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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: English, Scottish

Where did the English Cornell family come from? What is the English Cornell family crest and coat of arms? When did the Cornell family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Cornell family history?

The illustrious surname Cornell finds its origin in the rocky, sea swept coastal area of southwestern England known as Cornwall. Although surnames were fairly widespread in medieval England, people were originally known only by a single name. The process by which hereditary surnames were adopted is extremely interesting. As populations grew, people began to assume an extra name to avoid confusion and to further identify themselves. Under the Feudal System of government, surnames evolved and they often reflected life on the manor and in the field. Lords and their tenants often became known by the name of the feudal territory they owned or lived on. Unlike most Celtic peoples, who favored patronymic names, the Cornish predominantly used local surnames. This was due to the heavy political and cultural influence of the English upon the Cornish People at the time that surnames first came into use. Local surnames were derived from where a person lived, held land, or was born. While many Cornish surnames of this sort appear to be topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees, many are actually habitation surnames derived from lost or unrecorded place names. The name Cornell is a local type of surname and the Cornell family lived in the county of Cornwall in southwest England.

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Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Cornwall, Cornelle, Cornell, Cornwell, Cornewall, Cornal, Cornale, Cornevale, Carnwell, Carnewell, Carnville, Carnevale, Cornhall, Cornehall, Cornhale, Cornwale, Curnow (from native Cornish word) and many more.

First found in Devon where they held a family seat from very ancient times, long before the Norman Conquest in 1066.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cornell research. Another 389 words(28 lines of text) covering the years 1180, 1513, 1601, 1581, 1659, 1613, 1644, 1842, 1605, 1675, 1610, 1662, 1632, 1673, 1660, 1662, 1655, 1698, 1692, 1693, 1689, 1698, 1654, 1717, 1685, 1689 and 1797 are included under the topic Early Cornell History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 229 words(16 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cornell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Cornell family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 51 words(4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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An investigation of the immigration and passenger lists has revealed a number of people bearing the name Cornell:

Cornell Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • Richard Cornell who settled in Rhode Island in 1630
  • Thomas Cornell settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1630
  • Thomas Cornell, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1636
  • Cornelius Cornell, who landed in Maryland in 1668

Cornell Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • John Cornell, who arrived in Virginia in 1702
  • George Cornell settled in South Carolina in 1716
  • Morix Cornell, who arrived in New York, NY in 1782

Cornell Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Paul Cornell, aged 24, landed in New York in 1800
  • James Cornell, aged 28, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Walter Cornell, aged 30, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Margaret Cornell, who landed in New York in 1846
  • W Cornell, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850


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  • Sheila Cornell, American softball player
  • Katherine Cornell (1898-1974), American actress
  • Alonzo Barton Cornell (1832-1904), New York politician, Governor of New York from 1880 to 1882
  • Eric Allin Cornell (b. 1961), American Nobel prize-winning (2001) physicist
  • Ezra Cornell (1807-1874), American businessman, co-founder of Cornell University
  • Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), American artist and sculptor
  • Mrs. Malvina Helen Cornell, (née Lamson), aged 55, American First Class passenger from New York City, New York who sailed aboard the RMS Titanic and survived the sinking escaping in life boat 2


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  • A Cornell Family History: from County Essex, England to Winneshiek County, Iowa by C. C. Cornell.
  • A Cornell-Hartwell Genealogy: 1302 Years of Family History, Including 348 Years in Westchester County by Stephen Wood Cornell.
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The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: La Vie Durante
Motto Translation: During life.

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  1. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  2. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
  3. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  4. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  5. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  6. Elster, Robert J. International Who's Who. London: Europa/Routledge. Print.
  7. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  8. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  9. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  10. Cook, Chris. English Historical Facts 1603-1688. London: MacMillan, 1980. Print.
  11. ...

The Cornell Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Cornell Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 28 March 2014 at 13:51.

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