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Cornish American

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Title: Cornish American  
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Subject: Scottish American, Welsh American, Irish American, English American, Anglo-Cornish
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Cornish American

Cornish Americans
Rick RescorlaEdie FalcoJohn Spargo
Dirk KempthorneWilliam U'RenPaul Trevithick
Elizabeth ArdenRandy TravisBoies Penrose
Samuel Langhorne Clemens A.K.A. Mark TwainFrancis T. Nicholls
Total population
2 million
Regions with significant populations
California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
American English
Related ethnic groups
British Americans (Scottish Americans, Scots-Irish Americans, Welsh Americans, English Americans), Irish Americans
Cornish Australians

Cornish Americans are Americans who describe themselves as having Cornish ancestry. Cornish ancestry is not recognised on the United States Census, although the Cornish people are recognised as a separate ethnic group and national identity for the United Kingdom Census.[1] There are estimated to be close to 2 million people of Cornish descent in the U.S.[2]

Cornish emigration to the United States

Tangier Island is an island in lower Chesapeake Bay in Virginia: some inhabitants have a Cornish accent that traces back to the Cornish settlers who arrived there in 1686.[3]

The coinciding of the decline of the mining industry in Cornwall in the 19th century and the discovery of large amounts of mineral deposits abroad meant that Cornish families headed overseas for work. Each decade between 1861 and 1901, a fifth of the entire Cornish male population migrated abroad – three times the average for England and Wales. In total, the county lost over a quarter of a million people between 1841 and 1901.[4]

Large numbers of Cornish people moved to the United States, and while some stayed in New York City and other East Coast ports after arriving, many moved inland to mining areas in California, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. One such area was Mineral Point, Wisconsin, in which the largest group of immigrants were Cornish miners attracted to the lead mining opportunities, and by 1845 roughly half of the town's population had Cornish ancestry.[5] Today the Cornish town of Redruth is twinned with Mineral Point.

Cornish culture in the United States

A "Cousin Jack's" pasty shop in Grass Valley, California

Mineral Point, Wisconsin claims to serve authentic Cornish food, such as pasties and figgyhobbin,[6] and Cornish pasties are sold at ex-Cornish mining towns in America, especially in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

In California, statues and monuments in many towns pay tribute to the influence of the Cornish on their development.[7] In the city of Grass Valley, the tradition of singing Cornish carols lives on and one local historian of the area says the songs have become "the identity of the town". Some of the members of today's Cornish Carol Choir are in fact descendants of the original Cornish gold miners. The city holds St Piran's Day celebrations every year, which along with carol singing, includes a flag raising ceremony, games involving the Cornish pasty, and Cornish wrestling competitions.[8] The city is twinned with Bodmin in Cornwall.

Cornish culture continues to have an influence in the Copper Country of northern Michigan, and the Iron Ranges of northern Michigan and Minnesota.

To Kill a Mockingbird displays the lives of a Cornish American Methodist family. Their Cornish emigrant ancestor is introduced on the first page.[9]

Cornish immigrant miners are depicted in the TV series Deadwood, speaking their native language, even though Cornish had died out in the 18th century; the actors in the relevant scenes are, in fact, speaking Irish, a related Celtic language, but not mutually intelligible.[10]

Legends of the Fall, a novella by American author Jim Harrison, detailing the lives of a Cornish American family in the early 20th century, contains several Cornish language terms. These were also included in the Academy Award-winning film of the same name starring Anthony Hopkins as Col. William Ludlow and Brad Pitt as Tristan Ludlow.[11]

Noted individuals

President Truman, possibly a Cornish Tremaine

Several notable Americans were either born in Cornwall or have family connections to the county.

See also


  1. ^ Cornwall Council's guide to recording Cornish ethnicity and national identity on the 2011 Census
  2. ^
  3. ^ Tangier Island
  4. ^ BBC - Immigration and Emigration - I'm Alright Jack
  5. ^ Nesbit, Robert C. (1989). Wisconsin: A History. Madison, Wisconsin:  
  6. ^ "Pendarvis - Shops & Restaurants"
  7. ^ Calyfornya Kernewek (California Cornish)
  8. ^ Grass Valley's St Pirans Day Celebration -
  9. ^ Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^
  12. ^ Payton, Philip. The Cornish Overseas, 2005.
  13. ^ Kent, Alan M. Cousin Jack's Mouth Organ: Travels in Cornish America, 2004
  14. ^ Eastman, Dick (April 8, 2012). "Last Friday's Who Do You Think You Are? with Edie Falco". Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  15. ^ "tracingthetree". Edie Falco, Who Do You Think You Are?. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  16. ^ Butler, Gillian; John Butler; Ren Kempthorne (2000). Karanza Whelas Karanza, The Story of the Kempthornes, 1300-2000. 
  17. ^ Trethewey, Natasha (2007). Native Guard. New York, USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  
  18. ^ "Photos from the May 8, 2007 celebration to honor Natasha Trethewey for her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poetry, Native Guard". The Creative Writing Program at Emory University. Emory University. Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  19. ^ "Cornish Surnames - extensive A-Z list". Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  20. ^ Sawyers, June Skinner Famous Firsts of Scottish-Americans Pelican Publishing, 1996; p. 11
  21. ^ ROOTED IN HISTORY: The Genealogy of Harry S. Truman -
  22. ^ Ancestors of American Presidents, Gary Boyd Roberts, Published by Carl Boyer III, 1995, Santa Clara CA, p44
  23. ^ Ancestors of American Presidents, Gary Boyd Roberts, Published by Carl Boyer III, 1995, Santa Clara CA, p275

Further reading

  • Cornish, Joseph H. The History and Genealogy of the Cornish Families in America. Higginson Book Company. 2003. ASIN: B0006S85H6.
  • Ewart, Shirley. Highly Respectable Families: the Cornish of Grass Valley, California 1854-1954 (Nevada County Pioneers Series). Comstock Bonanza Press. October 1998. ISBN 978-0-933994-18-8.
  • Magnaghi, Russell M. Cornish in Michigan (Discovering the Peoples of Michigan Series). Michigan State University Press. October 2007. ISBN 978-0-87013-787-7.
  • Payton, Philip The Cornish Overseas. Cornwall Editions Limited. April 2005. ISBN 978-1-904880-04-2.
  • Rowse, A. L. The Cornish in America. Redruth: Dyllansow Truran. June 1991. ISBN 978-1-85022-059-6.
  • Todd, Arthur C. The Cornish Miner in America: the Contribution to the Mining History of the United States by Emigrant Cornish Miners: the Men Called Cousin Jacks. Arthur H. Clark (publisher). September 1995. ISBN 978-0-87062-238-0.
  • White, Helen M. Cornish Cousins of Minnesota, Lost and Found: St. Piran's Society of Minnesota. Minnesota Heritage Publications. 1997. ASIN: B0006QP60M.

External links

  • The Cornish American Heritage Society
  • California Cornish Cousins
  • Pennsylvania Cornwall Association
  • The Cornish Society of Greater Milwaukee
  • Pasties in Wisconsin, by Dorothy Hodgson
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