Thomas Laity was born into a large mining family in the village of Praze in Crowan. His father William was a miner, as was his oldest brother while two grown-up sisters worked as bal maidens. There is some suggestion that his parents had migrated during the depressed years of the late 1840s, as his sister Elizabeth had been born in south Wales in 1849.
The household of ten people, including a widowed grandmother in receipt of poor relief and a nephew, had shrunk drastically by 1861, by which time a move had been made to Releath in the parish. Thomas was already working as a ‘tin miner’, probably meaning he was underground by the age of 11.
By 1871 his father had given up mining but Thomas still found mine work available, with the family living at Wheal Sarah in the parish. In 1872 he married Priscilla Woolcock and, between 1878 and 1880 the couple, with their four young children, left Cornwall for the iron mining district of Dalton in Furness. In 1883 the pair then made a further move, across the Atlantic to Michigan. They paid their own way, a classic case of using a spell in northern England as a stepping stone to an overseas move. Incidentally, Thomas had musical talent, becoming a Methodist church choir director in the States.
Charlotte Chinn was also born into a large mining family in the same village of Praze. Charlotte did not travel as far as Thomas Laity, but she travelled nonetheless. In the late 1880s, like many other young women of her time, she left the family home to find work as a domestic servant in Truro. There, she was the sole servant to a mineral agent and his wife in middle-class Lemon Street.
She was still in Truro in 1881 and still a servant to the same family, who had now moved to newer, semi-detached housing in Agar Road on the eastern outskirts of the town. At some point in the 1880s however, she gave up this long-standing association and moved to Exeter. She remained a domestic servant, in 1891 to a solicitor and his family, and remained unmarried. In the meantime, she had also lost four years in age, recorded as 37 rather than the expected 41!