Show ContentsCornwell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Cornwell history begins in Cornwall, a rugged coastal region in southwestern England. Quite distinct from Devon, the adjoining county, Cornwall had its own spoken language until the late 18th century. The Cornwell history began here. The manner in which hereditary surnames arose is interesting. Local surnames were derived from where the original bearer lived, was born, or held land. Unlike most Celtic peoples, who favored patronymic names, the Cornish predominantly used local surnames. The Cornwell family originally lived in the county of Cornwall in southwest England.

Early Origins of the Cornwell family

The surname Cornwell 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 Cornwell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cornwell 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 Cornwell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cornwell 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 Cornwell family

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 Cornwell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cornwell Ranking

In the United States, the name Cornwell is the 2,704th most popular surname with an estimated 12,435 people with that name. [2]

Ireland Migration of the Cornwell family to Ireland

Some of the Cornwell 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 Cornwell migration to the United States +

Early records show that people bearing the name Cornwell arrived in North America quite early:

Cornwell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Cornwell, who arrived in Maryland in 1674 [3]
  • Peter Cornwell, who arrived in Virginia in 1695 [3]
  • Thomas Cornwell, who landed in Maryland in 1695 [3]
Cornwell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Elisabeth Cornwell, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1757 [3]
Cornwell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Charles M Cornwell, aged 17, who arrived in New York in 1812 [3]
  • Thomas R Cornwell, aged 27, who arrived in New York in 1812 [3]
  • Sarah Cornwell, who landed in New York in 1830 [3]

Canada Cornwell migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Cornwell Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mr. Benjamin Cornwell U.E. who settled in Sissiboo [Weymouth], Nova Scotia c. 1783 [4]

Australia Cornwell migration to Australia +

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

Cornwell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Charles Cornwell, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Calphurnia" in 1849 [5]
  • Mr. William Cornwell, English convict who was convicted in Lewes, Sussex, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Equestrian" on 27th August 1852, arriving in Tasmania (Van Diemen's Island) [6]

New Zealand Cornwell 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:

Cornwell Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. John Cornwell, British settler travelling from London, UK aboard the ship "Assaye" arriving in Auckland, North Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1874 [7]
  • Mrs. Hannah Cornwell, British settler travelling from London, UK aboard the ship "Assaye" arriving in Auckland, North Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1874 [7]
  • Mr. Thomas Cornwell, (b. 1860), aged 24, British settler travelling from Plymouth aboard the ship "Florida" arriving in Invercargill, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 10th March 1884 [7]

West Indies Cornwell migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [8]
Cornwell Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • William Cornwell, aged 20, who arrived in Barbados in 1635 [3]
  • Mr. William Cornwell, (b. 1615), aged 20, British settler travelling aboard the ship "Expedition" arriving in Barbados in 1636 [9]

Contemporary Notables of the name Cornwell (post 1700) +

  • David John Moore Cornwell (1931-2020), English novelist from Poole, Dorset, who under his pen name John Le Carré was best known for his The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1963), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), Smiley's People (1979), The Little Drummer Girl (1983), and many more
  • Anita Cornwell (b. 1923), American author from Greenwood, South Carolina
  • John Jacob Cornwell (1867-1953), American Democratic politician, 15th Governor of West Virginia (1917-1921), Member of the West Virginia Senate (1899-1905)
  • Dean Cornwell (1892-1960), American illustrator and muralist, nicknamed the "Dean of Illustrators"
  • David Lance Cornwell (1945-2012), American politician, U.S. Representative from Indiana (1977-1979)
  • Woody Cornwell (1968-2016), American abstract painter, co-founder of Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery
  • Marshall S. Cornwell (1871-1898), American newspaper publisher, writer, and poet
  • Patricia Cornwell (b. 1956), contemporary American crime writer
  • Bernard Cornwell OBE (b. 1944), English author of historical novels and a history of the Waterloo Campaign
  • Judy Valerie Cornwell (b. 1940), English actress, best known for her role as Daisy in the sitcom Keeping Up Appearances (1990-1995)
  • ... (Another 8 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

The Cornwell 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. "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. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The CALPHURNIA 1849. Retrieved from
  6. Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 16th May 2022).
  7. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from
  9. Pilgrim Ship Lists Early 1600's retrieved 29th September 2021. Retrieved from on Facebook