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American Cornish Diaspora - remembered in Cornwall

Historical links between Cornwall and the Americas are well documented: many miners left the southwest of England to put their mining skills to good use when mines in the southwest episodically closed due to economic constraints, and workers outnumbered the opportunities to earn. Migration can broadly be divided in to two types:

1 Male family-member temporary migration

Husbands, sons, uncles and cousins travelling together to work overseas for a period, and sending back monies to wives and younger children in Cornwall, with the intention to return 'home' themselves;


2 Whole family migration

All family members - including those below (and sometimes above) working age, permanently moving away from Cornwall

Evidence of monies sent back from abroad are evident in many of the house-names of older terrace (and detached) properties across the County, and I recently came across a blog containing much information on this topic, which was fascinating. It can be found at:

Another - more subtle - indication of this first migration trend is the naming of family members who died overseas on the headstones in cemeteries in Cornwall. As my work of delivering tokens of remembrance to resting places takes me to many and varied churchyards across mid and west Cornwall, these inscriptions are something I have been seeing for a while. Recently, I set out to take a more structured look at how many of these inscriptions there were, beginning with those indicating relatives who had travelled to either north or south America.

I have reviewed the listing of headstone inscriptions from 19 cemeteries compiled by Christina Uphill, to see how many references to overseas family members I could find. The database of inscriptions - and details of those who helped compile it - can be found at: Cornish cemeteries ( and the locations that the index covers is shown above.

Fifteen of these cemeteries - those in the mid and west Cornwall area - fall within the region that I deliver to for Attend Services. Though this is only 13% of the total of burial grounds in this area, I was surprised to come across so many references to overseas family members: there were 58 mentions of relatives in north and south America alone!

I've compiled the data I have sorted out in to a navigable GoogleMap - you can explore this by clicking on the image to the left. For each entry, I've included the details of the family member mentioned, and their relationship to the family on the headstone. Most points have an image of the church setting, so you can get a feel for where the inscriptions are; and where I have an image of the specific memorial, I've also included that.

In compiling this first tract of information - there is more to look at for other continents, and probably more entries to be added here - I have been struck by how the strands of individuals' histories are woven together simultaneously at family, regional and global levels. It is fascinating to see how the tendrils of individuals' lives weave outwards from Cornwall to other continents, and become a part of local histories elsewhere.

Memorial inscription for James B Temby
Inscription to a member of the Temby family of Pengegon, Camborne, in the churchyard of St Meriadoc, Camborne.

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