On the Cornish history trail

On the first day of November, at the historic Fowey Hotel, we ate lunch in sunshine watching the river and looking across to Polruan, Cornwall. We were visiting for a couple of days holiday, but also on the trail of ancestors of my Grandfather, Sydney Bartlett, who lived here for many generations.

1-IMG_1982After lunch we took the little vehicle ferry across the river to Bodinnick,  by Daphne du Maurier’s house, and negotiating steep, narrow wooded lanes, we came to the ancient church of St Wyllow at Lanteglos -by -Fowey, Polruan.


Generations of Pearns dating from 1645 appear in the records for this Parish, all family of Sydney’s great great grandfather William Pearn.  In 1792, Willam Pearn, mariner, married Hannah Leavis. Sadly William died only 8 years later, and Hannah was left a widow, although she later married again to a Richard Cossentine. This is me standing by Hannah’s grave – my 4 x great grandmother (I look worried, but I was quite chuffed to have found it!)1-IMG_1989

” Beneath this turf lies the mortal remains of Hannah the beloved wife of R. Cossentine and widow of Wm. Pearn who died the 6 of July 1828 aged 55 years. In justice to her memory it can be truly said that SHE Livd belovd and died regretted. A tribute of respect to a dearly beloved wife and a tender MOTHER”

Two generations later William and Hannah Pearn’s grand daughter, Catherine, married William Bartlett, a young carpenter. The Bartlett family had also lived in this area for many generations, and the next stage of our exploration was to search for clues for this part of the family.


4 responses to “On the Cornish history trail

  1. Hello Cousin,
    I just found this blog entry of yours while hunting around on Google, and wanted to let you know that Hannah Leaves and William Pearn were my 4X great grandparents through their daughter, Elizabeth Pearn Dyer, who is also buried at St. Wyllow. I am a life-long Northern Californian and have never (yet) been to the UK, but I have been studying genealogy for decades and have become very interested in tracing my ancestral history in the Lanteglos-by-Fowey parish. A 2nd cousin and her husband visited there a couple of years ago, and she sent me many photos and images of pages from the St. Wyllow burial records, and I’ve been gradually delving into http://www.cornwall-opc-database.org/, findagrave.com and ancestry.com and matching information, and putting puzzle pieces together. Here is a link to a Findagrave.com memorial page that I created recently for Elizabeth Pearn Dyer: http://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GScid=2418643&GRid=160750174&
    All the best,
    David Berry

    • Hello David
      Thank you for stopping by, and commenting here.
      Fascinating that we share 4x great grandparents! I have lived in the UK all my life but that visit in November 2014 was my first time in the Fowey area of Cornwall. Most of my research has been done through this amazing tool, the Internet. I have found the Cornwall OPC website useful in tracing the Pearn family back a few more generations. Thanks for the find a grave link too.
      I wonder how your line of the family came to be in North America, do you know the story?
      Best wishes

      • Hello Cilla,
        It appears that you visited our great great great great grandmother’s gave a couple of months after my cousin Margaret and her husband were there. He spent about an hour cleaning her gravestone, which is why it looked so comparatively spiffy when you saw it.
        Here is the story of how my branch of the Pearn line made it from Polruan to the California coast and how I found my way to your blog today: Your 4X great aunt Elizabeth Pearn and Thomas Dyer had eight children, the second of whom was my great great grandmother, Mary. She married Henry Bray about 1835. He was said to have been from Cornwall or Devon, but so far I don’t know anything about his family. Supposedly, he was not related to James Bray, who married Mary’s younger sister Diana. Henry was a Chief Petty Officer in the British Navy and served at several Coastguard stations on the Irish coast. He and Mary had 11 children, the youngest of whom was my great grandfather, Richard Dyer Bray.
        Henry Bray died 6 July 1864 at the Coastguard Station at Greencastle, Donegal, Ireland, while serving as Chief Officer. By then, their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was a grown woman and living back in Polruan with grandmother Elizabeth Pearn Dyer; and the second eldest, Mary, had married, emigrated to the USA and settled in Chicago with her husband, Richard Charles Cook. They must have been rather prosperous, because in 1865, the widow Mary Bray and eight of her children set sail from Devonport to the USA and moved in with them. They traveled to Chicago on a train bringing Union soldiers home from the Civil War. Richard Cook’s father, Egbert Cornelius Cook, who had served with Henry Bray at at least one Coastguard station on the west coast of Ireland, also emigrated and moved in with them at some point.
        In 1869, Henry and Mary’s second-youngest child, Margaret Harvey Bray, married James Noble Ward in Chicago, and then set out with him, his mother, and two of his brothers for the north coast of California. The 1870 census shows them settled on the remote and isolated Mendocino County coast (still remote and isolated today). James was an engineer and built steam engines for the saw mills, and eventually, the family went into ranching along the coast.
        Meanwhile, back in Chicago, my great grandfather Richard had completed his apprenticeship as a machinist and steam engineer, and went west to join his sister and his family on the Mendocino coast in the late 1870s. He must have missed city life, because in October, 1882, he was about 200 miles north in the bustling little coastal town of Crescent City, CA (my birthplace), and married to my great grandmother, Rebecca Elizabeth Moore. In the early 1890’s, his sister Margaret (“Aunt Maggie”) and her husband James and their nine surviving children left the ranch and joined him in Crescent City. He lived there until his death at age 80 in 1933, and for 44 years was Chief Engineer at Hobbs-Wall, the largest lumber mill in that area. His daughter, Violet Bray (1889-1978) married George Thomas Berry(1889-1967), and they were my grandparents. She was the one who sparked my fascination with genealogy when I was a boy by telling me the old family stories and showing me the old family photos that went back to 1854. About 20 years ago when online genealogy was first launched, I jumped on board and began comparing the notes, photos and memories that I had inherited with what what I was finding online, and the rest, as they say, is history…
        If you have an Ancestry.com membership, you can find my family tree here: http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/22579409/family?usePUBJs=true
        I hope this didn’t turn out to be more than you asked for!
        Best regards,

  2. Fascinating stuff David. I love discovering stories of other people’s lives, and am constantly amazed at the courage of so many who pioneered new lifestyles in remote places. Thanks again.

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