Cornwall in the United Kingdom and the flag of St. Piran.
Welcome to the Cornwall Page of Onward To Our Past®. Here you will find what I hope will be useful information, insights, and links into genealogy and family history in Cornwall.
My goal here is not for this location to be the ‘be all and end all’ of your search for your Cornish roots and family history. Rather I plan for this to be a knowledge hub from which you can learn, link from, find additional resources, and return with questions, ideas, and new findings.
Since I am a Genealogical Historian, I will begin with a bit of history to set the stage for us.
A BIT OF HISTORY OF KERNOW:
First stop: Kernow — more commonly known as Cornwall over in the United Kingdom. Many believe that Kernow should be classified as a separate country of the UK as opposed to a county as it is now. I am in the separate country camp with both feet! The history, language, and background, I believe, supports such a view. I think now you can add to this the fact that DNA also aligns withe Celts, not the English. Cornwall and the Cornish should be an equal in the United Kingdom with Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, but that gets into politics and the Royals, not genealogy so I’ll stop on that one right here.
(However if you want to read a very good book on the history of Kernow and the fight for recognition within the Kingdom, I suggest John Angarrack’s Our Future is History: Identity, Law and the Cornish Question (Independent Academic Press, UK, 2002). They certainly are not a county of England! But I digress and need to get us back to Genealogy.
Cornwall with all her Parishes listed.
I am lucky in that I subscribe to Ancestry.com. I naturally use this service a lot in the early stages of my research, but it is not my first, nor my only, stop by any means.
My first stop in Kernow always is the OPC! OPC stands for Online Parish Clerks and they are awesome! There are several, but I happen to have most of my ancestors back in Cornwall, so I use the OPC there more than the others. You can see a list of all of them here: Online Parish Clerks. I hope you read the interview I published here with the volunteer head of the OPC, Ms. Myra Cordray, which I published here: http://onwardtoourpast.com/blog/onward-to-our-past-exclusive-genealogy-interview-with-myra-cordrey-of-the-online-parish-clerks/. You can find all of the Cornwall OPC help at this site — Cornwall only Online Parish Clerks site. Their search engine feature is nothing short of AWESOME!
What I find at the OPC site often leads me to want to visit the 1911 UK Census! I love this option when I get it and my favorite site is http://www.1911census.co.uk. This is a good, pay-as-you-use it site and I like it as an alternative to for folks who don’t pay for ancestry.com. Nice to see the forms done up in your ancestors handwriting too! Take a look at this one for my grandfather. I love that he filled it out!
I love this document for a hundred reasons, but most of all that it is in my Gramps’ own handwriting.
When I am lucky enough to get a solid hit on the OPC site my next stop is frequently the BDM Index at GRO UK. This one can be found at http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/. By the way, GRO stands for Government Records Office for the entire United Kingdom. This is a super site if you ask me and has, as I think on it, possibly has helped me the most! This is where you can order the document to go along with your find of the information regarding births, deaths, and marriages. I have consistently been pleased with the service and quality I get from the GRO-UK. I have even received a refund when they felt the quality was not up to snuff! Nice! Very nice!
There are many other crucial resources for genealogy in Cornwall, and beyond in the other areas of the United Kingdom. One of these is the Cornwall Record Office. This Office has a very useful and complete search function for all sorts of historic documents, from Wills to Deeds, Indentures to other Agreements. Truly special!
Additionally you can access the National Archive in the United Kingdom and their excellent search function titled A2A. Plus many of their documents are now online and you can pay for them and download them instantly!
Then if the will you are seeking is dated after 1858, when the system in Great Britain changed from Archdiocesan Courts to Civil Courts, you need to visit the Justice Department. This is a bit more cumbersome project, but it can be done, but takes time.
Of course if your ancestor fought in one of the Wars of the United Kingdom, then the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is a must stop for you. I have been totally pleased and amazed at this site and the work done by this very classy group of folks! You can access their site at http://www.cwgc.org/. Their search function and back-end help if you need it is second to none. They are wonderful folks doing wonderful work! This can lead you to some excellent information and even a photo if you are lucky.
I was amazed and pleased to find his wife’s name inscribed on my great-Uncle’s gravestone, in Houyet, Belgium.
As us you know by now, I am a big proponent of local genealogical and history societies and certainly Cornwall is no exception. Early in my work on my Kernowyon folk, I came across the Cornwall Family History Society at http://www.cornwallfhs.com/. Not only will you find great resources and ideas here, but the volunteers have been steeped in Cornwall history for their lives and know a phenomenal amount! They have been nothing short of terrific for me!
If your Cornish ancestors emigrated, do not forget a quick ‘stop’ at the Cornish Global Migration Programme at http://www.cornishmigration.com. Give them a check to just see if they have your surname in their database. Their database covers more than 50,700 names, so it just might get you a lead or connection! Great folks at this all volunteer organization.
Another beautiful thing about Cornwall is that there are a multitude of museums that can offer specialized help in areas such as maritime, shipwrecks, military units, and many more!
And for goodness sake do not forget the local churches! They hold amazing treasures and information! Plus you can be very surprised by the collective memory that exists in a Parish church and its members! Truly awesome. You can check out this amazing website , The Digital Atlas of England Foundation for photos of local parishes in the United Kingdom and also for a list of those churches that are open and those that are locked. Remember, always call ahead and check!
I am sure as soon as I read this after I post it I will recall several items I missed, so watch for V2.0 in the future! In the meantime, don’t forget the Cry-the-Neck and other Cornish traditions.
Cry-the-neck in Kernow at harvest time. One of many ancient Cornish customs continued today.
ADDITIONAL USEFUL LINKS FOR CORNWALL GENEALOGY:
The following are some of the additional resources that I find of help, from time-to-time on my genealogy work in Kernow. I hope they might help you.
CORNWALL RESIDENT EXPERT:
Open at this time.
Onward To Our Past®