Cornelly was one of Cornwall’s smallest nineteenth century parishes. Tucked away between Truro and St Austell on the edge of the Roseland peninsula, its population peaked at 170 in 1831, fell abruptly in the following decade and had almost halved by the end of the century. Viewed as too small to be viable, It was united with Tregony in 1934 and then in 1974 both were merged into a joint administrative parish with Cuby.
In 1851 all 16 households in Cornelly bar one were involved in farming, the exception being an innkeeper. Farm labouring kept alive the one household containing an 11 year old child included in the Victorian Lives database. Agnes Endean was living at Woodend with her two older sisters. They were found in the household of their grandparents William, a 66 year old farm labourer, and his wife Jane. Next door was 34 year old Thomas Endean and his wife Frances, a laundress, with three children. It’s very likely that Thomas and Frances were the parents of Agnes and her older sisters, lodged with their grandparents to reduce pressure on space.
That’s not the only question raised by this census entry. Agnes and one of her sisters had been born in Ireland. With a uniquely Cornish surname, the family were not Irish. So why had Thomas and his wife been in Ireland from 1846-48 (not long after the Irish potato famine) to the early 1850s?
It’s unlikely to have been related to mining. Thomas’s background in rural mid-Cornwall militates against that as does the location of his daughters’ births. Agnes’s 13 year old (in 1861) sister had been born in Dublin whereas Agnes’s own birthplace was given as ‘Furmar’. Was this Fermanagh? There was a little copper and lead mining at Belleek in County Fermanagh but it seems this took place after 1853. Or was Thomas a soldier, part of the British army, reinforced in Ireland after the doomed ‘Young Ireland’ rising of 1848 and the terrible trauma of the famine?
And a further mystery. Thus far no trace of Agnes has been found after 1861, although her grandparents were still alive in Cornelly in 1871 and still living next door to their assumed son and daughter in law. Had she married and left the district? Or was she dead?
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