Grandmother's Wedding Day


My Grandmothers’ Wedding day


If your wedding is taking place in a Cornish church or Victorian chapel, just think how many brides have been married there over the centuries. Maybe even brides from your own family. Here’s a way you can find out if you’ll be standing in the same spot as one of your ancestors.


They popularity of tracing your family tree has grown enormously over the last few years with almost everyone delving into the archives uncovering the life and times of family members they never knew they had. If you have Cornish roots then you’re in luck as Cornwall has one of the most in-depth family history databases in the world, researched and lovingly detailed by the Cornwall Family History Society.  The society, started in 1976 by a group of genealogy enthusiasts now has over a phenomenal 5,000,000 individual records relating to the county and has recently completed the marriage records from every parish dating from around 1570


Ann Hicks, chairman of the society says that Cornwall has one of the largest databases in the UK because of the vast interest from people in the USA, Canada and Australia. “Descendents of immigrants, who left Cornwall in their droves during the 19th century, are more and more interested in their roots and in finding a sense of identity ” she says. Due to economic hardship, it is estimated that more than 250,000 Cornish men and women emigrated abroad to find a better life between 1861 and 1901. These emigrants included farmers, merchants and tradesmen, but miners made up most of the numbers whose expertise underground also led them to countries such as Brazil, Mexico and even India.


Anne says that people are eager to find their roots in Cornwall and to be part of the Cornish race. “It’s the uniqueness of being Cornish. The stubborn, independent, intelligent character we possess, it makes us very special,” she states

“Cornwall has a long seafaring history and the people of the county have always had a knowledge of the world which, despite stereotypes, makes the Cornish very cosmopolitan”.

In fact, records suggest that Cornwall’s contact with different cultures and peoples goes as far back as the fourth century BC when Greek geographer Pytheas, sailed to Britain and noted “The inhabitants of that part of Britain called Belerion or the Land's End, from their intercourse with foreign merchants, are civilised in their manner of life”


But why is there so much inertest in genealogy these days? Anne has a simple answer.

“Broken families,” she says. “People who are estranged from Cornwall need to belong somewhere. Whether it’s because they have moved somewhere else in the UK or abroad. They seem to be searching for an identity. So many people don’t even know who their grandmother is these days and that’s sad”


‘Cornishness’ has been transported across the world creating a huge global family that not only helps with the identity crises but also allows traditions and customs to continue. Walk down a street in Colombo in Sri Lanka and you’ll find a pasty shop, visit Wisconsin in the USA and you’re sure to smell the aroma of saffron buns in one of the small towns there.


That’s why the society has a membership of over 5000 who link up, find family connections and share their research. “You can be sure that another member somewhere in the world is researching the same family,” says Anne “People can network through our quarterly newsletter and online with our website”. They find out to who and where they belong. We help them on their way by giving practical advice on where to start and how to drag their ancestors out of the brick wall to uncover their family’s past”

All the society’s records are put together by volunteers and are as complete as they can be says Ann. “If the original records haven’t been eaten by rats and the handwriting is legible we can transcribe the information”. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher the ancient papers, as centuries ago people didn’t read and write; they relied totally on oral communication so names were often written not as they weren’t spoken. And back in 1538, when marriage records began, Cornish was still being spoken, or certainly the heavy accent made pronunciation ambiguous. So sometimes research is hampered as names can be mixed up and hard to connect so there can be gaps, and of course some people never actually tied the knot!!” she chuckles Tel: 01872 264044 between 9am and 4.30pm Mondays to Fridays.