Introduction

Throughout history Cornish people have travelled to all parts of the world, first as seamen and fishermen then as miners, farmers, and workers in other trades. The seamen and fishermen usually returned home, but since the 1600’s Cornishmen have settled in lands across the sea. Some married and had families whilst others took their families with them. Other families moved within the United Kingdom in order to find work – which of course still takes place today.

They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and a look in the old Morrab Library visitors’ book shows that even centuries after families left Cornwall their descendants are still returning to their roots.

This longing has also led to people contacting Morrab Library seeking information on their ancestors. Whilst the library has limited resources with which to help we have created a leaflet which will help guide you.

If you live within travelling distance of the library, you may like to consider becoming a member with the annual subscription being just £30. Those further away can do their research for a daily fee of just £3; however if you wish to research the rare and therefore more valuable archival books and manuscripts, there is a suggested donation of £5 per day for non-members. The archival resources can only be accessed by appointment.

If you are able to visit the Library there are many documents and books which you can use for researching the lifestyle of your ancestors, with around 2,750 of the books being printed before 1801. There is also great research potential in the extensive runs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century periodicals, among which are over a century of Cornish newspapers.

The photographic archive is a must for anyone doing research into Cornwall and its people. The Morrab has one of the finest collections with over 10,000 photographs and negatives of local subjects on file. You can visit the team on Thursday mornings or search for images online. 

All in all family history is a fascinating subject, and whilst it is always exciting to find another name to add to the list, it is also well worth the effort to discover how that person lived. Within the walls of Morrab Library are books, manuscripts and newspapers which will give you that information, and our staff and volunteers will make you welcome.