Richard Cornish – Update

Since posting ‘Cornish by Name: Cornish by Nature’ I have obtain the death certificate for Samuel Cornish, the father of Richard Cornish who emigrated to Australia from Cornwall in the mid 1800s.

Samuel Cornish was born 11 November 1810 to Thomas and Susanna Cornish. Unfortunately the General Register Office (GRO) which hold the official information on births, adoptions, marriages, civil partnerships and deaths in England and Wales has only digitised the archives as from 1837.  The result is that researchers have to rely on local volunteer transcription services. Fortunately Cornwall has dedicated team of volunteers which provide a transcription of the local archives beyond 1837.  As a result, the earlier and localised records appear in a different format.

Birth Samuel Cornish 1810

Death Samuel Cornish 1850

Although I am pleased with the receipt of Samuel Cornish’s death record the actual record raises some issues with which many family historians must wrestle.  The biggest issue is the lack of information. The only real information contained in the record is a date, 12 December 1851, a place, Germoe in Cornwall, a name, Samuel Cornish, and an occupation, a miner.  There is no information which might connected Samuel Cornish with his family.  The Samuel Cornish whose name appears on the record could be anyone.  How then to link this record with other records so that one might be confident in the identity of the said Samuel Cornish?

The only other information of significance is that Samuel Cornish died in the presence of Richard Cornish but as we will see this raises addition questions.

It may be noted that the heading part of Samuel Cornish’s death record has been cut and pasted onto the lower section containing Samuel Cornish’ death details.  It is evident that the record is not original and has been manipulated. No doubt such options are part of the GRO process.  We can only assume that they have got it right.

The matter of manipulation aside, confidence in the GRO is further diminished when my original request for Samuel Cornish’s death certificate resulted in the receipt of a completely different record which had no connection with Samuel Cornish nor Cornwall.

As I proceed hopefully the various pieces of data will fall into place and confirm the identity of these involved and their connection to Richard Cornish who emigrated to Australia.

1851 census record

Apart from the name, Samuel Cornish, there nothing in the death record which actually links Samuel Ford with his family as recorded on the 1841 and 1851 census records.  Certainly Richard Cornish is mentioned but there is no evidence who this person may be.  Richard Cornish was the youngest son of Samuel and Elizabeth Cornish as recorded in the 1851 census record.  However, if Richard was ‘present’ at his father’s demise he would have been five years of age at the time.  One might question whether a five year old had the authority to act as ‘informant’.

1841 census

A search of the 1841 census records for Cornwall returns eleven people named Samuel Cornish which gives some indication of the concentration of names involved.  The only way I can satisfy myself as to which Samuel Cornish is the father of Richard Cornish as recorded on the death certificate is by tracking the family through the census details.

The 1841, the 1851, and the 1861 census records are consistent with each other concerning the family of Samuel and Elizabeth Cornish.  Samuel died the year prior to the 1851 census while various members of the family have left home prior to the 1861 census.  Apart from Elizabeth, who appears as Mary Ann in the 1851 census, the record is consistent and lends support to other data.

1861 census

But there are some details which are questionable.  The 1841 census record has Samuel Cornish aged twenty-five which gives his birth year as 1816 while his death certificate (1850) records that he died at the age of forty which gives a birth year of 1810.  However correspondence with Penwith Genealogy advises ‘any person of the age of 15 or over was required only to round their age DOWN to the nearest 5 years’ which might well explain the similar ages of Samuel and Elizabeth at the time of the 1841 census, i.e. twenty-five.  Local knowledge is important.

Interestingly, Samuel Cornish is recorded as dying at Germoe while the ‘informant’, Richard Cornish, apparently resided at St Hilary.  St Hilary is about three kilometres from Germoe which may indicate that Richard Cornish was perhaps a relative and not the son of Samuel Cornish as I have indicated above. A search of the 1851 census records of Cornwall turns up fifteen people named Richard Cornish.  However there is only one Richard Cornish living at St Hilary at the time of the 1851 census.

1851 census – Richard Cornish

Although I can find no hard evidence I cannot help feeling that there is a family connection between Richard and Samuel Cornish. The close proximity of the places and the affinity of the names may well reflect the possibility that the families were related.  The fact that Richard Cornish was present at the death of Samuel Cornish and acted as ‘informant’ for the record clearly indicates something of a kinship connection.

I have searched the records through the Penwith Genealogical site of Cornwall and found the birth records for Samuel and Richard Cornish.  Richard Cornish born 1804 in Germoe to parents Thomas and Mary Cornish and Samuel Cornish was born 1810 in Germoe to parents Thomas and Susanna Cornish.  Clearly Richard Cornish and Samuel Cornish are not brothers. Again, it should be noted that these records are transcribed from the parish records by a team of volunteers which is why the transcriber is identified.

Birth Richard Cornish

Birth Samuel Cornish

The fact that the forename of the father of both Samuel and Richard Cornish is Thomas is intriguing.  Could Thomas Cornish have remarried?  The following marriage records of Thomas Cornish/Susanna Coombs and Thomas Cornish/Mary Arthur does not indicate the grooms ‘condition’ i.e bachelor or widow.

Marriage Thomas Cornish and Susanna Coomb

Marriage Thomas Cornish and Mary Arthur

Thomas Cornish married Susanna Coomb 18 November 1798 at Breage while the other Thomas Cornish married Mary Arthur at Wendron, a small village about four kilometres north of Helston and about ten kilometres west of Germoe.

There is also a marriage record for Richard Cornish 18 February 1845 to Blanch Stephens Hammil in Breage where Richard is recorded as a widower.

Marriage Richard Cornish and Blanch Stephens Hammil 1945

Richard Cornish first marriage was to Belinda Peters

Could Richard’s previous marriage hold the key to any family connection?

The record below documents the family (duplicated) of Richard Cornish and Belinda Peters and confirms that there is no family link with the family of Samuel and Elizabeth Cornish.  Belinda Cornish died 1844.

The family of Richard and Belinda Cornish.

Death Belinda Cornish

The 1851 census details concerning Richard Cornish and his family now become interesting.  Comparing the two census reports, one where Elizabeth Cornish heads the list and that other of Richard Cornish, we find the first three children of the respective families are the same, namely, Thomas, Samuel and Mary Ann. A coincidence?

Although there is a birth record for Elizabeth Ann Cornish born 22 October 1837 which tallies with the 1841 census record where Elizabeth is recorded as three years of age (the one year discrepancy is of little import) there is no record of a Mary Ann Cornish being born to Samuel and Elizabeth Cornish.  The fact that a Mary Ann Cornish aged thirteen appears where an Elizabeth Cornish should appear (1851 census), given the affinity of ages, may be a mistake but perhaps, again, reflects the close affinity of the two families.  It may well be the case that the Mary Ann Cornish born to Richard Cornish, although recorded as aged two at the time, was staying with Elizabeth Cornish’s family at the time of the 1851 census.

Regardless of how far back I go I still cannot find any definitive family relationship. The marriage records of Samuel Cornish/Elizabeth Carter and Richard Cornish/Mary Cattran do not provide any convincing evidence of a kinship connection.  Yet the question lingers, why would an otherwise ‘stranger’ whose name just happened to be Cornish be present at Samuel Cornish’s death?  Why not the next door neighbour, William Rogers who was likewise a miner?

The only other piece of information I can glean from the record is that Samuel Cornish and Elizabeth had a daughter, Susanna Coombs Cornish born 2 March 1951.  The babe however died 26 March 1851.  It is therefore apparent that the 1851 census took place after the death of Susanna Coombs Cornish which would explain the absence of her name on the census record.


Elizabeth Rogers Cornish, Mother of Richard Cornish, died at the Union Work House in Helston on 8 November 1861, which is congruent with the information recorded on the 1851 census which records her as a ‘pauper at home’.  This particular epithet surely indicates that Elizabeth is listed as a pauper on the local parish list.

Throughout my research I have applied the general principal that the data must fit the history.  In other words, names, dates and places must form a coherent and reasonable assessment of the record.  For instance, I cannot satisfy myself as to the birth of David Carter, the father of Elizabeth Rogers Carter who married Samuel Cornish.  The following record might well be the David Carter in question but the pattern of forenames suggests otherwise, there is no one named Jeffery in the Samuel Cornish ancestry.  On that ground I have rejected this data and as I cannot find any other record and have therefore left the information blank on Richard Cornish’s family tree.

Rejected record of birth of David Carter

There are however a number of other corrections to be made with the result that I have to reorganise the family tree with respect to Samuel Cornish’s ancestry.

Richard Cornish family ancestry

I have split the family trees for simplicity.

Richard Cornish family tree extended