Show ContentsCornell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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.

Early Origins of the Cornell family

The surname Cornell was first found in St. Stephens in Brannell, Cornwall. "The manor of Brannell was granted by King John to Richard Earl of Cornwall and king of the Romans. By Richard it was given to Richard de Cornubia, or Cornwall, his natural son by Joan de Valletort, widow of Sir Alexander Oakeston. William de Cornwall of Court in this parish, is mentioned by Prince as first prior of Bewley; and afterwards in 1272, abbot of Newham in Devon. He is represented as living to a great age, and as dying in the year 1320 blind and decrepid. Godfrey de Cornwall, a carmelite friar who distinguished himself as the author of several learned works about the year 1300, is said to have been born at [the]Court [manor house]." [1]

Early History of the Cornell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cornell research. Another 195 words (14 lines of text) covering the years 1180, 1513, 1601, 1452, 1467, 1581, 1659, 1613, 1644, 1842, 1605, 1675, 1610, 1662, 1632, 1673, 1660, 1662, 1655, 1698, 1692, 1693, 1689, 1698, 1654, 1717, 1685, 1689, 1468, 1537, 1502, 1503, 1514, 1515, 1505, 1506, 1515, 1516, 1519, 1520 and 1797 are included under the topic Early Cornell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cornell Spelling Variations

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.

Early Notables of the Cornell family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family at this time was Thomas Cornwall, High Sheriff of Herefordshire in 1452 and 1467; Jane Cornwallis (1581-1659), an English lady whose private correspondence (1613-1644) were published in 1842, mother of Frederick Cornwallis; Thomas Cornwallis (c. 1605-1675), an English politician and colonial administrator, one of the first Commissioners of the Province of Maryland; Frederick Cornwallis, 1st Baron Cornwallis Bt KT (1610-1662), an English peer, MP and Privy Councillor; Charles Cornwallis, 2nd Baron Cornwallis of Eye (1632-1673), an English landowner...
Another 82 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cornell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cornell Ranking

In the United States, the name Cornell is the 1,577th most popular surname with an estimated 19,896 people with that name. [2]

Ireland Migration of the Cornell family to Ireland

Some of the Cornell family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 31 words (2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Cornell migration to the United States +

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

Cornell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Richard Cornell who settled in Rhode Island in 1630
  • Thomas Cornell, who settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1630
  • Thomas Cornell, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1636 [3]
  • Cornelius Cornell, who landed in Maryland in 1668 [3]
Cornell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • John Cornell, who arrived in Virginia in 1702 [3]
  • George Cornell, who settled in South Carolina in 1716
  • Morix Cornell, who arrived in New York, NY in 1782 [3]
Cornell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Paul Cornell, aged 24, who landed in New York in 1800 [3]
  • James Cornell, aged 28, who arrived in New York in 1812 [3]
  • Walter Cornell, aged 30, who arrived in New York in 1812 [3]
  • Margaret Cornell, who landed in New York in 1846 [3]
  • W Cornell, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Cornell migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Cornell Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mr. Joseph Cornell U.E. who settled in Adolphus Town [Adolphustown], Ontario c. 1783 [4]
Cornell Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Enoch Cornell, who arrived in Canada in 1831
  • Isaac Cornell, who landed in Canada in 1831
  • John A Cornell, who landed in Canada in 1831
  • Samuel Cornell, who arrived in Canada in 1831
  • Mr. Daniel Cornell, aged 28 who was emigrating through Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec aboard the ship "John Francis" departing 10th April 1847 from Cork, Ireland; the ship arrived on 10th June 1847 but he died on board [5]

Australia Cornell migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Cornell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Cornell, aged 24, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1852 aboard the ship "Anglia" [6]
  • William Cornell, aged 40, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Taymouth Castle" [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name Cornell (post 1700) +

  • Ezra Cornell (1807-1874), American businessman, co-founder of Cornell University
  • Katherine Cornell (1898-1974), German-born, American stage actress, writer, theater owner and producer; she was nicknamed the "First Lady of the Theatre" as she was the first actress to win a Drama League Award
  • Eric Allin Cornell (b. 1961), American Nobel prize-winning (2001) physicist
  • Thomas C. "Tom" Cornell (1934-2022), American journalist and a peace activist against the Vietnam War and the Iraq War
  • Brian C. Cornell (b. 1958), American businessman. Cornell serves as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Target Corporation
  • Chris Cornell (1964-2017), born Christopher John Boyle, an American musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist, primary songwriter and rhythm guitarist for Seattle rock band Soundgarden
  • Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), American artist and sculptor
  • Alonzo Barton Cornell (1832-1904), New York politician, Governor of New York from 1880 to 1882
  • Sheila Cornell, American softball player
  • Leland B. Cornell, American fighter pilot and flying ace in the U.S. Navy, during World War II, credited with 5 aerial victories
  • ... (Another 1 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

RMS Titanic
  • 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 [8]

The Cornell Motto +

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.

Suggested Readings for the name Cornell +

  • 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.

  1. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  2. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  3. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  4. Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  5. Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 70)
  6. South Australian Register Tuesday 3 February 1852. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) ANGLIA 1852. Retrieved
  7. South Australian Register Tuesday 26th June 1855. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Taymouth Castle 1855. Retrieved
  8. Titanic Passenger List - Titanic Facts. (Retrieved 2016, July 13) . Retrieved from on Facebook