Cornwall Emigration and Immigration

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A devastating collapse of the economy in Cornwall during the 19th century resulted in a massive exodus of much of the population (referred to as the Cornish Diaspora), and it was not until 1971 that the population of Cornwall returned to that (about 350,000) of the mid-19th century.

Cornish emigration has been caused by a number of factors, but due mainly to economic reasons and the lack of jobs in the 18th and 19th centuries when many Cornish people or “Cousin Jacks”, as they were known, migrated to various parts of the world in search of a better life. A driving force for some emigrants was the opportunity for skilled miners to find work abroad, later in combination with the decline of the tin and copper mining industries in Cornwall. It is estimated that 250,000 Cornish migrated abroad between 1861 and 1901 and these emigrants included farmers, merchants and tradesmen, but miners made up most of the numbers. There is a well known saying in Cornwall that "a mine is a hole anywhere in the world with at least one Cornishman at the bottom of it!"

It is estimated that today there are approximately six million people worldwide with Cornish ancestry, and fewer than 10% now live in Cornwall. Inasmuch as the most important segment of the economy had been mining, those who are seeking to find families who left Cornwall are most likely to have success when searching in places where mining was important.

In the USA, the Cornish are found in large numbers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and California, where mining was very important, but are everywhere throughout the country. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and other states of the midwest were common destinations for farmers. In Canada, Ontario was the most common destination, and many went to South Africa, as well as mining districts in Latin America, such as the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. Massive emigration to Australia, especially South Australia, and New Zealand took place, and Moonta, South Australia is still known as Little Cornwall. In many countries, particularly Australia and Canada (especially Ontario) towns and cities have been given the name of the towns and villages of Cornwall.

A very useful site with information about emigration from Cornwall with many links to other sites which have databases of emigrants can be found under the "resources" tab at the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks website or directly at