Show ContentsCornwallis History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Atlantic Ocean to the north and west and the English Channel to the south borders Cornwall, the homeland to the Cornwallis family name. Even though the usage of surnames was common during the Middle Ages, all English people were known only by a single name in early times. The manner in which hereditary surnames arose is interesting. Local surnames are derived from where the original bearer lived, was born, or held land. The Cornwallis family originally lived in the county of Cornwall in southwest England.

Early Origins of the Cornwallis family

The surname Cornwallis 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]

Some of the family emigrated to Ireland in the fourteenth century where the name was typically spelt Cornwalsh, Cornwalysch or Cornwallis. It is thought that the progenitor in Ireland was Sir John de Cornwall or Cornwaille, Constable of Carlow Castle who settled in the time of Edward III. From this family was find John le Cornwaleys of Dublin, an attorney listed in 1310 and James Cornwalsh (died 1441), an Irish judge who held the office of Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer. He was murdered in a feud over the possession of Baggotrath Castle, near Dublin. Later, Sir John Cornwalsh, or Cornwalysch (died 1472) was an Irish judge who held the office of Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer. He was probably born at Dunboyne in County Meath.

Early History of the Cornwallis family

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

Cornwallis 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 Cornwallis family

Notable amongst the family at this time was

  • 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 and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1662
  • Charles Cornwallis, 3rd Baron Cornwallis PC (1655-1698), a British politician, First Lord of the Admiralty (1692-1693), Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk (1689-1698)

Ireland Migration of the Cornwallis family to Ireland

Some of the Cornwallis 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 Cornwallis migration to the United States +

Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the name Cornwallis or a variant listed above:

Cornwallis Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas Cornwallis, who landed in Maryland in 1633 [2]
  • William Cornwallis, who arrived in Maryland in 1679 [2]
Cornwallis Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Francis Cornwallis, aged 23, who arrived in America from London, England, in 1905
  • Brownell Cornwallis, who arrived in America, in 1911
  • Yvonne Cornwallis, aged 24, who arrived in America from Linton, England, in 1920

Contemporary Notables of the name Cornwallis (post 1700) +

  • Frederick Cornwallis (1713-1783), English clergyman, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the twin brother of Edward Cornwallis
  • Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805), 1st Marquess Cornwallis, British Army officer and colonial administrator, Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William (1786-1793)
  • James Cornwallis (1743-1824), 4th Earl Cornwallis was a British clergyman, and peer, Dean of Canterbury (1775-1781), Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry (1781-1824), Dean of Windsor (1791-1794), Dean of Durham (1794-1824)
  • Charles Cornwallis (1774-1823), 2nd Marquess Cornwallis British peer, Master of the Buckhounds between 1807 and 1823
  • Charles Cornwallis (1700-1762), 5th Baron Cornwallis, British peer, Lord-Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets and Constable of the Tower of London
  • Lieutenant General Edward Cornwallis (1713-1776), British military officer, first Governor of Nova Scotia at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Governor of Gibraltar
  • Admiral the Honourable Sir William Cornwallis GCB (1744-1819), British Royal Navy officer, best known as a friend of Lord Nelson and as the commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet during the Napoleonic Wars
  • General Sir William Cornwallis Eustace,
  • Captain William Cornwallis Symonds (1810-1841), British Army officer who emigrated to New Zealand as an agent of the Waitemata and Manukau Land Company and was instrumental in the founding of Auckland, eldest son of William Symonds
  • Colonel Charles Cornwallis Chesney (1826-1876), English soldier and military writer, Commander of the Royal Engineer of the London district

The Cornwallis 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.

  1. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  2. 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) on Facebook