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The Cornish diaspora consists of Cornish people and their descendants who emigrated from Cornwallmarker. The diaspora is found in countries such as the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, Australia, Mexicomarker, New Zealandmarker, South Africa, Brazilmarker and Chilemarker.

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!"

The Cornish economy profited from the miners’ work abroad. Some men sent back “home pay”, which helped to keep their families out of the workhouse. As well as their mining skills, the Cornish emigrants carried their culture and way of life with them when they travelled. They formed tight-knit communities, and did not lose contact with either the people or the customs of their home land. Wrestling competitions took place in the new settlements, Cornish Methodist chapels were constructed, pasties and saffron cakes became well-known to natives of Australia and the United States alike, and the air resounded with the sound of brass bands and Cornish carols, wherever the miners went.

The passion for Cornish rugby was exported overseas by the Cornish miners and this helped develop the game in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, all of whom have played in Cornwall (New Zealand 1905, 1924, Australia 1908, South Africa 1906, 1912 and the Māori in 1926).

Specific locations

Today, in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and other countries, some of the descendants of these original migrants celebrate their Cornish ancestry and remain proud of their Cornish family names. This is evidenced by the existence of both Cornish societies and Cornish festivals in these countries, as well as a growing overseas interest in the Cornish language. Many of those with Cornish ancestry are now reviving their heritage and a plethora of Cornish family history and genealogy groups exist.


In Moontamarker, South Australiamarker, the Kernewek Lowender (Cornish for "Cornish happiness") is the largest Cornish festival in the world and attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. In its heyday Moonta was South Australiamarker's second largest town after Adelaidemarker and was predominately settled by Cornish miners and their families. Today it is known as 'Australia's Little Cornwall'. Along with the other principal towns of Kadinamarker and Wallaroo in the northern Yorke Peninsula this mining area became known as the Copper Trianglemarker and was a significant source of prosperity for South Australia in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today Moonta is most famous for its traditional Cornish pasties and its Cornish style miner's cottages and mine engine houses such as Richman's and Hughes engines houses built in the 1860s. Many streets and houses have Cornish names. Many descendants of these Cornish families bearing their Cornish surnames still live in the Copper Triangle and the area is intensely proud of its Cornish heritage.

Many of the original miners cottages made from "wattle and daub" still stand and are still lived in by local residents.

Canada and Mexico


Oshawamarker and the surrounding Ontario Countymarker were also the settling grounds of a disproportionate number of 19th century Cornish immigrants during the Cornish emigration which emptied large tracts of Cornwall. Also, there were major Cornish settlement along the Prairie provinces. Cornish ethnicity is recognised on the Canadianmarker census, and in 2006, 1,550 Canadians listed their ethnic origin as Cornish.


In the State of Hidalgomarker in central Mexicomarker a local speciality originates from the Cornish pasty, called pastes which was introduced by miners and workers from Cornwall who were contracted in the silver mining towns of Mineral del Montemarker and Pachucamarker. The majority of migrants to this region came from what we now term the Cornish "central mining district" of Cambornemarker and Redruthmarker. Mineral del Montemarker's steep streets, stairways and small squares are lined with low buildings and many houses with high sloping roofs and chimneys which indicate a Cornish influence. It was the Cornish who first introduced football to Pachucamarker and indeed Mexicomarker, as well as other popular sports such as Rugby union, Tennis, Cricket, Polo, and Chess, while Mexican remittances helped to build the Wesleyan Chapel in Redruth the 1820s. The twin silver mining settlements of Pachuca and Real del Monte are being marketed in 2007 as 'Mexico's Little Cornwall' by the Mexican Embassy in Londonmarker and represent the first attempt by the Spanish speaking part of the Cornish diaspora to establish formal links with Cornwall. The Mexican Embassy in London is also trying to establish a town twinning arrangement with Cornwall. In 2008 thirty members of the Cornish Mexican Cultural Society travelled to Mexico to try and re-trace the path of their ancestors who set off from Cornwall to start a new life in Mexico.

New Zealand

During the 1870s and 1880s, New Zealand had an immigrant drive spearheaded by Sir Julius Vogel of the New Zealand Government. At that time Vogel recognised that the young colony needed labourers, farmers and domestic servants to "bring the country in". Vogel initiated the Vogel Immigration Scheme (1871-1888) in which any New Zealand resident could nominate any British resident to immigrate to New Zealand for free if they qualified under the criteria. The criteria was for fit, healthy, young people with primarily labouring, farming or domestic servant skills. The recruiters were told to focus on Cornish and Scots who were known for their hard work ethic and were therefore deemed particularly ideal for colonial life. As the timing coincided with the downturn of the Cornish tin market, a large number of Cornish took up the offer. Many Cornish went to Auckland, Wellington or Lyttelton Christchurch), New Zealand. Many Scots went to Dunedin, New Zealand. Peak immigration under the scheme occurred between 1872 and 1874. Records of those who emigrated under the scheme still exist and can be searched at most large New Zealand public libraries.

South Africa

During the goldrush period on the Witwatersrandmarker many Cornishmen went to the then South African Republic (also known as the Transvaalmarker) in order to seek their fortune. In fact, the pioneering of the Rand gold reefmarker was largely down to the hardrock mining expertise that Cornishmen brought with them from their native country, where tin and copper had been obtained from granite for many centuries. By the end of the 19th century the sheer numbers of Cornish miners on the rand, sending up to £1 million a year back to Cornwall even caused friction with the Kruger government--resenting the wealth these uitlanders were sending home. The Kruger government's decision to tax these so-called uitlanders without any kind of legislative representation was one of the many reasons behind the outbreak of the Second Boer War. "Cousin Jack" as the the Cornishman was known also brought a strong rugby tradition, the Cornish Pasty and a few other miscellaneous bits of Cornish culture to South Africa that can still be found today. Indeed, Johannesburgmarker boasts an area known as New Redruth and one area of Sowetomarker bears a Cornish language name, Baragwanath. Later Cornish migration to South Africa could be viewed as part of a more general trend of emigration from the British Islesmarker and is thus harder to gauge. The prevalence of Cornish surnames, e.g. Tregowning, amongst people of all races, especially in the Cape of Good Hopemarker, is another testimony to the Cornish contribution to South Africa.

United States

In the Grass Valley, Californiamarker, 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. Statues and monuments in many towns pay tribute to the influence of the Cornish on their development. Some inhabitants of Tangier Island, Virginiamarker, a former Cornish fishing settlement, have a Cornish accent that traces back to the Cornish settlers who settled there in 1686.

Cornish culture continues to have an influence in the Copper Country of northern Michiganmarker, southwestern Wisconsin and the Iron Ranges of northern Michigan and Minnesotamarker.

Other parts of the United Kingdom

Cornish people have also moved to a number of (other) parts of Englandmarker and the rest of the United Kingdommarker. Many Cornish people believe Englandmarker begins at the River Tamar and east of the Tamar lies the naval city of Plymouthmarker. Plymouth has had an influx of Cornish people since time immemorial and, during the rise of Devonport Dockyardmarker, was a main source of income for many of the Cornish. Historically the surname Cornish/Cornishe/Cornyshe was given to a Cornish person who had left Cornwallmarker and this surname can be found throughout the British Islesmarker. Today there are significant Cornish populations in Plymouth, Bristolmarker and capital, Londonmarker, which is also home to London Cornish RFC. Within Great Britainmarker, Cornish families were attracted from Cornwall to North East England—-particularly on Teessidemarker—-to partake in coal mining as a means to earn wealth by using their mining skill. This has resulted in a concentration of Cornish names on and around Teesside that persists into the 21st century.

See also


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