There are many connections between America and Cornwall, and it all starts in the 17thC when the first Cornish people settled in Virginia. Many of those with Cornish ancestry are descended from the families of miners who left Cornwall in the 19th C when the once booming mining industry was in decline.
More than 1/5th of the male population emigrated during this time and Cornwall lost more than 250,000 people. So today in the United States there are around 2 million people who have Cornish origins while the population of Cornwall is only 550,000.
From Texas, California and the mining regions of the East Coast of the US descendants trace their family roots back to Cornwall and visit the towns and villages where their ancestors once lived. And while on vacation here they find so much to more to discover in this unique part of England.
Based in Truro, Cornwall’s cathedral city, we offer a full travel service for groups both large and small in Cornwall, London and throughout the UK and Ireland. We also specialise in individual luxury tours and are happy to work with travel agents and tour operators too.
As the official partner of Visit Cornwall, the local Tourist Board, we take care of everything from itineraries, accommodation, transport, guides and much more. With an unrivalled local knowledge and a network of trusted partners we offer a 5-star service.
One of America’s most famous writers Mark Twain has connections to Cornwall. His real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the Clemens family were originally from the fishing village of Looe, Cornwall.
Rick Rescorla 1939- 2001 was the head of security at Morgan Stanley who led many people to safety during the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Rick Rescorla was born in Hayle, Cornwall and became a US citizen in the 1960s, he was decorated for his bravery during the Vietnam War. He was said to have led people down the staircases of the south tower singing Cornish songs, sadly he died when the tower collapsed, and his body was never recovered. In his memory Great Western Railway named one of their Intercity Express Trains after him. Rick Rescorla was proud of his Cornish roots and his widow along with family and friends came to the train naming ceremony in Penzance, Cornwall.
There are American presidents who also have connections to Cornwall, the 19th President of the United States, Rutherford B Hayes is descended from Thomas Burgess who emigrated from Truro, Cornwall. The 32nd President Franklin D Roosevelt is also descended from Thomas Burgess. Truro is the only city in Cornwall and is here that you will find the Cornwall Family History Society which is great place to start researching your family history.
One of the many families that left Cornwall to work in the slate mines of America was the family of the famous actress Jayne Mansfield. They moved to Pen Argyl in Pennsylvania along with many other Cornish quarrymen, the name of the town is Cornish; Pen meaning mountain and Argyl meaning clay or slate.
Edie Falco the American actress who is well known for her role in The Sopranos, traced her family history back to Penzance and Charlestown in Cornwall, her 4x Gt Grandfather was a Master Mariner. Charlestown is a beautiful unspoiled example of an 18thC working port which was built to export copper and china clay and import coal. It is little changed from the time that Edie Falco’s ancestors lived here. It has been used as a film and television location in programmes such as Poldark, The Eagle Has Landed, Rebecca, Mansfield Park and many more.
The American film director Colin Trevorrow has a Cornish surname which comes from the area of Ludgvan near to Penzance. The village is set on a hill that overlooks Mounts Bay and in the churchyard the parents of Sir Humphry Davy are buried, he was one of the area’s most famous son’s, he was the inventor of the miner’s safety lamp and world famous chemist who discovered chemical elements such as sodium and potassium. Colin Trevorrow directed Jurassic Park and by coincidence near to Ludgvan at Trewidden Gardens is one of the largest tree fern dells in Europe that wouldn’t look out of place in the movie.
Grass Valley in California was where many migrants from Cornwall settled, they were mainly tin miners whose skills and expertise was needed in the gold mines. Grass Valley is twinned with Bodmin, Cornwall and the town remembers its Cornish heritage by celebrating St Piran’s Day (the patron Saint of Cornwall) on the 5th March every year. Bodmin was the county town of Cornwall before Truro, Bodmin is the only town in Cornwall to be recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. It was in Bodmin in the 6th C that St Petroc founded a monastery and spread Christianity through Cornwall.