Cornish History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The surname Cornish is a Welsh name that was first held when the Cornish family lived in the English county of Cornwall. As a general rule, the greater the distance between individuals and their homelands, the larger the territory they were named after. For example, people who only moved to another parish would be known by the name of their original village, while people who migrated to a different country were often known by the name of a region or country from which they came. Consequently, the name Cornish was not originally applied to a lifelong resident of Cornwall, but rather to someone who emigrated from Cornwall to another region. [1]

Early Origins of the Cornish family

The surname Cornish was first found in Devon, England where the "surname is derived from a geographical locality. 'the Cornish,' a Cornish man. We do not expect to find Cornish in Cornwall, but in Devonshire. Coming over the border the stranger would be called Cornish from the county he had left. Hence Cornish is rare in Cornwall and common in Devonshire. We may safely conclude that when we find Cornish in Cornwall the bearer has returned to the county whence his ancestors sprang." [2]

"The manor of Trevorick, [in St. Issey, Cornwall] on which the family of Cornish had their seat, was for several generations in their possession." [3]

"The Devonshire families of Cornish are now best represented in Newton Abbot and its neighbourhood. George Cornish was commander of one of the Bideford ships engaged in the Newfoundland trade in the reign of William III. " [4]

"In the parish registers [of Stratton, Cornwall] is preserved the following singular instance of longevity:-'Elizabeth Cornish, widow, buried March 10th, 1691. This Elizabeth Cornish was baptised in October, 1578. Her father's name was John Weale. She was when she died in the 114th year, having lived one hundred and thirteen years four months and fifteen days.' It appears by the register that in the year 1547, one hundred and fifty-three persons died in the small town of Stratton of the plague." [3]

Early History of the Cornish family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cornish research. Another 116 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1296, 1375, 1450, 1465, 1523, 1685, 1677 and 1689 are included under the topic Early Cornish History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cornish Spelling Variations

Compared to other ancient cultures found in the British Isles, the number of Welsh surnames are relatively few, but there are an inordinately large number of spelling variations. These spelling variations began almost as soon as surname usage became common. The most obvious reason was the challenge of translating from Welsh into English. As a result, people could not specify how to spell their own names leaving the specific recording up to the individual scribe or priest. Those recorders would then spell the names as they heard them, causing many different variations. Later, many Welsh names were recorded in English. This transliteration process was extremely imprecise since the Brythonic Celtic language of the Welsh used many sounds the English language was not accustomed to. Finally, some variations occurred by the individual's design: a branch loyalty within a family, a religious adherence, or even patriotic affiliations were indicated by spelling variations of one's name. The Cornish name over the years has been spelled Cornish, Cornishe, Corniss, Cornise, Carnish, Cornich, Corniche, Cornick and many more.

Early Notables of the Cornish family (pre 1700)

Prominent amongst the family during the late Middle Ages was William Cornysh the Younger (also spelled Cornyshe or Cornish) (1465-1523), an English composer, dramatist, actor, and poet. His only surviving poem, was written in Fleet Prison. Henry Cornish (died 1685), was a London Alderman of the ward...
Another 47 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cornish Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Cornish migration to the United States +

Many people from Wales joined the general migration to North America in the 19th and 20th centuries, searching for land, work, and freedom. Like the many other immigrants from the British Isles, they made a significant contribution to the development of Canada and the United States. The Welsh and their descendents added a rich cultural tradition to the newly developed towns, cities, and villages. An investigation of the immigration and passenger lists has revealed a number of people bearing the name Cornish:

Cornish Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas Cornish, who arrived in Virginia in 1620 [5]
  • Samuel Cornish, who landed in Salem, Massachusetts in 1637 [5]
  • Samuel Cornish was one of the first settlers in North America, settling in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637
  • Robert Cornish, who arrived in Maryland in 1650 [5]
  • John Cornish, who landed in Maryland in 1651 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Cornish Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Walter Cornish, who arrived in New England in 1720 [5]
  • James Cornish, who arrived in New England in 1730 [5]
Cornish Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Cornish was the first Schoolmaster and Town Clerk in Westfield, Massachusetts
  • F Cornish, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851 [5]
  • H Cornish, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1851 [5]
  • Frederick G Cornish, who landed in Colorado in 1881 [5]
  • Andrew I Cornish, who landed in Iowa in 1882 [5]

Australia Cornish migration to Australia +

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

Cornish Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. George Cornish (b. 1781), aged 52, Cornish settler convicted in Cornwall, UK on 22nd March 1833, sentenced for life for stealing a bay horse, transported aboard the ship "Neva" on 27th July 1833 to New South Wales, Australia [6]
  • Mr. John Cornish who was convicted in Exeter, Devon, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Bengal Merchant" on 4th August 1836, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [7]
  • W. Cornish, who arrived in Holdfast Bay, Australia aboard the ship "Katherine Stewart Forbes" in 1837 [8]
  • Mr. William Cornish, (b. 1816), aged 22, Cornish blacksmith travelling aboard the ship "Duchess of Northumberland" arriving in New South Wales, Australia on 22nd April 1838 [9]
  • John Cornish, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Caroline" in 1839 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Cornish migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Cornish Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Sydney Cornish, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cashmere" in 1853
  • Charlotte Cornish, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cashmere" in 1853
  • John Cornish, aged 31, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Schiehallion" in 1872
  • Miss Annie Cornish, (b. 1873), aged 1, Cornish settler departing on 27th April 1874 aboard the ship "Euterpe" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 30th August 1874 [11]
  • Mrs. Eliza Cornish, (b. 1845), aged 29, Cornish settler departing on 27th April 1874 aboard the ship "Euterpe" arriving in Wellington, New Zealand on 30th August 1874 [11]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Cornish (post 1700) +

  • Sandy Cornish (1793-1869), African American farmer, businessperson, and civic leader in Key West, Florida
  • Samuel B. Cornish (1795-1858), American Presbyterian minister, abolitionist, publisher, and journalist
  • Audie N. Cornish, American journalist and a current co-host of NPR's All Things Considered
  • Sir Samuel Cornish (1715-1770), 1st Baronet, a British naval commander, said to have risen from a very humble origin [12]
  • Joseph Cornish (1750-1823), English dissenting writer, youngest of seven children of Joseph Cornish, woollen-dresser (d. 1776), by his second wife [12]
  • William Rich Cornish (1890-1969), Canadian politician, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta (1944-1955)
  • William Robert "W.R." Cornish (1828-1896), British physician, Surgeon-General of India in the Madras Presidency
  • Mitch Cornish (b. 1993), Australian professional rugby league footballer
  • Jon Cornish (b. 1984), Canadian CFL football running back for the Calgary Stampeders from 2007 to 2015, CFL's Most Outstanding Canadian Award (2012, 2013, 2014), CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award (2013)
  • Joe Cornish (b. 1958), British landscape photographer from Exeter, Devon
  • ... (Another 10 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Dorsetshire
  • Simon Reeve Cornish, British Midshipman aboard the HMS Dorsetshire when she was struck by air bombers and sunk; he survived the sinking [13]
HMS Royal Oak
  • Charles Frederick Cornish (d. 1939), British Able Seaman with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [14]


  1. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  4. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 30th May 2018). Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/emigration_australia_convicts.pdf
  7. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/bengal-merchant
  8. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) KATHERINE STEWART FORBES 1837 arrived Holdfast Bay, near Adelaide, on October 17, 1837. . Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1837KatherineStewartForbes.htm
  9. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 3rd May 2018). Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/emigration_bounty_nsw.pdf
  10. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) CAROLINE 1839. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1839Caroline.htm
  11. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, April 30). Emigrants to Wellington 1872-1880 [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/emigration_nz_wellington.pdf    
  12. ^ Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 30 June 2020
  13. ^ Force Z Survivors HMS Dorsetshire Crew List, (Retrieved 2018, February 13th), https://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listdorsetshirecrew.html
  14. ^ Ships hit by U-boats crew list HMS Royal Oak (08) - (Retrieved 2018 February, 9th) - retrieved from https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship68.html


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