What is it About the Cornish and Genealogy?

20/11/2012 11:27 GMT | Updated 19/01/2013 10:12 GMT

I am blessed to have some very clear national histories in my family tree. My maternal grandfather and grandmother both came from Bohemia and I have traced my Bohemian (now Czech Republic) ancestry in these branches back to the 1600s so far. Both the paternal and maternal branches of my wife's family are 100% Italian and I have traced my Italian ancestry back to the 1700's. My paternal grandmother and grandfather both came from Cornwall and I have currently traced my Cornish ancestry back to the 1500s. I have spent years working on these families and their branches and I can certainly say that the Bohemians, Czechs, and Italians have been fantastic. But I have to ask, based on my experience: "What is it about the Cornish?"

Honestly, I have to ask .... "What is it about the Cornish?"

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It started with a serendipitous connection with a Cornish woman who happened to be working on the history of those souls from Wadebridge who were lost in World War I and inscribed on the War Memorial in Wadebridge. Wadebridge happens to be the hometown of my grandfather and that monument happens to be the one on which lays the name of my great uncle, William Morrish Phillips. This wonderful woman and I joined forces to find what we could about William Morrish and find it we did, plus much more. Without her help I might still be wondering about this family member and I certainly would not have the priceless photo I now have of this brave fellow who paid the ultimate price and whom now rests eternal in a small graveyard in Houyet, Belgium.

Without her unswerving care and energy I never would have discovered the more than half dozen Cornish families, who are descendants of my great grandmother Louisa Phillipps, and who I recently spent ten days visiting. Well, actually 'visiting' is probably not quite the proper word as they, to a person, put their lives on hold and spent those days introducing me to everything Cornish, having me meet every family member they could find, and making certain that I got (almost) my fill of pasty, saffron buns, Cornish clotted cream, and nights of pub ale. Every home I entered, every person I sought help from, treated me just like I belonged right where I was. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my world travels.

Then there is the palaeographer who undertook the translation of an extraordinarily challenging, in form, condition, and content, a multiple-page manuscript from 1642 and continues to help with paleographic questions as they arise and is even now working on a second, crucial 1618 probate document for me.

You can add to this the amazing assistance of several photographers, both amateur and professional, who have tramped through untold numbers of parish churches and churchyards gaining photographs of those churches, stained glass windows, plaques, monuments, and gravestones providing incredibly useful images, information, and detail for our family tree.

I have even been blessed to have folks take their lunch time and take detours on their way home from work in order to take to the streets, churches, and churchyards in order to gather new information on my ancestors for me.

Just about the time I thought it couldn't get any better, I was introduced to a truly amazing historian who is now partnering with me in a first ever effort to study, plot, map and document a local parish churchyard.

The pride, sincerity, and meaning that each of these people has shown me is nothing short of amazing and heartwarming. When I asked each of them why they were so willing to help, they simply said 'Well, you are Cornish and you know it'.

As I have thought more and more about this, I have come to realize that there is one additional reason for all this support, assistance, and work on my behalf and that is my grandfather.

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While my grandfather Phillips has been gone for many years now, God rest his soul, he really is here with me every day inasmuch as I learned a crucial lesson he repeated to me often throughout my life. 'Gramps' would say: "Remember this, Scott. I am Cornish. Your grandmother is Cornish. Our roots are deep in all that is Cornish. So YOU are Cornish. Don't ever forget that, because being Cornish is something truly special."

Thanks, Gramps! I remembered and, as usual, you were right. The Cornish truly are special!