Camborne’s overseas connections

At least one child in eight in Camborne on our database spent some time overseas. This is likely to be an under-estimate. In nineteenth century Cornish mining parishes, at least a quarter of men, possibly as many as a third, would have spent some time overseas. For women that proportion might be around 15 per cent. Allowing for the expected early deaths, that equates to between 15 and 20 men and 10 or so women among our Camborne quota. So far, we have found only ten definite cases of overseas migration.

Nineteenth-century housing at West Charles Street

Edward Symons was one of those with an American connection. Edward’s family lived at West Charles Street in Camborne in the 1860s and his father was a miner like most of their neighbours. Edward however followed a blacksmith’s trade. In 1872 he left for Nevada, moving to Tombstone, Arizona in 1877. There, he joined his younger brother Samson, a miner, and also married Elizabeth Pomeroy. He died in California in 1922.

A street in early Tombstone. The town was established in the 1870s and was still smaller than Camborne in 1880.

William Matthews was another son of a miner, although his father died young, in his 30s. William and his two older brothers were working at a tin mine in 1861, providing support for their widowed mother and two younger sisters. Living at Bolenowe Croft in the upland rural part of the parish, William and one of his brothers were still at home in 1871. Moreover, with them was Susan Matthews, a married woman. Susan had a three year old child born in America.

But who had she married? William was still described as single, so if that census entry is taken at face value, it implies Susan was the wife of his absent older brother. Whatever the situation in 1871, both William and Susan were missing from the 1881 census. Yet, in 1891 the pair had reappeared, now definitely married and back at Troon Moor, with a son Henry, born in America in 1880. William was by now a farmer, suggesting enough money had been made in the States to rent a smallholding on their return, which had occurred by 1884. Susan had made at least two return trips across the Atlantic and William at least one. Of the other Camborne residents in the database with spells overseas, another three went to the US, two to New Zealand and two to Australia, while the destination of one is unknown.