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Help and advice for Cornwall

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"Cornwall - maritime County of England, forming its SW extremity; is bounded by Devon on the East, and washed on all the other sides by the sea; length, NE and SW, 75 miles; average breadth, 22 miles; coast line, about 200 miles; area, 863,065 acres, population 330,686. The South coast is much and deeply indented, and has some good harbours. The principal openings from West to East are Mounts Bay, Falmouth Bay and Harbour, St Austell Bay, Fowey Harbour, Whitsand Bay, and Plymouth Sound. Falmouth is one of the finest harbours in Britain. The indentations on the North consist of shallow bays with few or no harbours. The chief promontories are Land's End, where the granite cliffs are about 60 ft. high; and the Lizard, the most southerly point of England. The Isles of Scilly lie off Land's End, 25 miles to the SW. The Devonian range extends NE and SW, rising in Brown Willy to an altitude of 1368 feet.  The streams are numerous, but small. The principal are the Tamar (which forms the boundary with Devon), Lyhner, Fowey, and Camel. There is much barren moorland, but the soil in the valleys is fertile. The prevailing rock is granite, of a grey or bluish-grey colour, which often rises above the surface in huge, rugged masses; clay slate also abounds. The tin and copper mines of Cornwall have been celebrated from remote ages, having been known, it is supposed, to the Phoenicians. Some of them are of very great depth, and have been carried beneath the sea. Silver, lead, zinc, arsenic, antimony, and bismuth are also found in considerable quantities. The fisheries, especially of pilchard and mackerel, are extensive and valuable. The county comprises 9 Hundreds, plus the Isles of Scilly, 219 parishes, the parliamentary borough of Penryn and Falmouth (1 member), and the municipal boroughs of Bodmin, Falmouth, Helston, Launceston, Liskeard, Penryn, Penzance, St Ives, and Truro. It is entirely in the diocese of Truro."
From Bartholomew's Gazetteer 1887.

Cornwall is watered by six principal rivers: the Tamar, Lynher, Fowey, Camel (or Alan), Fal and Hayle. There are numerous minor rivers and streams in the county which serve to drain the land.

Archives and Libraries



Most records for cemeteries are held by the Local District Council, NOT the Cornwall Record Office. There are few monumental inscriptions (MIs) in existance (comparatively speaking) that are dated before 1800 and only about 30% of graves had stones. In Cornwall, since about 1950, cremation has been an increasing alternative for burials but this has been an option in England since about 1930.
The Cornwall Family History Society has a name index to monumental inscriptions from many Cornish churchyards. This is computer-based in order to provide a search service. The CFHS has transcribed over 90% of Cornish parish churchyards. There are a large number of non-parish burials grounds and, whilst many of these have not been covered, the CFHS have set up a project to identify those missing and transcribe and data enter the information from them. Some Burial Grounds contain data from as early as 1259, with many starting in the 1600's.
The Cornish Cemeteries project began with an effort to provide on-line access, in the form of one index, to the work of Suezan James (now Elliott). During 1998-99 Suezan transcribed the details on headstones in a number of cemeteries in the West Penwith area of Cornwall. An estimated 20,000 inscriptions were transcribed by the end of 2001, although the number of deaths recorded is significantly higher when it is considered that there are often three or more individuals included on a single headstone. This work continues.

See also:
  • It is estimated that the names of over half a million people are recorded on memorials within the county of Cornwall. The great Cornish Diaspora does also mean that the activities and resting place of numerous Cornishmen and women may be found on memorials throughout the world.
  • War Memorials. Cornish War Memorials Inscriptions are also available on-line as follows:
  • The National Maritime Museum have a website commemorating seafarers and victims of maritime disasters. The memorial database contains records of over 4000 church, cemetery and public memorials to these victims of maritime disasters. The site is searchable by surname.


  • Cornwall - Census - links and information.


Church History

Church Records

Civil Registration

Correctional Institutions

  • In the UK, Prison records are closed for 100 years.
  • The main prison for Cornwall was located at Bodmin. The first Bodmin Gaol was built in 1779, and the execution of condemned men took place in a number of different places, since that time (not as is widely believed) exclusively within the confines of the Gaol itself.
  • Old Prison records are located in the Cornwall Record Office.
  • There is a mailing list which discusses Convicts in Cornwall. To join, follow the detail under mailing lists in Genealogy, but substitution the address:

Court Records

  • A Dictionary with thousands of definitions & explanations of legal terms, phrases & concepts is available on-line.
  • Freeholders' Lists (also called Jurors' Lists). From 1696, rural vestries and urban corporations had to send to the Clerk of the Peace for their county, lists of the people within their jurisdictions who were eligible for jury service. These were men between the ages of 21 and 70 who owned freeholds worth at least 40 shillings per year. They were listed under the parishes in which they lived, but if their qualifying property was in another parish this was sometimes also stated. The annual value of their freeholds might be noted too, together with the owner's rank or occupation.
    In 1825 the upper age of eligibility was reduced to 60, and the qualification revised to freeholds worth £10 per year; leaseholds for 21 years or more worth £20, rateability as householder at £20 (£30 in Middlesex), or occupation of a house with fifteen or more windows. At the same time the list of exempt occupations was extended. From 1832, freeholders' addresses were given on the lists, and the qualifying property specified. The freeholders' lists provide a very useful location record for tracing the whereabouts of a family, and to some extent for establishing its economic status. The records are housed among the Quarter Sessions papers at the Cornwall Record Office.
    In 1873 a Return of Owners of Land was published, covering the whole country.(Fitzhugh's Dictionary of Genealogy).
  • Quarter Session Records for Cornwall are available on National Archives
  • The Harvard School of Law contains a searchable collection of Chancery writs relating to Cornwall. This collection of writs praecipe issued in Chancery, with other related documents, including some writs capias issued during the reigns of the later Stuart monarchs. These are not the charters issued to, and returned by the county sheriffs, but rather the unsealed copies kept in Chancery.
  • An Index to Cornwall Archdeaconry Court Records is available on-line. These include Defamations Records 1742 to 1827, Defamations Records 1729 to 1842, Defamations Records 1730 to 1837, Defamations Records 1722 to 1837, Divorce & Alimony Records 1737 to 1789, Marriage Contracts Records 1739 to 1750, Church Rates Records 1672 to 1835.
  • Some Cornish Court Depositions are found in miscellaneous Cornish Records, giving names, residence, occupation and ages of various persons.
  • The website is a pay-per-view site which provides, inter alia, a number of useful databases:
    • Index to Divorce and Matrimonial Causes 1858 - 1903.
    • Index to Death Duty Registers 1796 - 1903.
    You can register and search by surname for free.
  • The proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674 to 1834 is a fully searchable online edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing accounts of over 100,000 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.
  • Coroners' Inquests. The Courtney Library in Truro have an index of Coroners Inquests in Cornwall compiled by one of their volunteers from the newspaper archives. The Email address of the librarian, Angela Broome, is:
  • Mailing Lists for Criminal Matters. There is a mailing list for genealogical matters to do with people who were convicted criminals in Cornwall. To join or leave a list, send an email to: with the single word 'subscribe' or unsubscribe (as appropriate) in the text. The subscribing/unsubscribing (joining/leaving) process is entirely automatic. It should be realised that there isn't any person involved in adding or subtracting list members, so such messages should not be sent to the mailing list itself; they will not be actioned.
  • Some other resources available include:
    • Tamblin, Stuart (transcr.). Criminal Register Indexes (PRO HO 27), Vol. 2: Devon & Cornwall (1805-16).

      Available from: Family History Indexes, 14 Copper Leaf Close, Moulton, Northampton (2000). [Diskette and microfiche].
    • Tamblin, Stuart (transcr.). Criminal Register Indexes (PRO HO 27), Vol. CDP1: Devon, Cornwall, Somerset & Dorset (1805-16).

      Available from: Family History Indexes, 14 Copper Leaf Close, Moulton, Northampton (2001). [CD]

Description and Travel

  • Cornwall is the most South Westerly part of the United Kingdom. It has only one land border, that with the County of Devon, to the East. This eastern boundary is marked for almost all its length by the River Tamar. The rest of Cornwall is surrounded by sea. This makes Cornwall a peninsula and were it not for the short piece of land north of the Tamar, some say it would be an island. Cornwall is actually a Duchy and the Duke of Cornwall is the Monarch's eldest son, currently His Royal Highness Prince Charles. The population of Cornwall has changed over the last 200 years, in 1801 it was 192,281 rising to a peak of 369,390 in 1861 it then fell back slightly although it now stands at around 500,000. (This increase is largely due to a high number of retired people moving into the county). Until the end of the eighteenth century the ancient Celtic language of Cornish was spoken here, it is currently undergoing a revival and the ancient name of Cornwall "Kernow" can be seen at the roadside when crossing the 'Border' from 'England'. Cornwall is 80 miles long from the Devon border to Land's End. At its widest it is about 45 miles wide and averages about 24 miles wide with the narrowest point between St Ives and Mount's Bay being a mere 7 miles wide. About 30 miles to the South West of Land's End lie the Isles of Scilly, which do not actually form part of Cornwall. The landscape is varied with large outcrops of granite rock and granite hills, such as Bodmin Moor in the East. The Administrative Capital  is the City of Truro, lying just to the west of the centre of Cornwall. The main industry was formerly tin mining, but with the fall in tin prices the last mine, at South Crofty at Pool in Camborne, closed in 1998. Businessmen are now in the process of buying the mine so mining is once again may continue in Cornwall and there will only have been a short gap in its history. Other industries vary from the extraction and export of China Clay from near St Austell to the export of spring flowers from the west. The main industry is probably the tourist industry with many visitors coming to the area between Easter and late Autumn. (David Holman 2001 )
  • ePodunk's Cornwall page - providing general, plus some historical and genealogical information, about Cornwall and its parishes, together with links (mainly relating to general sites and services, rather than ones that are specific to Cornwall or particular parishes).
  • Into Cornwall contains an on-line guide to Cornwall and its people; it includes some relevant information for researchers, residents and visitors. The site includes information about towns and places in Cornwall which might assist research.
  • Photographs.
  • The Geograph British Isles project aims to collect a geographically representative photograph for every square kilometre of the British Isles. Photographs of places in Cornwall are available.
  • Other descriptions and views of Cornish towns and villages are available:


The directories can be browsed by location and either viewed online one page at a time or downloaded and accessed via a PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader.

Those relating to the whole county include:

  • Bailey's Directory of Merchants & Tradesmen in Cornwall 1783.
  • Pigot's Directory of Cornwall 1830.
  • Pigot & Co.'s National and Commercial Directory of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Devonshire, Dorsetshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, Oxfordshire, Somersetshire and Wiltshire - June 1844.
  • Slater's National & Commercial Directory of Berkshire, Cornwall, Devonshire, Dorsetshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Somersetshire, Wiltshire and South Wales 1852-53.
  • Post Office Directory of Cornwall - 1856.
  • Post Office Directory of Cornwall 1873.
  • Kelly's Directory of Cornwall 1883.
  • Kelly's Directory of Cornwall 1889.
  • Kelly's Directory of Devon & Cornwall 1893 - Part 3 Cornwall.
  • Kelly's Directory of Cornwall 1897.
  • Kelly's Directory of Devonshire & Cornwall 1902 - Part 2 Cornwall.
  • Kelly's Directory of Cornwall 1906.
  • Kelly's Directory of Cornwall & Devonshire 1914 [Part 3. Cornwall & Advertisements].

Emigration and Immigration

  • Emigration from the UK:
    • General.
      • BBC Website for Cornish Emigration.
      • Some Passenger Lists for emigrants and other passengers leaving Cornwall in the 19th century are available on-line, courtesy of Rita Bone Kopp.
      • Cost of Passage around 1849 to the British Colonies, in private Ships, from some of the principal Ports of the United Kingdom, is available on-line.
      • Information on emigrants from Cornwall is available on-line, courtesy of the Cornwall OPC organisation.
      • Searchable shipping records, which contain passenger lists, for those which took part in emigration from the United Kingdom and Ireland:
      • The 1881 Census contains details of many ships in UK ports. These records are useful for tracing seamen and passengers coming into or going out of the country. Information about these Ships in UK Ports in 1881 is available on-line. There is a surname search facility.
      • The Find My Past website is a pay-per-view site which provides, inter alia, a number of databases.
        You can register and search by surname for free although a fee will be payable for the full details contained in the databases.
        • Births, Marriages and Deaths at Sea 1854 - 1890.
        • Registers of Names of Passport Applications 1851 to 1862 and 1874 to 1903.
        • Colonial Office Registry of Emigration Shipping 1847 to 1855.
        • The UK National Archives Passenger lists for those travelling abroad from the UK 
    • Mexico.
      • The State of Hidalgo in Mexico is covered with numerous reminders of its centuries old mining heritage. The village of Real del Monte lies high up on the edge of the Sierra Madre, a hundred kilometres from Mexico City and nine kilometres from the city of Pachuca and in that village there is a very special burial ground called Panteon de los Ingleses. There are over 650 graves in this remarkably scenic and peaceful place; most commemorate Cornish men and women.
        A British cemetery did exist in Mexico City, it has now been moved and no individual headstones survive. The Cornish in Mexico were also remembered in their home country. Therefore, there are memorials to people who died in Mexico but which are located in Cornwall.
      • A list of Cornish miners who worked in Mexico is available on-line.
    • Latin America.
      • The significance of Cornish migration to Latin America (including Mexico) lay not in numbers: far fewer people migrated there than to the USA, South Australia, England and Wales or South Africa, but in the fact that the mines of Latin America were among the first to attract significant Cornish labour outside the British Isles and continued to recruit Cornish labour right into the 1930s. The Cornish in Latin America is a site recording detail about some of those who emigrated to, or worked in, Central and South America.
      • Here is a tip that may help to find Cornish in Chile. The British frigate Eclipse, under the command of Captain Clark, left Falmouth in March 1825 with 22 miners and their harware for Valparaiso. On the way it had to stop (at the end of June) at Buenos Aires Port (due to problems), so it must have arrived in Valparaiso around July 1825.
    • Australia & New Zealand. Many Cornish emigrated to Australia. The N.S.W. and Victorian sites below can be searched for a particular name:
      • New South Wales. The State Records of New South Wales include: Indexes to Assisted and Unassisted Immigrants 1839 - 1896.
      • Victoria. PRO Victoria has:
      • South Australia.
      • Western Australia.
        • Perth Dead Persons Society site shows a list of ships which arrived in Western Australia. The site has transcriptions of many of the Passengers Lists, and it also has links to records in the other Australian States and to New Zealand.
        • Index to Passenger Arrivals. An online database to Inward passenger manifests for ships and aircraft arriving at Fremantle, Perth Airport and outports. Currently arrivals at WA ports (1921-1950) and Perth airport (1944-1950) are available for searching.
      • Australian shipping 1788-1968 contains shipping and passenger information for Australia and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand. As well as arrival and departure details, where possible, background information is also provided.
      • Passenger Lists of those who travelled to New Zealand are available from DENISE and PETERS AUCKLAND STUFF". The lists are sorted by both name of ship and Port of Arrival.
      • It was customary in Cornwall to record the names of relations who died overseas on family memorials in Cornwall.
      • Mailing Lists. There is a mailing list for anyone with a genealogical interest in immigrants from Cornwall who travelled to Australia and New Zealand. To join or leave a list, send an email to: with the single word 'subscribe' or unsubscribe (as appropriate) in the text. The subscribing/unsubscribing (joining/leaving) process is entirely automatic. It should be realised that there isn't any person involved in adding or subtracting list members, so such messages should not be sent to the mailing list itself; they will not be actioned.
    • USA & Canada.
    • Other (including Australia, Canada and the USA). The Institute of Cornish Studies set up a research project in the mid-1990s to assemble a computer database of Cornish emigration. Initially using the United States as a case study, the Cornish-American Connection (CAC) amassed records of over 25,000 migrants from Cornwall to the USA.
      The CAC although successful was, however, limited in its approach as it did not set the Cornish migration experience within a dynamic paradigm of a global transmigrant circuit connected to transnational communities across the world in which out-migration, onward movement, return migration and repeat migration interacted with each other. As a result a new research project, The Cornish Global Migration Programme (CGMP), was created to address this problem. The data from the CAC was merged with records collected from various other countries to form a unique database.
      Details of each migrant include their name, date and place of birth, parental information, place and date of death, marriage details and the date of migration, shipping records, and receiving community details. Occupation both before and after migration, dates of return migration/onward migration and the destinations involved, and membership of religious or fraternal organisations are also recorded. These records are being collected from various sources, including local historians, genealogists, newspapers, overseas works' records, monumental inscriptions, shipping lists, naturalisation certificates and census returns (both foreign and domestic). Using nominal record linkage the information is being collated and augmented resulting in a database that is constantly evolving. It is hoped that this research project will enable the project staff to answer many of the questions central to an understanding of Cornish migration within a pan-European context.
      The CGMP project is run from Murdoch House Education Centre, Redruth; (see under Archives & Libraries).
  • Immigration to the UK:
    • New Zealanders in Cornwall Census 1861 to 1901. Some names of those in New Zealand who had moved their families back to Cornwall have been extracted from the UK Censuses by Althea Barker. There are no results for 1851, and years 1871, 1881 and 1901 are incomplete - check at COCP for updates. Please note: the census information given by Althea is not complete and if the entry is just recorded as 'NZ', her search would not have located any person.


  • Information on local Legacies, Myths and Legends of Cornwall is available on-line from the BBC.
  • Words of Cornish Folksongs can be found on-line.
  • Though common in the 18th and 19th centuries in many areas of England, smuggling is synonymous with Cornwall's past. In any study of the local history of Cornwall's coastal villages, you will consistently find references to fishing and smuggling as the chief employers of these small communities. A website on smuggling in Cornwall is available.


  • Search the GENUKI Gazetteer. The GENUKI Gazetteer covers the whole of England, Wales and Scotland and can be searched by place-name (or part of a place-name) or Ordnance Survey Grid Reference (six-figure, e.g. NZ183848). If there are multiple place-names matching the name you enter, you will initially be presented with a drop-down list of the matching place-names with their distances and bearings from Truro.
  • There is also an alternative Gazetteer available.
  • 1891 Place Index. There is a searchable database of places in the 1891 census, which covers England, Wales and the Isle of Man and returns the County, Registration District, Registration Sub-District, PRO Piece Number and LDS Film Number.
  • Popular Archaeology have provided a Place Name Finder. The database holds information on the names of more than 160,000 UK places and provides a number of methods for interrogating the dataset.
  • Another Gazetteer of British Place Names is available. The historic map of the county boundaries, shows that the borders of Cornwall/Devon have remained largely intact over the years, following the course of the River Tamar, although some adjustment to the boundary has occured at times for administrative reasons.
  • An on-line Church database, which can be used as a Parish Locator, covering the whole of the UK. This includes facilities for listing other churches and parishes within any specified distance of the parish church.
  • See also under Names, Geographical for a link to historical placenames in Cornwall.


  • General.
  • Cornwall.
    • The best way to find out what research information about Cornwall, that you can obtain directly from Cornwall FHS, is to look at their website. Research in response to enquiries is limited to members, and is usually confined to providing selected printouts from the Society's database. There will be a charge, so the best way is to ask the question of one of their volunteers (see: Contact Details), who will come back to you with the cost. The information can then usually be sent on via email.
    • Medieval Genealogy There is a helpful website for those researching genealogy before, and in the early years following the introduction of, parish registers.
    • Graham Jaunay's English Names Research Directory covers Cornwall.
    • Ted Wildy's Marriage Witness Index for Cornwall is available on-line.
    • There is much genealogical information provided by the Cornish Genealogical Database which is of use to those researching their ancestry.
    • Cornish Surnames:
    • On-line Parish Clerks. The On-line Parish Clerk (OPC) Project is designed to get volunteers to take on the responsibility for a parish or parishes. Their role is to make on-line and look-up facilities available to researchers; OPCs are usually contactable by email. Each OPC may have a transcribed set of his/her parish records, census and any other local history information that would be useful to a family historian with an interest in the parish. However, it takes time to transcribe and accumulate material, so an OPC may not yet have full data for all these sources; it depends upon time available.
      In respect to the OPC scheme for Cornwall, the system in place is given on-line. Links to specific parish information is available from each GENUKI parish page.
      [The term OPC, as used here, refers to a collector of genealogically-related materials such as (but not limited to) Church register transcripts, land tax assessments and census information, and the OPC should in no way be confused with the County Council appointed Parish Clerks. All OPCs are unpaid volunteers who are willing to assist others in their genealogical research].
    • Cornish Strays. Some information on Strays found in Cornwall is available.
  • Mailing Lists. As a general pointer to email lists covering this (or any other) county, have a look at this list which covers all known lists for matters of Cornish Genealogy. The prime open and closed mailing lists available to help in researching genealogy in Cornwall are:
    • Cornwall Open Lists. Yvonne Bowers is the listowner of CORNISH-L and CORNISH-GEN mailing lists for Cornish and Cornish genealogical researchers respectively. The Cornish list discusses all things Cornish, whilst the Cornish-Gen list is strictly for genealogy queries. The original list was started in early 1997 and was split into two lists towards the end of 1998; both lists have a large number of members.
      To join or leave a list, send an email to: or, as appropriate, with the single word 'subscribe' or 'unsubscribe' (as appropriate) in the text. The subscribing/unsubscribing (joining/leaving) process is entirely automatic at these addresses. It should be realised that there isn't any person involved in adding or subtracting list members, so such messages should not be sent to the mailing lists themselves; they will not be actioned. (See also under Correctional Institutions where there is a separate lists for such matters).
    • CFHS Members Closed List. There is a closed list for members of the Cornwall FHS; this is called E-Mail Helping Hands. It has a digest mode as an option. You can not subscribe manually, all subscription must include your membership number to complete the subscription process. To join or leave the list, send an email to: with (as before) the single word 'subscribe' or 'unsubscribe' in the text. The subscribing and unsubscribing (leaving) process is again entirely automatic at these addresses, so don't try to send messages to the list itself.
    • Status of Rootsweb Servers. If you are have difficulty in receiving mailings from the lists, please check the status of the Rootsweb Server to be aware of any current problems.
    • The British Genealogy site also has a list for Cornwall genealogy.
  • General Resources.
    • There is a name search facilty on the Cornish Census Search site.
    • The Genealogy is an online resource for Cornish family history research. The site provides numerous links to on-line Cornish genealogical resources. The main site also consists of 2,800 pages of more than 27,000 Genealogy Links; for USA, UK, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Europe, Canada, Australia & New Zealand.
    • An index of Cornwall Genealogy Links is available.
    • Cyndi's List of resources for Cornwall is also available.
    • is an easy to use messaging forum for everyone researching their family history or local history. The focus is on Ireland and the British Isles. Local Historians and Family Historians have a great deal of knowledge to share. This service is entirely free, with the hope expressed that you and the historian and genealogy community as a whole will benefit from it. The Cornwall county section is separately on-line.
If you are having problems researching your family history in Cornwall, or you want to contribute to this corporate knowledge base, there is a HELP page available.


  • Knowing how to decipher old handwriting is an important part of genealogy research; a website devoted to this is available.
  • An on-line course in understanding English Handwriting 1500 to 1700 is available.
  • In the 1773 Foreword to his work, Andrew Wright made his case for studying the old law hands, which at that time were still in memory but rapidly fading with the passing of older practitioners. This advice is relevant for genealogists and historians today.


  • Coats-of-Arms are not for a name but for the person to whom they were awarded; they are only valid from the recipient to elder son downwards, but not to daughters unless there was a specific clause inserted at the time of award. Some information on Coats-of-Arms is available.
  • The College of Arms is the official repository of the coats of arms and pedigrees of English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Commonwealth families and their descendants. Its records also include official copies of the records of Ulster King of Arms the originals of which remain in Dublin. The officers of the College, known as heralds, specialize in genealogical and heraldic work for their respective clients. Information and advice about how the College can help in genealogy is available.

Historical Geography

  • Cornish entries from William I's DOMESDAY SURVEY of 1086 are available on-line.
  • An index to the Historical Place Names of Cornwall has been provided on-line.
  • English Heritage Viewfinder - is a site containing historic photographs of Cornwall and other counties, and which is searchable. It has some unusual ones of the Industrial Age which won't be found amongst the more usual postcard collections!.
  • The Francis Frith Collection - a collection of over 700,000 photographs of the UK, Europe and the Middle East taken by the Victorian photographer Francis Frith.
  • Geology, Agriculture and Fishery. From the earliest of times, Cornwall has been noted for its tin but other minerals are found here, including copper, lead, pyrites, bismuth, zinc, cobalt, arsenic, wolfram and menachenite. Barley was the most successful grain, of which large crops were grown on the banks of the River Camel. Potatoes were grown extensively in some parts and cider was made in the eastern portion of the county. Fishing was an important industry, pilchards being the most numerous catch.


  • General.
    • The Victoria County History project has information on Cornwall.
    • The Cornwall Centre Heritage and History site provides much helpful information on many aspects useful to those researching their family history. These include: Archeology and history, the censuses, Cornish Language, Cornish Methodism, Cornish Newspapers, Family History, Cornish Manors, mining, parish registers, pictures, railways and statistics.
    • Information on the history of mining in Cornwall is available.
    • BRITISH HISTORY ONLINE offers a digital library of text and information about people, places and businesses from the medieval and early modern period. It is built by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust. Search on Cornwall
  • Medieval History in Cornwall.
  • Currency Conversion. The current Value of Old Money can be calculated on-line.
  • Historical Administration in Cornwall. In 1841, the administrative districts of Cornwall were based upon the old English Hundreds division of land which had been in use since Saxon times. The Hundred was a division of the shire, and each was made up of a number of ecclesiastical parishes; the Hundred was of great importance in Saxon and Norman times. There was a Hundred Court presided over by the Hundred Reeve acting on behalf of the King. The Court, in addition to dealing with disputes, levied taxes. Gradually its function was taken over by parochial and manorial administration under the supervision of the Justices of the Peace. The names lingered on and were even used as divisions in some census records. Some documents relating to the Hundreds survive.
  • There were 10 Hundreds in Cornwall in 1841; these, and the parishes which were contained therein, were:
    • East
      Antony St Jacob, Botus Fleming, Callington, Calstock, Egloskerry, Landulph, Landrake [with St Erney], Laneast, Launceston St Mary Magdalane, Lawhitton, Lewannick, Lezant, Linkinhorne, Maker, St Mellion, Menheniot, Northill, Pillaton, Quethiock, Rame, Sheviock, Southill, South Petherwin, St Germans, St John, St Stephens-with-Newport, Stoke Climsland, St Dominick, St Ive, St Stephen-by-Saltash, St Thomas Apostle-by-Launceston, Tremaine, Tresmeer, Trewen.
    • Kerrier
      St Anthony-in-Meneage, Breage, Budock, Constantine, Cury, Germoe, St Gluvias, Grade, Gunwalloe [alias Winnington], Gwennap with St Day, St Keverne, Landewednack, Mabe, Manaccan, St Martin-in-Meneage, Mawgan-in-Meneage, Mawnan, Mullion, Mylor, Perranarworthal, Ruan Minor, Ruan Major, Sithney, St Stithians, Wendron, Helston, Falmouth.
    • Lesneweth
      Advent, Altarnun, St Clether, Davidstow, Forrabury, St Gennys, St Juliot, Lanteglos-by-Camelford, Lesneweth, Michaelstow, Minster, Otterham, Poundstock, Tintagel [with Bossiney], Treneglos, Trevalga, Warbstow.
    • Penwith
      Camborne, Crowan, St Buryan, Gulval [alias Lanisly], Gwinear, Gwithian, Illogan, Lelant [Uny Lelant], Ludgvan, Madron, Morvah, Paul, Perranuthnoe, Phillack, Redruth, St Erth, St Hilary, St Ives, St Just-in-Penwith, St Levan, Sancreed, Sennen, Towednack, Zennor.
    • Powder
      Fowey, Gorran, Ladock, Lanlivery, Lostwithiel, Luxulyan, Mevagissey, Roche, St Austell, St Blazey, St Dennis, St Ewe, St Mewan, St Michael Caerhays, St Sampson [Golant], St Stephen-in-Brannel, Tywardreath, St Allen, St Anthony-in-Roseland, St Clement, Cornelly, Creed-with-Grampound, Cuby-with-Tregony, St Erme, Feock, Gerrans, St Just-in-Roseland, Kea, Kenwyn, Lamorran, Merther, St Michael Penkevil, Philleigh, Probus, Ruan Lanihorne, Truro St Mary, Veryan.
    • Pydar
      St Agnes, St Breock, Colan, St Columb Minor & Major, Crantock, Cubert, St Enoder, St Ervan, St Eval, St Issey, Lanhydrock, Lanivet, St Mawgan-in-Pydar, St Merryn, St Newlyn East, Padstow, Perranzabuloe, Little Petherick, St Wenn, Withiel.
    • Stratton
      Boyton, Bridgerule, Jacobstow, Kilkhampton, Launcells, Marhamchurch, Morwenstow, Poughill, Stratton, North Tamerton, Week St Mary, Whitstone.
    • Trigg
      Bodmin, Blisland, St Breward, Egloshayle, St Endellion, Helland, St Kew, St Mabyn, St Minver, St Teath, Temple, St Tudy.
    • West
      Boconnoc, Braddock [Broadoak], Cardinham, St Cleer, Duloe, St Keyne, Lanreath, Lansallos, Lantaglos by Fowey, Liskeard, St Martin-by-Looe, Morval, St Neot, Pelynt, St Pinnock, Talland, St Veep, Warleggan, St Winnow.
    • Scilly Islands
      St Agnes, St Marys, St Martins, Bryher, Tresco, Samson.
  • Hundreds are no longer used for administration; instead Cornwall is now divided into district councils. There are 6 district council areas: - Caradon; Carrick; Kerrier; North Cornwall; Penwith and Restormel. The District Councils are divided into civil parishes; these originally were based on the old ecclesiastical parishes, but now the boundaries of each are quite different.
  • Information on how the Administrative Regions of England have developed, including the changes to county borders, is available on-line.

Jewish History

  • Susser, Bernard. The Jews of Devon and Cornwall, from the Middle Ages until the early twentieth century Thesis, University of Exeter (1997) xxi, 421 l. facsims.
  • Susser, Rabbi Dr Bernard. The Jews of Devon and Cornwall, Tiverton, Halsgrove Press (2000) 124 p. [ISBN 1900178826]

Land and Property

  • Inquisitions Post-Mortem 1372/3. In 1235, Henry III created regional officials called Escheators who, on the death of any tenant-in-chief in their area holding lands in fee, were to take possession of the deceased's lands and summon juries of free local men in the neighbourhood, to give details on oath about the lands and their value, the services by which they were held, the date of the deceased owner's death, and the identity and age of the heir. These reports are called Inquisitions Post-Mortem. The purpose of these was to discover what income and legal rights were due to the Crown (the King). On completion, the Escheator then sent his report to the royal court of Chancery, with a copy to the Exchequer.
  • Family Deeds. The Family Deeds Project provides a large amount of FREE online information to help you with your family history using information contained in their collection of old deeds and documents. These documents can contain a wealth of information for family historians and so the Family Deeds project was created with the aim of trying to preserve some of that information and make it easily available to all. Those deeds relating to Cornwall are on-line.
  • Land Conveyances. Abstracts of Cornwall Feet of Fines (land conveyances), covering 1461-1509, are available on-line courtesy of MEDIEVAL ENGLISH GENEALOGY.
  • Tenures. Copyhold was a form of land tenure for land held from a lord of the manor, originally for agricultural labour, but since Tudor times for monetary payment. The term copyhold is used because the land could only be transferred by surrender to the lord and the admission of a new tenant, which admission was recorded in the Manor Rolls and a copy given to the tenant. In Cornwall many properties were held on Copyhold terms of tenure. "Copyhold" is a type of tenure that was also very commonly used throughout the rest of the UK. (This is quite different to a 'freehold' or 'leasehold'). In simple terms.... "a person purchases a Copyhold to land or property from the Lord of the Manor. These transactions are recorded in the Manor Court. (Most Manor Court records are held in the Cornwall Record Office).
    Copyhold was so called because from early times it was customary for two copies of the lease to be made - one for the lord of the manor and one for the tenant. A copyhold lease was normally granted for the lives of three named persons; but it might last in practice for four lives, because the widow of a male tenant dying in possession was allowed what was called "free bench" so long as she remained unwed.
    Rents were normally fixed by custom, and the lord of the manor could not increase them. He could however demand an increased fine on a change of tenancy, as this was generally subject to negotiation (though mostly determined by custom, like rents, in the western counties). But in practice it seems the lord of the manor had little redress if the tenant refused to agree to an increase in his fine.
    Tenants were indeed in a strong position. They had no absolute right of inheritance after a grant of copyhold had expired. But when one life dropped, the tenant might offer to surrender the remaining portion of his grant in return for another that incorporated a replacement life or lives, and the fine for this would be less than for a new three-life grant "out of hand" (which was accordingly rare). In effect, if a tenant continued to pay his rents and fines, and to meet his other obligations, he enjoyed what amounted to hereditary tenure.
    However, with Copyhold, there is a catch. Normally, a Copyhold can be willed to a descendant, usually a son (but in some cases a wife or daughter).... and it is possible for a surviving spouse to remain the holder of the copyhold. But on her death, the property *reverts* back to the ownership of the Manor. No money is paid. Hence the term "reversion". In the mid 1800s, a law was passed entitling individuals to purchase their Copyhold outright. (However few could afford it).
  • Some bibliography on land matters include:
    • Gray, Todd. Harvest Failure in Devon and Cornwall [1623 and 1630-1]: The Book of Orders and the Corn Surveys (1992). [ISBN 0903686651] [Devon FHS Library 942.036].
    • N.G. (ed.) The Parliamentary Survey of the Duchy of Cornwall, Part 1, Devon and Cornwall Record Society (1982). [Lookups].
    • Pounds, N.G. (ed.) The Parliamentary Survey of the Duchy of Cornwall, Part 2, Devon and Cornwall Record Society (1984).
  • The Harvard School of Law contains a collection of early Land Deeds relating to England (including Cornwall). This collection is searchable from the Home Page.
  • Those with research interests impacting upon the Trevelyan Cornish estates should not overlook the Trevelyan Papers held by the Somerset Record Office - many of which are indexed there, but not at the PRO. The catalogue refers to the names of numerous lessees and to places such as Colan, Duloe, Marchamchurch, Mawgan, Perranuthnoe, St Veep, Trevelyan and Whalesborough.

Language and Languages

  • Cornish.
    • Information on the history and use of the Cornish language is available.
    • The Cornish Language, known in its own language as Kernewek, is one of the Brythonic group of Celtic languages which includes Welsh, the Breton language and, originally, Cumbrian. The Celtic languages of Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Manx are known are part of the separate Goidelic group. In terms of similarity of Cornish to the other existing Celtic languages, it shares about 80% basic vocabulary with Breton, 75% with Welsh, 35% with Irish and 35% with Scots Gaelic.
    • The title Sen or Synt is not used in Cornish when referring to a Celtic saint; only when the saint is not Celtic should it be used. In English we say Saint Piran, but in Cornish we would simply call him Peran. Likewise, Saint Piran's Day in English is simply Degol Peran in Cornish.
    • The Cornwall Centre Library has further information on the history of the Cornish Language.
  • Latin.
    • Information on Latin Terms used in parish registers is available.
    • There is a free 12 lesson course on the National Archives website to help you understand Latin, especially useful for transcribing Wills before 1733.
    • A free translation service dedicated to texts related to genealogy is available. Although this service includes Latin, many other languages can also be translated.


Information on Manorial records is available. The Cornwall County Council have listed Cornish Manors in their parishes on-line. Detailed information at parish level, where known, will be found on the appropriate parish page.


Medical Records

  • Diseases. Some useful information about disease (including edipemics) and pestilence in Cornwall is given by West Penwith Resources on their website.
  • Medical Records.
    • Holdings of Lambeth Palace Library - a Directory of medical licences issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury 1535-1775 lists some early practitioners in Cornwall on pages 29 and 30.
    • Medical Heritage of Great Britain, is a site produced by the Bath & Wessex Medical History Group, providing detailed information on a county level of the history of medical treatments, and locations of some associated buildings.
    • Records for Hospitals in Cornwall are located in the Cornwall Record Office.
    • The Cornwall County Asylum, for the reception of private patients and pauper lunatics, was located at St Lawrence's Hospital in Bodmin. A website for St Lawrence's Hospital is becoming available on-line. The Cornwall Record Office Guide to their Sources says the CRO holds records for the hospital from 1782-1971 (X97, X654).
  • Medical Terms. Information on archaic medical terms and causes of death is available on-line as follows:

Merchant Marine

  • Census of Merchant Shipping in 1861. In the 1861 census, Merchant Shipping was treated peculiarly, under Shipping Returns. Those shipping returns for Cornwall and its border are as follows:
  • General. A GENUKI website on the Merchant Marine is available on-line. The site has a large list of links to various seafaring activities such as Customs & Excise, British Seaman records, Merchant Navy Apprentices, River and Harbour Pilotage records, Fishermen and Coastguard records, Smugglers, Privateers, passenger lists and Lighthouse keepers.
  • Ships in Port in 1881. The 1881 Census contains details of many ships in UK ports. These records are useful for tracing seamen and passengers coming into or going out of the country. Information about these Ships in UK Ports in 1881 is available on-line. There is a surname search facility.
  • Cornish Masters and Mates Mustered! It was not until 1845 that Officers in the Merchant Navy were covered by a system of registration. In that year a voluntary examination was introduced for men who wished to become masters or mates of foreign-going merchant ships; this examination became compulsory in 1850 and a few years later it was extended to the home trade. Candidates would be examined by Local Marine Boards around the coast of Britain. The local boards made returns to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, who maintained registers recording the details of certificates granted. These are now available in The National Archives, Kew, and there are many Cornish names hidden away in hundreds of registers. It is not easy to find them but fortunately there are nominal indexes to many sets of records. Some years ago a small team from the Family History Group of the London Cornish Association embarked on a project to extract Cornish-born Merchant Navy Officers from these indexes (TNA BT127), which contain names from all over the world. This project became known as the Cornish Masters & Mates Project.

    A CD containing some 4,250 names of Cornish-born masters and mates (the Officer class of the Merchant Navy) has been published as a joint venture between the London Cornish Association (LCA), Cornwall Family History Society (CFHS), and the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC). It lists officers' names, year and place of birth, and certificate numbers; the certificate numbers can be used to discover more about each individual's service and voyages from other sources, mainly in London. The CD is on sale at CFHS Headquarters, 5 Victoria Square, Truro, TR1 2RS, and in the Museum, Discovery Quay, Falmouth, TR11 3QY, or by post from CFHS. A printed copy can be priced and prepared on request made to the CFHS. Please note that there are very few people born after 1900 in the indexes from which the names were extracted.
    For the benefit of people who cannot visit London, the London Cornish Association is starting a look-up service relating to the Cornish masters and mates whose names appear on the CD. Details can be found in the CFHS Journal, on the CFHS website, and on the LCA website. This service may be subject to adjustment in the light of experience.
  • HM Coastguard. Some information about the historical aspects of H.M. Coastguards is available. (Also see below under OCCUPATIONS).

Military History

  • HM Dockyard, Plymouth. There is a transcription of the volume in the National Archives, giving a detailed listing of several thousand workers in the Plymouth Dock Yard (in 1779, with some amendments in 1782), which is on-line, courtesy of GENUKI Devon.
  • Militia. There were two types of Militia following the Local Militia Act of 1807: the County Militia (Militia Act 1757) and the Local Militia. Unlike the County Militia, the Local Militia were not liable to serve outside their own or adjacent counties and, whereas the County Militia continued in service after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Local Militia was disbanded in 1816. The Local Militia can be likened to the Home Guard (in the UK) of World War 2, and the County Militia was somewhat like the Territorial Army/National Guard, and could be called upon to serve in any part of the country, or to act as reliefs for the regular troops in the garrisons.
  • Regular Army. Information on The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in 1914-1918 period is available on-line.

Military Records

  • HM Dockyard, Plymouth. There is a transcription of the volume in the National Archives, giving a detailed listing of several thousand workers in the Plymouth Dock Yard (in 1779, with some amendments in 1782), which is now on-line, courtesy of GENUKI Devon.
  • There is an explanation about the whereabouts of Military Records available on-line.
    • Cornwall and Devon Miners, Royal Field (Reserve) Artillery, formerly Royal Cornwall and Devon Miners Artillery (Militia) Record of Officers' Services (WO68/24 and WO68/25).
  • 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces died in the two World Wars. Of these the remains of 925,000 were found and their graves are marked by a headstone. Where the remains were not found, the casualty's name is commemorated on a memorial. This work is undertaken by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. There are war graves in some 150 different countries; mostly in the 2,500 war cemeteries and plots constructed by the Commission. The details of these persons so commemorated can be found on-line.
  • The Imperial War Museum, London archives offer a wealth of material for the family history researcher. When the Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917, one of its functions was to be a memorial to those who had died and suffered in the First World War. The Museum has since expanded its remit to include all conflicts, concentrating on British and Commonwealth involvement from 1914 to the present day.
  • A listing of on-line records which assist in researching other British Military Records is available.
  • The Medal Rolls Index, known as the Medal Index Cards (MIC), was created by the Army Medal Office (AMO) towards the end of the First World War. The index was created to enable the AMO to place on one card, all of the details about an individual's medal entitlement, their rank or ranks, the unit or units they served in, the first operational theatre they served in and most importantly, the original AMO medal roll references. These medal rolls (held in WO 329) show the entitlement to the medals and also provide all of the accounting references for the issuing of the medal or medals; the card details are now on-line and are searchable by surname.
  • People, Places, Ships, Organisations and Events associated with the Royal Navy since 1660 are available in the Naval Biographical Database.
  • Census of H M Shipping in 1861. In the 1861 census, in common with the Merchant Marine, Shipping was treated peculiarly under Shipping Returns. Those shipping returns for Cornwall and its border are: RG9/4492 - HM Shipping at Plymouth.

Names, Geographical

  • Churchtown. Within Cornwall, you will frequently come across the place name: CHURCHTOWN. This is a common placename applicable to most parishes, and refers to the built-up area of the parish immediately around the parish church. However, there are a number of Churchtown Farms which originally were probably located in the same geographical area of the parish. There is no single place with the name.

Names, Personal

Surnames, as we know them today, did not always exist. In celtic times, names usually consisted of a single name with the appendage relating to 'son of'. With the growing population and small number of Christian names then in use, surnames were introduced in France in the 11th century. It was not until much later, as taxation became more widespread, that they came into use in England. Various methods were used in giving surnames: the placename or geographic location in which a person lived, one's occupation (Carpenter, Mason, Chapman -- a travelling salesman), the employer's name, physical characteristic (Redhead, Armstrong) or even a nickname. Dr. Stoate has written that, certainly in West Cornwall, the father's Christian name was sometimes used as a surname for a son; he quoted the 1522 "Subsidies" which showed a Richard Jacka and a John Richard living at the same address in St. Keverne. By 1524 they had become Richard Jacka and his son John!
Celtic nations have an unusually large number of surnames stemming from a first name e.g. Andrews, Arthur, Edwards, Harry, Jane, Johns, Martin, Peters, Richards, Sarah, Thomas, Williams, etc.
From an analysis of the 19th century censuses and parish registers, the most common surname in Cornwall is WILLIAMS.
  • The Cornwall OPC pages have a useful guide to Common Family Naming Patterns in Cornwall.
  • Cornish Surnames.
  • A list of free genealogy databases of Cornwall are available from the Free Surnames Search website.
  • Cornwall Genweb - Surnamer Registry
  • Names being researched by members of the Cornwall FHS are also listed in the Members Area.
  • Some useful information on the origins, development and use of surnames in Cornwall is available from
  • Jim Thompson has placed on-line a list of Cornish surnames together with their meanings. The definitions come from books by Richard Stephen Charnock, G. Pawley White, T. F. G. Dexter, J. Bannister, Henry Jenner, Nicholas Williams, R. Morton Nance and many others.
  • A personal names index to a large number of documents amassed by Malcolm McCarthy of Padstow has been compiled. The index which principally relates to the area around Bodmin, but includes many other parishes, can be accessed.
  • Family names of the UK
  • Malcolm McCarthy, and his team of helpers, have transcribed numerous documents relating to people who have lived in St Breock and surrounding parishes. The alphabetical index of surnames in the documents are available on-line. Apart from personal names, this index incorporates place and field names commemorating former occupiers as well as some strays. The latter often relate to war-time refugees from Greater London.
  • English names generally did not develop from Latin but rather the principles of Latin were applied later; variations in these 'Latinized' forms are therefore to be expected. Remember that letters 'i' and 'j' as well as 'u' and 'v' were used interchangeably, so that Jacobus (Jacob) often appears as Iacobus and Avicia as Auicia, for example. Information on these variations is also available.
  • It was particularly common in Cornwall for first names to be used interchangeably. For example, the names JANE and JENNY are frequently used interchangeably.


  • The British Newspaper Archive contains images of several editions reporting events in Cornwall. These include the Royal Cornwall Gazette, the Cornishman, and the West Briton & Cornwall Advertiser.
  • Details of Newspapers, published in Cornwall, are on-line.
  • Many Newspapers carry family announcements, including obituaries. Cornish Newspapers of significance are:
  • Rita Bone Kopp and Julia Symons Mosman are transcribing 19th century editions of the WEST BRITON Newspaper. They now have a SEARCHABLE website with the past posts listed by year, then by miscellaneous, births, marriages and deaths. You should not to limit yourselves to just BMD, as many death mentions were made in the "miscellaneous" section. (You can also read Monthly excerpts from the paper - check under "miscellaneous").
  • Births and Marriages 1836 to 1839, and deaths 1836 to 1838, published in the West Briton Newspaper are available on-line through the OPC search Facility.
  • Cornish Newspapers which are online are listed.
  • The holdings of Cornish Newspapers and Periodicals in Cornwall's Libraries are available on-line.
  • Further information on Cornish Newspapers, which could help research, is also separately available.
  • The Cornish Echo was published from 1895 to 1952. It was, before 1895, called the Falmouth & Penryn Weekly Times which had been published from 1861 to 1865.


The Duke of Cornwall. The Dukedom of Cornwall was the first dukedom created in the peerage of England. The dukedom is the last in the United Kingdom still associated with an actual duchy: the Duchy of Cornwall. The Prince of Wales became the 24th Duke of Cornwall on The Queen's accession to the throne, in 1952. When he was 21 in 1969, he became entitled to the full income of the Duchy and took over its management. The Duke of Cornwall is not, therefore, dependent on any public funding.
The Duchy of Cornwall is one of the largest and oldest landed estates in Britain. It was created in 1337 by Edward III for his son, Prince Edward (The Black Prince). A charter ruled that each future Duke of Cornwall would be the eldest surviving son of the monarch - and the Heir to The Throne of the United Kingdom.


  • Description & Explanation. A description and meaning of Ranks, Professions, Occupations and Trades found on old documents, including censuses, is available on-line.
  • Customs & Excise.
  • Fishermen. Fishermen from both Devon & Cornwall followed the fish around the British coast and over to Newfoundland and other places, leaving their wives and children at home for months on end apparently - so if you have missing fishermen that could be the explanation.
  • H.M. Coastguard Service.
  • Lighthouse Keepers.
  • Maritime. For those researching maritime ancestors, helpful information in the 1881 census is available. (See also: Merchant Marine).
  • Mining.
    • There is a map on-line showing the locations of the major mining areas in Cornwall.
    • The Cornish Mining Index was compiled originally by Ian Richards. There are details of the mines in Cornwall.
    • Bal Maidens. A website exploring the many different roles which women and girls have undertaken at mines around the world is available. The emphasis is on those who worked at the mines, clay works and related industries in Cornwall and West Devon (who are known as bal maidens) and the site includes a searchable database of over 22,000 named individuals; this database is constantly growing.
    • From the middle ages the Crown exercised a prerogative right not only to gold and silver mines, but also to any other mines - in practice those producing copper, tin, iron or lead - where gold and silver were found. In 1688 royal rights to the latter category were revoked, but duties on the ores produced there continued to be levied in the same way as from the many mines in Crown ownership. Sources for the History of Mines and Quarries are available on-line.
  • Police & Law Enforcement. The Cornwall Constabulary was formed in February 1857 following the passing of the County & Borough Police Act 1856. The following records will help researchers:
    • Before the Cornwall County Constabulary was formed in 1857, parish constables were elected once a year by the vestry meeting in each parish.
    • The Cornwall Record Office has the records of the Cornwall Constabulary from its inception until the early 1920s. These are in three large volumes of 500 names each and contain a physical description of each person, previous employment and employer, age, where born, date joined and date left with various personal details. The records from the early 1920s are held at Devon & Cornwall Police Headquarters in Exeter.
  • RNLI. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in Cornwall have a website. This gives information on the Lifeboat stations in Cornwall and some other details. However information on those who have served in the Service is sparse.
  • Stonemen, Quarrymen, Builders & Allied Trades. Stone masons, quarrymen, builders, labourers, etc. - Joan Taber's Genealogical Index of Stone Workers and Related Occupations in Cornwall and Devon.
  • Theatre and Entertainment.    Search Performing Arts Collections on the APAC site

Officials and Employees

There was a Reeve (law officer) for every Hundred, presided over by the Shire (County) Reeve of Cornwall. The office of Shire Reeve (Sheriff) is the oldest law office in the world; it dates from Saxon times. A list of the High Sheriffs of Cornwall from 1139 up to 2012 is available.


THE GENTLEMAN's MAGAZINE was published monthly from 1731 until the late 19th Century. The early editions of the magazine are of interest to genealogists because they contain details of many births, deaths and marriages. Frequently, biographical details were also included. Also, under the heading of "Accidents & Occurrences" are recorded the daily mishaps which befell individuals and which were recorded in the press. If you are lucky, you might find an interesting anecdote about an ancestor that you will not find elsewhere. Finally, there's a grim record of many executions. The contents of this magazine which relate to Cornwall can be found on-line courtesy of the Bodlean Library, Oxford. You must enter the search term: Cornwall.

Politics and Government

Information on the modern Stannary Parliament of Cornwall is available.

Poor Houses, Poor Law etc.

  • Poor Law Administration. The Overseer of the Poor [was] an honorary parochial post. Before the Reformation the care of the poor was the responsibility of the Church, i.e. of the monasteries and the parish clergy. In fact, one third of the parson's tithes were intended to be given by him to the poor. An Act of 1572 created Alms Collectors and Supervisors of the Labour of Rogues and Vagabonds in each parish. People who would not give alms voluntarily could be compulsorily assessed. In 1597 the two offices were combined under the title of Overseer of the Poor, an official whose appointment required the approval of the Justice of the Peace. By the Great Poor Law Act of 1601, churchwardens became ex-officio Overseers of the Poor, together with those approved by the Justices of the Peace. One of the number was appointed executive officer of the Overseers and looked after the funds raised by the parochial rates. From 1691, the Overseer was obliged to keep records of his disbursements and distribution of clothing, etc. His rate books list the sums collected from parishioners according to the value of their properties. In 1772 an Act was passed enabling parishes to buy or rent premises for workhouses, and to employ a workhouse-keeper. From 1790, such workhouses had to submit to inspection by Justices of the Peace. In 1834, parochial responsibility for the poor was ended. Parishes were amalgamated for such purposes into Poor Law Unions, governed by elected Poor Law Guardians with a property qualification. At national level the system was controlled by Poor Law Commissioners.[Dictionary of Genealogy by Terrick Fitzhugh].
    A definition of Overseers of the Poor Accounts is available from the Devon County Council webpages on Poor Relief.
    In the latter stages of the Workhouses, there was increasing tendency to support those who could not look after themselves for medical reasons; the Workhouse gradually became an early form of the modern hospital.
  • Union Workkhouses. The Poor Law Union arrangements in Cornwall were based upon a union of parishes to support a Workhouse and provide other means of support; these arrangements were quite complex. There were 15 Poor Law Unions (PLUs) established within the county. They were: St Austell, Bodmin, Camelford, St Columb Major, Falmouth, St Germans, Helston, Launceston, Liskeard, (Padstow), Penzance, Redruth, (Isles of Scilly), Stratton and Truro. Each Poor Law Union established a Workhouse to provide indoor relief for the poor. The records for these are in the Cornwall Record Office.
  • Poor Law Information.
  • Poor Law Bastardy Papers. Bastardy Bonds/Agreements determined which adult male was to support a child. Where a child was without parents, the parish would try and find an apprenticeship for them to relieve the burden on the parish funds. These bonds can date from 1601 to 1834.
    The Poor Law system changed in 1834 when the Poor Law Unions were created. After 1834, bastardy cases were mainly dealt with at Quarter Sessions. After 1839, they were heard in Petty Sessions Courts.
    All DEPOSITED bastardy documents have been indexed. There may be some still held in the parishes.
    Trying to find details of bastardy cases after 1839 is difficult. Bastardy bonds and other parish bastardy documents ceased to be used after 1834 when the Poor Law Unions were created. From 1834 to 1839 the Workhouse administrators initiated bastardy proceedings through the Petty and Quarter Sessions Courts, and from 1839 all bastardy cases were heard at Petty Sessions, and were initiated by the mother who had to produce corroborative evidence to convict the putative father.
  • Paupers. A pauper was someone who was unable to support themself for financial reasons. Not all were necessarily taken into a Workhouse; some, who may have been able to live with family, were provided with funds on a periodic basis. An index to "Paupers in Workhouses 1861" (10% sample) is available on-line.


At the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086, the entire population of Cornwall was reckoned to be around 25,000.

In the middle of the 14th century, the population of Cornwall suffered badly from the effects of The Black Death (Bubonic Plague), which had reduced it by nearly two-thirds. In 1377 a poll-tax census was taken, when it was found that, exclusive of children under 14 and mendicants, the entire population of Cornwall did not exceed 34,960 persons (Polsue).

By 1570 the population has been calculated at just less than 70,000 which had grown to almost 108,000 by the time of the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

The recorded population figures of Cornwall in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries are:
  • In 1801 the population of Cornwall was 188,269 persons.
  • In 1811 the population of Cornwall was 216,667 persons.
  • In 1821 the population of Cornwall was 257,447 persons.
  • In 1831 the population of Cornwall was 300,938 persons.
  • In 1841 the population of Cornwall was 341,279 persons.
  • In 1851 the population of Cornwall was 355,558 persons.
  • In 1861 the population of Cornwall was 369,390 persons.
  • In 1871 the population of Cornwall was 358,356 persons.
  • In 1881 the population of Cornwall was 330,686 persons.
  • In 1891 the population of Cornwall was 322,571 persons.
  • In 1901 the population of Cornwall was 318,591 persons.
  • In 1911 the population of Cornwall was 328,098 persons.
  • In 1921 the population of Cornwall was 320,705 persons.
  • In 1931 the population of Cornwall was 317,968 persons.
  • In 1951 the population of Cornwall was 345,442 persons.
  • In 1961 the population of Cornwall was 342,301 persons.
  • In 1971 the population of Cornwall was 381,672 persons.
  • In 1981 the population of Cornwall was 418,631 persons.
  • In 1991 the population of Cornwall was 468,425 persons.
  • In 2001 the population of Cornwall was 501,267 persons.
  • In 2011 the population of Cornwall was 535,300 persons
Source: Office of National Statistics.

Probate Records

  • General. Since 1858, Probate records for England and Wales have been located at the Family Division in London (now, The Probate Service). Wills proved from 12 January 1858 to the present day are held only by the Court of Probate. You can access them and buy copies at the Probate Search Room, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP (tel: (Int) 020 7947 6000). If you have the date of death, you can buy copies of wills and administration of grants by post or online. The charge is £5.00 and it will take four to five weeks. Write to:

    The Postal Searches and Copies Department,
    Probate Registry,
    Castle Chambers,
    Clifford Street,
    York YO1 9RG
    Tel. 01904 666770

    Indexes to these are held in Cornwall by the Bodmin Probate Sub-Registry, Market Street, Bodmin. Enquiries to Registered copies of Wills proved at Bodmin (1858 - 1941) (only Cornwall to 1926) are deposited at the Cornwall Record Office and are indexed by parish to 1929. Original Wills 1858 to 1969 are still at Bodmin Probate Sub-Registry.
    Before 1858 Cornwall formed the Archdeaconry of Cornwall in the diocease of Exeter and province of Canterbury. Apart from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC), most probate records for the county are at the Cornwall Record Office. These mainly comprise the Consistory Court of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall, printed index to Wills and Admons. 1600 to 1799 (and a very few pre-1600). These include the tiny Royal Peculiar of St Buryan 1600 to 1799 (in a separate section).
    For 1800 to 1857, there is a consolidated index, which also includes Estate Duty Office Wills and Admons for courts whose records have been destroyed (1812 to 1857).
    Records of the Episcopal Consistory Court of Exeter and the Episcopal Principal Registry of Exeter were destroyed by enemy action in 1942. These courts had some jurisdiction throughout Cornwall (particularly over clergy) and included all records for 22 Cornish parishes in perculiars. (these are: St Agnes, St Anthony-in-Roseland, Boconnoc with Bradoc, St Breock, Budock, St Buryan, Egloshayle, St Erney, St Ervan, St Eval, Falmouth, St Germans, St Gluvias, St Issey, Landrake, Lawhitton, St Levan, Lezant, Mabe, St Merryn, Mylor, Padstow, Perranzabuloe, Little Petherick, South Petherwin, Sennen, Trewen and St Winnow). The lost records are indexed in BRS 35 (Principal Registry) 1559 - 1799, and BRS 46 (Consistory) 1532 to 1800.
  • Records of the Peculiars of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, which include five Cornish parishes, were also destroyed. Post-1811 Estate Duty Office copies of Wills and Admons from these courts are now in the Cornwall Record Office. Abstract of Wills and Admons, 1796 - 1811, for these and other courts should still be found in the Estate Duty Registers at the Public Record Office. The Devon and Cornwall Record Society has microfilmed the index to these records.
  • Many Abstracts of Cornish Wills 1690 to 1859 are available on-line, and the Cornish Wills proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury also has a list of persons who held lands in Cornwall, or resided in Cornwall, and had their Wills proved at the PCC.
  • The complete series of PCC wills is now available for searching and downloading on the National Archives site.
  • Magpie Collections have produced an index of Cornish-related probated Wills and Administrations for the years 1858 to 1865. They are continuing in increments of five years; the next CD 1866 to 1870 will be ready quite soon. Extracting continues for 1871 to 1875. Each CD contains an index of approximately 2,500 entries, taken from records held at the Probate Office at Bodmin, Cornwall. Each of these entries contain the name, date of probate (this can be many years after the death date), residence (broken down by farm name, if given, and village or town name), death date, names of persons sworn, (the majority of entries have more than one person sworn), the occupations of the persons sworn, their residence, and their relationship to the deceased when given.
  • Pre 1858 Wills. The PRO has all the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) Wills for the period 1680-1858 online and work continues on the earlier wills. These are searchable by surname.
  • Post 1858 Wills. Post-1858 wills can be seen at the:
    Bodmin District Probate Sub-Registry,
    Market Street, Bodmin, PL25 2VW

    Tel 01208 72279 - Overseas +44 1208 72279.
    Information on obtaining post 1858 Wills is available on-line.
  • Cornish Probate Records, in PDF format, contain abstracts of over 500 Cornish wills and administrations proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Cornwall, Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC), and Royal Deaneary of St Buryan. The records range in date from 1603 to 1847.
  • Other Cornish Probate Records are also on-line.
  • The website is a pay-per-view site which provides, inter alia, a number of useful databases including an Index to Death Duty Registers 1796 - 1903. You can register and search by surname for free.

Public Records

  • The London Gazette is the official newspaper of records in England. Several legal notices, including insolvency notices, are required by law to be published in the London Gazette. This site is searchable.

Religion and Religious Life

  • Anglican Clergy. 1540 saw the creation of the first of six new (Anglican) dioceses by Henry VIII, and 1835 saw the publication of the Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues Commission report, which inaugurated the period in which reliable and regularly updated lists of clergy and their livings became available, including Crockford. The Clergy of the Church of England Database (CCED) was established in October 1999. Its objective is to construct a relational database containing the careers of all clergymen of the Church of England between 1540 and 1835.
  • Methodism. Information on Methodism in Cornwall is also available. Researchers into Methodism are recommended to contact Gillian Thompson and Paul Brewer, via, who have compiled a list of some 800 non-conformist chapels which have existed in Cornwall, and which have been included in the GENUKI Church Database.
  • Quakers. Information on the Quakers is available on-line. Another pitfall for researchers can be the unique way the Quakers dated events. They did not use names for days of the week or months of the year since most of these names were derived from the names of pagan gods.


Before the Education Act of 1902 the training of teachers was largely carried out under a pupil-teacher system, first established in 1846, but after the Elementary Education Act 1870 their instruction was undertaken at separate establishments called pupil-teacher centres, run by local school boards, with teaching practice at their elementary schools.
Pupil-teachers were prepared for the Queen's/King's Scholarship Examination........Successful Queen's (King's) scholars had the opportunity of attending training colleges for 2 or 3 years. These were residential colleges, mostly Church of England, run by voluntary societies with some government subsidy and modelled on Battersea Normal School. Building grants for training colleges were authorised by Privy Council Minutes of 1843 and 1844. The Church of England founded many Diocesan Teachers Training Colleges as early as the 1840s.

(See National Archives Leaflet 110 for further details of available records for teachers.

Social life and Customs

A Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs to 1516 was compiled by Dr Samantha Letters at the Centre for Metropolitan History, and is organised by county. It includes a brief summary of the early history of many large and small places, with details of markets and fairs and the people granted the right to hold them.


In addition to numerous local and family history societies which operate at parish or regional level, there a a number of societies operating at county level. Those concerned with Cornwall are:
  • The Cornwall Family History Society is the Society helping those researching their ancestry in the county. Members receive a quarterly magazine, and help and advice is available in obtaining information. There is a programme of talks and visits locally. The Society has its own premises in Truro with a Library containing a range of finding aids. The Members Area of the Society's website contains a database of over 5 million records available. These include: baptisms, marriages and burials; monumental inscriptions (including an increasing collection of gravestones, probate records, cemetery burial books, and other miscellaneous records).
  • The London Cornish Association, is a non-political, non-sectarian, cultural and social organisation which promotes and fosters fellowship and goodwill among Cornish people in London and elsewhere by stimulating interest in the history, antiquities, traditions, cultural and social life of Cornwall and the Cornish people. As part of this, it publishes a quarterly newsletter, and promotes Family History research.
  • Cornish Forefathers Society. The Cornish Forefathers Society is a Family History Research Society, established in 1994, to help anyone with Cornish Ancestry trace their heritage.
  • The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies is open to all who are interested in Cornwall; you do not have to be Cornish to be a member. All differences, whether political, religious or social, are left outside. All are welcome. Members bring their own personal contributions, so recalling something read, remembered, heard or found; so helping to revive old customs, or learning the Cornish language.
  • Devon & Cornwall Record Society. The Society was founded in 1904 to publish local records and to promote local historical studies and genealogical research. Publications cover many aspects of the West Country's political, social, religious, economic and maritime history. Subscribers receive a free copy of each volume.


Information Statistics. GBHGIS - A Vision of Britain through Time is a website containing information about local areas from the 2001 census, and from every earlier British census back to 1801. In time, it will contain a systematic historical gazetteer covering the administrative units of Great Britain over the last two centuries.

There are also a number of statistical themes: Population, Life and Death, Industry, Work and Poverty, Social Structure, Housing, Learning and Religion. You can, for example, compare infant mortality in 1851 in a chosen area with infant mortality in the same area today.
Area Statistics. The area of Cornwall has, over the years, varied; this is mainly due to the effects of boundary changes on its eastern border with Devon. The area was not recorded in the censuses of 1801 to 1821, so the following lists the area as recorded in the various censuses from 1831:
  • In 1831 the county of Cornwall consisted of 854,770 acres.
  • In 1841 the county of Cornwall consisted of 854,770 acres.
  • In 1851 the county of Cornwall consisted of 873,600 acres.
  • In 1861 the county of Cornwall consisted of 873,600 acres.
  • In 1871 the county of Cornwall consisted of 885,541 acres.
  • In 1881 the county of Cornwall consisted of 863,665 acres.
  • In 1891 the county of Cornwall consisted of 868,208 acres.
  • In 1901 the county of Cornwall consisted of 886,304 acres.
  • In 1911 the county of Cornwall consisted of 868,167 acres.
  • In 1921 the county of Cornwall consisted of 868,167 acres.
  • In 1931 the county of Cornwall consisted of 868,167 acres.
  • In 1961 the county of Cornwall consisted of 868,167 acres.
  • In 1951 the county of Cornwall consisted of 868,167 acres.
  • In 1961 the county of Cornwall consisted of 868,167 acres.
  • In 1971 the county of Cornwall consisted of 880,319 acres.
  • In 1981 the county of Cornwall consisted of 880,734 acres.
  • In 1991 the county of Cornwall consisted of 880,828 acres.
  • In 2001 the county of Cornwall consisted of 000,000 acres.
Source: Office of National Statistics.

Visitations, Heraldic

The Heralds' Visitation is the process of checking 'achievement' (or entitlement to bear a coat-of-arms). The heralds were sent out by the Royal Court to ascertain whether a person was entitled to a coat of arms or not. They would visit an area and set up what amounted to a court and all the armigers of the area had to present proof of entitlement by showing lineage to the original armiger who obtained the arms. Those who could, kept their entitlement; those who could not had their arms (achievement) struck down. The Visitation contains full pedigrees (tree diagrams) of some families, in alphabetical order, as at the Visitation date. (An index is included, as each family also contains names of other people marrying into the family). The Visitation may also include transcripts of parish registers and other notes relating to some families. The pedigrees in many cases go back many generations before 1620 to Norman times.
  • The Herald's Visitation of Cornwall 1530, 1573 and 1620 are available on-line. These were originally published by the Harleian Society in 1887 and which which is an amalgam of the original editions of 1530, 1573 and 1620 with additions by the editor from other sources e.g. parish registers.
  • There is also one published by Archive CD Books which is the 1874 volume (and which is a straight reproduction of the visitation of 1620 with a commentary). This latter is of much higher quality (more room, bandwidth, better scanner etc.); however, the former book is the more useful to researchers.

This county is maintained by Ian Argall with help and information provided by a number of assistants.