Priscilla Carter was born at Trescowe, Breage, the second child of Francis and Elizabeth. Francis worked as a tin miner, as did the majority of the men of the parish. Priscilla grew up at Trescowe Hill and by 1871 she and a younger sister were at the dressing floors, while her elder brother and father worked underground. Another sister was earning cash from field work, all helping to maintain the large family, with another five children at home.
At some point in the 1870s Priscilla exchanged the dressing floors for a domestic floor, having turned to domestic service. She was engaged in 1881 as one of the two servants in the house of Charles Grey, a substantial merchant, shipowner and farmer at Penryn who employed 26 men in his various business ventures. At some time after that, Priscilla moved a long way north, to the booming new town of Barrow, then part of Lancashire, now in Cumbria. It’s not known whether she moved alone or with other family members, the latter being more common for women.
Once at Barrow, Priscilla married Francis Jennings in 1883, the surname suggesting someone from Cornwall. But Francis soon died and in 1889 she remarried, this time to John Harris, an iron miner born in Ireland. It was John’s second marriage too and the pair, plus the seven children from their previous marriages as well as John’s mother, were living in 1891 at South Row in Roose, a largely Cornish miners’ colony next to Barrow.
Catherine Hosking was also born at Breage, but provides a contrast as she did not leave her home parish, at least for the first 40 years of her life. She was the youngest daughter of Elizabeth and Thomas, a farmer who rented or owned sufficient land to employ a labourer or two.
The rest of the family left their home at Crava, Breage one by one, at least two brothers – Thomas and James Henry – emigrating to South Australia in the 1860s. But Catherine stayed on and inevitably fell into the role of helping to maintain the household while looking after her ageing parents. In the 1871 census they were recorded as 69 and 63 years old. In 1876 her father died and the farm was then run by William, another of her brothers, with the help of Catherine and Elizabeth, a sister. Ten years later the family had given up farming and had moved into Breage churchtown, William being described as a ‘retired farmer’. Their mother, Elizabeth, was still alive at 83, although ‘infirm through old age’. Catherine and Elizabeth were also with him, unmarried and ‘living on their own means’.