Cornish Americans
Amerikanek kernewek
Total population
2 million
Regions with significant populations
 California,  Minnesota,  Michigan,  Pennsylvania and  Wisconsin

English (American English dialects) Cornish

Related ethnic groups

Cornish, English Americans, Welsh Americans, Manx Americans, Scottish Americans, Scotch-Irish Americans, Irish Americans

Cornish Americans (Cornish: Amerikanek kernewek) are Americans who describe themselves as having Cornish ancestry, an ethnic group native to Cornwall, United Kingdom. Cornish ancestry is not recognized on the United States Census. There are estimated to be close to 2 million people of Cornish descent in the U.S which is four times the present population of Cornwall in the United Kingdom.[1]

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.[2]

The coincidence 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.[3]

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.[4] 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 serves Cornish food, such as pasties and figgyhobbin,[5] and Cornish pasties are sold at ex-Cornish mining towns in America, especially in Butte, Montana[6] and 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, the Iron Ranges of northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and Butte, Montana.[6]

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

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.[9]

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.[10]

Notable people[]

Natasha Trethewey, United States Poet Laureate

President Truman, possibly a Cornish Tremaine

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

  • Mark Twain - Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). The Clemens family originally came from Looe, Cornwall.[11]
  • Richard Bullock - became a legendary figure of the Wild West cowboy era. His quick-shooting deeds working on the Deadwood stage gained him the nickname "Deadwood Dick".
  • Colin Trevorrow - an American film director and screenwriter.The surname Trevorrow originating in the village of Ludgvan near Penzance[12].
  • Jayne Mansfield - an American actress working both on Broadway and in Hollywood. Her ancestors moved from Cornwall to Pen Argyl to work slate.[13] Her daughter is the actress Mariska Hargitay.
  • Michael J. Fox - Canadian–American actor, author, comedian, producer, activist and voice-over artist.
  • Edie Falco - an American television, film and stage actress. Her ancestor was a Cornish master mariner, from Penzance.[14][15]
  • Dirk Kempthorne - United States Secretary of the Interior, Governor of Idaho, United States Senator representing Idaho, and Mayor of Boise, who has immigrant ancestors from Cornwall.[16]
  • Rick Rescorla - a retired United States Army officer of Cornish birth who served with distinction in Rhodesia as a British soldier and the Vietnam War as an American officer. Rescorla was World Trade Center security chief for the financial services firm Morgan Stanley, and died in the attacks of September 11, 2001, while leading the evacuation efforts.
  • John Spargo - a Cornish-born American socialist writer and muckraker.
  • Randy Travis - American country singer, born Randy Bruce Traywick, descended from one Robarde Traweek, who was born in 1668 in Cornwall. Robarde's son Robert was born in 1700 in Stafford County, Virginia and died in 1788 in Onslow County, North Carolina, establishing the North Carolinian roots of the Traywick family.
  • John Johns Trigg - Virginian congressman and American Revolutionary War officer was of mostly Cornish ancestry, his ancestors having immigrated to the American colonies from Cornwall in the mid-17th century.
  • William Williams - a Cornish immigrant to Saint Paul, Minnesota who was convicted of the 1905 murders of his homosexual lover and the latter's mother. His hanging was botched and Williams remains the last person executed by the State of Minnesota.
  • Natasha Trethewey - an American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet[17] who was made United States Poet Laureate and also Poet Laureate of Mississippi in 2012. Her father, Eric Trethewey, is also a poet and professor of English at Hollins University.[18] Trethewey is a Cornish language-derived surname.[19]
  • Elizabeth Arden - Florence Nightingale Graham (December 31, 1884 – October 18, 1966), who went by the business name Elizabeth Arden, was a Canadian-American businesswoman who built a cosmetics empire in the United States. At the peak of her career, she was one of the wealthiest women in the world. Her mother was Cornish, her father Scottish, having met in Cornwall.[20]
  • Harry S. Truman - Truman, the 33rd President of the United States (1945–1953), may have been a descendant of the Cornish Tremayne family although he himself disliked this theory, preferring an Anglo-Saxon origin. The President said that he believed the "Tremaine thing is a lot of bunk" but conceded, "Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway as I've told you so long as we don't find Captain Kidd, Morgan the Pirate or J.P. [Morgan] either, for that matter, in 'the line' I'm satisfied."[21]
  • Rutherford B. Hayes - the 19th President of the United States (1877–1881), was descended from Thomas Burgess, an emigrant from Truro, Cornwall, to Salem, Massachusetts in the 17th Century.[22]
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt - the 32nd President of the United States (1933–1945), was, like Hayes, a descendant of Thomas Burgess, whose grandmother happened to be a Trethewey.[23]
  • Donald Bertrand Tresidder was the fourth president of Stanford University, serving from 1943 until his sudden death in 1948. He also had a longtime association with Yosemite National Park.

See also[]

  • Cornish language
  • Cornish emigration
  • Cornish Australians
  • Mining in Cornwall and Devon
  • Celtic music in the United States
  • British American
  • Scottish American
  • Scots-Irish American
  • Welsh American
  • Maps of American ancestries


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "迷わないメル友選び". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "BBC - Legacies - Immigration and Emigration - England - Cornwall - I’m alright Jack - Article Page 1". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Nesbit, Robert C. (1989). Wisconsin: A History. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-10804-X. 
  5. ^ "Shops & Restaurants - Pendarvis". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "The Butte Pasty - The Foods of the World Forum". Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  7. ^ "Missing - Thebannerofpiran". 28 June 2007. Archived from the original on 28 June 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2018. 
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-14. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  10. ^ "The Celtic Languages in Contact". p. 204. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Payton, Philip. The Cornish Overseas, 2005.
  12. ^ "Trevorrow Name Meaning & Trevorrow Family History at". 
  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. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Edie Falco, Who Do You Think You Are?". 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. ISBN 0-618-60463-4. 
  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". Truman Library. Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  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[]