your own family will be excited as you about any if it – you need to find your people (we are your people)

The biggest mistake I made was not writing down where I found something for everything I found. Even acknowledging who told you is important. When you want to check it later it cannot.

1. Not accessing an original document when possible (#Digital or #Paper ) & just relying on #index entries helpful though they are. 2. Basing my own research on the research of others without verifying 2. Not citing/recording sources

when I started I recorded everything in one notebook at a time. Advantage: in one place to find. Disadvantage: separating out the families’ data later on. You won’t believe how much info you’ll accumulate over time!

Beginners should be wary of ordering anything through a third party try to order directly from the official office

Don’t go blindly accepting Ancestry hints assuming they are all the same person

And if someone goes out of their way to tell you you have the “wrong ” person in your tree, do yourself a favor and investigate their data. Don’t just immediately blow them off.

Absolutely!!! In one of the cases there were 14 or something people with the wrong one. I didn’t have the mental capacity to tell them all. I will when I have a chance.

Yes. Most ancestors have hints for records in the US. Only one ancestor ever went to America and that was when he worked on ships, he never stayed there.

Accepting hints on Ancestry and discoveries & smart matches on MyHeritage – both are often wrong. Assuming that anyone else’s tree is correct without doing your own research

Assume everyone in the family is interested and want to know all details – they don’t. Don’t assume all online tree owners have done research thoroughly – many haven’t, just copied from others and don’t even show any proof.

Biggest mistake: believing anything you read or anything anyone tells you – go and investigate, find out as much of the truth yourself as you can. Next biggest mistake: not listening, not reading between the lines.

procrastination can lose you personal knowledge as the older generation passes away. I got fabulous info from some but didn’t get round to all my contacts.

Thinking I’ll write down that source later. Or not having a plan. Or thinking you know the answer and not considering other options. Not asking for help is probably a biggie. And of course….thinking that it’s all online. It most definitely is not.

Keep record of sources; prove other’s work online – don’t believe everything is correct; visit archives and towns if possible for museums etc

you won’t remember where you found everything as your research progresses. Record when and where you found info and the name of the source. This lets you and others find it again.

listen to what you’re told by family, read and record what you find BUT also look at it critically. Test the consistency of the data and between what you find. Some stories may be 100% true, some 1% and some 0%. Follow up what you discover in other records
Where to find help when getting started

1. your local & other Genealogy family history societies 2. archives libraries 3. community groups 4. religious political & fraternal organisations … go where the journey takes you 😀

Find a genealogy friend to buddy up with who can help with where to look. Check out Family Search’s wikis for learning, attend seminars, webinars, read books. HAVE FUN!!

1. Get help by joining a local family history society. 2. Purchase a beginners book. 3. Check out YouTube. 4. Legacy Family Tree Webinars @legacyfamily. 5. @RootsTechConf sessions. 6. Many societies have Zoom meetings. 7. Family History magazines.

The wiki from @FamilySearch will have answers to most questions including a section for beginners.…

For those in Australia there is help on starting your family history info at the @nlagovau website.…

Family history societies and libraries are a fab resource to begin with for the area you are researching as they have knowledge of the streets and general history.

Facebook groups, twitter groups like #ANZAncestryTime , Library, YouTube and other online sources.

locate a family history society near you and join up. There’s lots of knowledge in the membership + learning opportunities,seminars etc. they will usually have access to the big pay-to-view genie sites

Also join, or visit, a family history society where your ancestors lived. They know the local history and will likely have indexed local records.

If you need more information and thinking of buying certificates in England or Wales see if available as pdf and only use…

if in Hobart on a Friday, book in a one hour session with me (Sue) at Rosny Library haha

Not everything is online! There’s still mountains of info undigitised in archives and libraries. Learn the skills you need to explore them and don’t be intimidated. Use discoveries from Trove as clues about where to look.

Join a family history group Look at free websites such as @FamilySearch which has a Wiki Join @WikiTreers and check out their pages Join Genealogy Facebook groups

Help is everywhere families, books, libraries, local societies, YouTube, webinars, Facebook, Twitter etc.etc.

The #NZSG have three video tutorials available on their website, very useful when you’re starting out:…

I actually learnt quite a lots from @AFHpodcast Andy’s brilliant podcast, stuff that I’m sure I really should have known!

Blogging posts

Hilary – importance of documenting what you do and find

Paul – Top ten sins of a genealogist

Daniel – Double check those Ancestry hints

Alona – 27 do’s and do not’s when researching family history.

Amanda from Geni – 5 Things to Do to Get Started on Your Family Tree

Amateur family historian – podcast about beginning your journey

Readers: What tips would you give to people starting their family history journey?