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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

Origins Available: English, Scottish

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

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.


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.


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


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


Some of the Cornwell 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.


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

Cornwell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Wm Cornwell, aged 20, arrived in Barbados in 1635
  • John Cornwell, who arrived in Maryland in 1674
  • Peter Cornwell, who arrived in Virginia in 1695
  • Thos Cornwell, who landed in Maryland in 1695

Cornwell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Elisabeth Cornwell, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1757

Cornwell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Charles M Cornwell, aged 17, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Thomas R Cornwell, aged 27, arrived in New York in 1812
  • Sarah Cornwell, who landed in New York in 1830

Cornwell Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Mr. Benjamin Cornwell U.E who settled in Sissiboo [Weymouth], Nova Scotia c. 1783

Cornwell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Charles Cornwell arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Calphurnia" in 1849


  • Patricia Cornwell (b. 1956), contemporary American crime writer
  • Dean Cornwell (1892-1960), American illustrator and muralist
  • John Jacob Cornwell (1867-1953), American Democratic politician
  • David Lance Cornwell (b. 1945), U.S. Representative from Indiana
  • Marshall S. Cornwell (1871-1898), American newspaper publisher, writer, and poet
  • Anita Cornwell (b. 1923), American author
  • Judy Valerie Cornwell (b. 1940), English actress
  • Bernard Cornwell (b. 1944), English author of historical novels
  • Phil Cornwell (b. 1957), English comedian, actor, impressionist and writer
  • John Cornwell (b. 1940), English journalist and author, and a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge



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. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  2. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  3. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  4. Bardsley, C.W. A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6).
  5. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  6. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  7. Reaney P.H and R.M. Wilson. A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X).
  8. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  9. Library of Congress. American and English Genealogies in the Library of Congress. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1967. Print.
  10. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin . Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  11. ...

The Cornwell Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Cornwell 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 18 February 2015 at 13:15.

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