On Tuesday 3 January 1798 my husband Greg’s 4th great grandparents John Gilbart, 38 years old, and Elizabeth Huthnance considerably younger at 23, were married by licence at Gwinear, near Hayle in south-west Cornwall. Elizabeth was from Gwinear; John was from the village of St Erth, a few miles southwest. Neither had been married previously . Both were able to sign their name. The witnesses to the union were Henry Huthnance, who was probably Elizabeth’s brother, and a man called William Ninnis. The vicar was Malachy Hitchins, a notable amateur astonomer.
John was an employee of the Cornish Copper Company (CCC), who had been promoted from a position in the firm at Copperhouse near Hayle to manage the Rolling Mills at St Erth. The St Erth battery mill, constructed in 1782, used water-powered machinery to roll copper into sheets, much of it used to sheath the hulls of naval vessels.
For most of the nineteenth century the Gilbarts were prominent St Erth Methodists. John Gilbart was a member of the first Copperhouse Methodist Society and the founder, in 1783, of the St Erth Methodist Class. At the time of John and Elizabeth’s marriage, English law recognised only marriages conducted under the auspices of the Church of England, by Quakers, or under Jewish law. This is probably why the marriage was performed in the Church of England and not the Methodist Chapel. Methodism began as a reform sect within the Church of England.
John Gilbart died in 1837. Four years later, Elizabeth Gilbart, 65, of ‘independent means’, was recorded in the 1841 census as living in Battery Mill, St Erth. In the same household were six, all unmarried, of her 13 children, and one grand-daughter who, perhaps, was there visiting her grandmother. The household also included a 15 year old female servant.
Elizabeth Gilbart died on 1 July 1847. Her death was noted in the Royal Cornwall Gazette of 9 July 1847. A similar notice appeared in the West Briton newspaper of 16 July 1847:
At St. Erth, on Thursday, Elizabeth, the relict of Capt. John Gilbert, of St. Erth Battery Mills, aged 73 years.
(John’s title of captain is one that is used in the mini industry and has no military or naval significance.)
Elizabeth left a will, proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 18 December 1847. Her bequests included annuities to be provided for various children, specific books, and furniture.
Who were the parents of Thomas Edwards 1794 – 1871?
Thomas Edwards was one of the 3rd great grandfathers of my husband Greg. He died suddenly, of “congestion of the brain”, on 7 January 1871 at Bungaree, near Ballarat, Victoria. An inquest was held two days later. The coroner, who seems to have been advised by a member of the family, was the informant on Thomas’s death certificate.
Thomas Edwards, born about 1794, was 77 years old when he died. He had been a wheelwright. His parents are recorded on his death certificate as John Edwards and Jane Edwards nee Gilbert. Thomas’s father was a labourer. Thomas had been born in Cornwall and had spent 22 years in Victoria. He had married Mary Gilbart at the age of 33, in about 1827. Eight children – 6 boys and 2 girls – are noted, but their names and ages are not given.
There is only one baptism for a Thomas Edwards about 1794 in south-west Cornwall: Thomas, son of John and Jane Edwards, was baptised on 6 July 1794 at Towednack, a village 5 miles north-west of St Erth.
Thomas Edwards married Mary Gilbart on 14 March 1826 in the parish church of St Erth. If he was 77 when he died in 1871, he was about 32 in 1826 when he married Mary Gilbart. The witnesses to the marriage were John Gilbart and Sarah Gilbart, both of them probably relatives of the bride.
The dates on Thomas Edwards’s death certificate are consistent with those on the Lysander passenger manifest and the marriage record.
Marriage of John and Jane Edwards, parents of Thomas
I am unable to find a marriage for a John Edwards and a Jane Gilbert or Gilbart. Some online trees have John Edwards as the husband of Jane Harvey, with their marriage on 21 June 1788 at Breage. On that marriage John is from Breage and a tinner by rank or profession, Jane Harvey is from Germoe. The witnesses were Thomas Edwards and Thomas Johns. Germoe is less than three miles west of Breage. I think this is the likely marriage of Thomas’s parents and that Thomas’s death certificate incorrectly gives his mother’s maiden name.
Siblings of Thomas Edwards
As stated above Thomas, child of John and Jane Edwards was baptised 6 July 1794 at Towednack, Cornwall. Between 1788 and 1820 there were only two other children baptised at Towednack to parents named John and Jane Edwards:
William baptised on 7 August 1796
Honour baptised on 21 October 1798
It seems unlikely that the John and Jane Edwards who were married in 1788 had only three children and that the first, Thomas, was born six years after marriage. I looked for other baptisms in south-west Cornwall for parents John and Jane Edwards in the period 1788 – 1820.
The neighbouring parish of Lelant also records baptisms of children with parents John and Jane Edwards. However, because some of these are in 1794, 1797, and 1798, thus overlapping with the children born to the Towednack family, it appears that the Lelant baptisms are for a separate family.
On 26 December 1805 there is a baptism of a Sarah Edwards to John and Jane Edwards at Breage, 7 miles south-east of St Erth and 12 miles south-east of Towednack. It is also the marriage place of John Edwards and Jane Harvey.
There is a baptism of Charlotte Edwards on 4 May 1810 at Gulval. Gulval is just under five miles south of Towednack and just under 6 miles south-west of St Erth.
Some online family trees suggest a James Edwards born about 1805 is also the child of John and Jane Edwards, however I have not located a baptism for him with a mother named Jane in the indexes of the Cornwall Parish Records (Online Parish Clerk OPC) database. I have found a baptism for James in Germoe on 4 March 1804 with father John and mother Jenifred; Jenifred is possibly a variation of Jane. There was also an Anne Edwards, daughter of John and Jenifred baptised at Germoe on 2 May 1802.
I am puzzled though that there were apparently no children born to that marriage before 1794. However, the list of all Cornish baptisms on the OPC database to parents John and Jane Edwards has no other likely candidates for these baptisms in the period 1788 – 1794.
But there is a John Edwards baptised in Gulval on 23 November 1788. His mother’s name is not given. On 28 November 1790 there is a baptism at Madron, a village two miles west of Gulval, for Francis Edwards son of John, also without the mother’s name. On 24 June 1792 Jane Edwards, daughter of John, was baptised at Madron, again without the mother’s name. On 9 May 1806 Elizabeth, daughter of John (no mother named) was baptised at Penzance. She appears on the Madron register. I think it very likely that these four children are siblings of Thomas.
To summarise, the possible family of John Edwards and Jane:
23 November 1788
28 November 1790
24 June 1792
6 July 1794
John and Jane
7 August 1796
John and Jane
21 October 1798
John and Jane
2 May 1802
John and Jenifred
4 March 1804
John and Jenifred
26 December 1805
John and Jane
4 March 1810
John and Jane
Two of Thomas’s siblings, James and Charlotte, emigrated to Victoria, arriving in Portland on the Oithona in 1855 with their spouses and some of their children. Unfortunately, the death certificates for James and Charlotte give no details of their mother.
John, Francis, Jane, William, Honour, and Anne Edwards died in Cornwall. English death certificates do not record information about the deceased person’s parents and so will not help to confirm details of John and Jane Edwards.
I am yet to trace whether Sarah Edwards married or emigrated, and when she died.
Deaths of John and Jane Edwards
In May 1817 there was a mining accident at St Ives which killed John Edwards and injured one of his sons. The Royal Cornwall Gazette of 31 May 1817 reported:
A few days ago, John Edwards, of the parish of St. Erth, was killed, and his son for the present deprived of his eyesight by the untimely explosion of a hole in a mine near St. Ives. A person who called at the house of the survivor, was informed at the accident was occasioned by the use of an iron tamper, the powder and quills and a little rubbish had been put into the hole, but it had not been wet swabbed. It is to be hoped that this distressing event will deter all others from the use of such dangerous implements, and induce them to adopt such means of safety as [article ceases]
John Edwards was buried 24 May 1817 at Gulval. His residence was St Erth and he was 54 years old [so born about 1763].
On the 1841 census a Jane Edwards age 75 was living in St Erth in the household of William and Charlotte Thomas; Charlotte was Jane’s daughter. On 10 May 1842 Jane Edwards, age 76, was buried at St Erth.
The 1871 death certificate of Thomas Edwards seems reliable, though his mother’s maiden name appears wrong, possibly confused with his wife’s maiden name. His mother was probably Jane Harvey who married Thomas’s father John Edwards in 1788. John and Jane Edwards lived in the area of Gulval, Towednack, and Germoe in south-west Cornwall. They had ten children .
The aim of the group is to help people research their Cornish family history. To get the most from it, you should already have some well-based knowledge about your Cornish ancestors. If you join only because your DNA tests report likely Cornish ancestry you will probably find that it won’t help you much. You need to have done some research about your Cornish connection.
You can join through Facebook or directly from GEDMatch. On Facebook you give your GEDMatch number and information about your Cornish roots.
The group spreadsheet lists the kits of those who have joined, in kit number order, with details – where these are known – of Facebook name, Ancestry.com username, and Cornish surnames associated with the kit.
The first step is to log on to GEDMatch and go to the Ancestor Projects page. Run the report with your kit number. I usually do this with matches > 10 centimorgans (cM). The default setting is > 7 cM, but this can produce matches where the relationship is too distant to trace or where the shared DNA is not genealogically significant.
The GEDMatch home page showing the reports I most frequently run: orange arrow is Ancestor Projects; blue arrow is One-to-One Autosomal DNA Comparison; green arrow is People who match both, or 1 of 2 kits
You then take a screenshot of the report and post it to the Facebook group. If you find correspondences between people in your tree and in the trees of other people in the group, you tag your matches in the post. This you do by typing the @ symbol in the post and then start typing the name. You then choose from the people who pop up in the list. You add the screenshot to your post by selecting the green picture icon shown at the bottom of the screen.
Not all matches from the Cornish Emigrants Ancestor GEDMatch group are on Facebook, for some people join from GEDMatch directly. You will have to email these matches yourself.
To get the most out of trying to connect with others, it is a good idea to upload your tree to GEDMatch. If you find correspondences it will be worth looking at the trees of the people where your matches occur. The tree icon on the GEDMatch report shows if your match has uploaded a tree to GEDMatch.
If the match is a Cornish Emigrants match, I look at any Cornish ancestry in both trees. The connection, of course, might be from some other part of our familys’ ancestries, not necessarily Cornish and/or not displayed on these trees.
I also look at DNA Painter to see if the shared segment is one I have already painted and for whom I have identified an ancestor. This might give me a clue as to where our connection occurs.
Example of the detail from DNAPainter looking at segments already identified associated with particular ancestors
I run the GEDMatch report of people who match both kits, and look to identify shared matches where I know the connection. (See screenshot above of GEDMatch home page and report identified with green arrow.)
GEDMatch of report of both kits. If I can identify a shared match then I start to have an idea about where on my family tree I should be looking for common ancestors with the other kit.
If my match and I both tested through AncestryDNA then I use the tools on that site to explore the connection, if there is one, between our family trees and to review our shared matches. I also do this with FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage. The different sites have different tools, but all of them allow you to review shared matches and family trees
that have been uploaded.
Companies that offer genealogical DNA analysis usually provide tools to interpret the data, and you can use these tools to explore matches between you and people you share DNA with. If they appear on a public family tree you can try to connect to it from your own. If the tree is complete you will probably be able to find your most recent common ancestors.
You may also be able to find your more distant cousins by joining a project, a group of people working together to explore their common ancestry.
A Facebook group for researching shared Cornish ancestry
GEDMatch.com processes autosomal DNA data files from different testing companies to compare data derived from their DNA kits (‘autosomal’ means ‘concerning chromosomes that are not sex chromosomes’).
GEDMatch provides DNA analysis tools for genealogists, including tools for comparing your DNA test results with those of other people in the GEDMatch public database.
To use these tools you must first upload your DNA test results to GEDMatch. GEDMatch accepts results from the main testing databases at Ancestry.com, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, and 23 and Me.
A recent tool is Ancestor Projects. There are 38 projects presently registered WITH GEDMatch. Project members have DNA characteristics with whatever common trait or ancestry the project intends to explore. There are projects for royal pedigrees, deaf people, and connections from certain counties in Ireland.
GEDMatch home screen showing link to Ancestor Projects and also where to upload your family tree
I have joined the project for Cornish emigrants, which aims to identify DNA of emigrants from Cornwall. Greg has Cornish forebears. Members include people with GEDMatch kits who are descended from Cornish people who emigrated or from Cornish people who currently live in Cornwall. The new GEDMatch project tool allows the identification of matches and analysis of shared segments of DNA, with results limited to members within the group. The group shares information and communicates within a closed Facebook group.
So having joined the project what next?
If you are going to join a group I think it is a good idea to attach your family tree to your GEDMatch kit. You can upload your family tree to GEDMatch in the format of a GEDCom file which is a standard file type and which you can export from whichever program you currently keep your family tree in. You can create a link between a DNA kit and a person in your GEDcom. If you manage several DNA kits and they all relate to one family tree you can link the different kits to the right people on the family tree. The names and dates of living people are not shown when the tree is displayed in GEDMatch.
In the ‘Cornish Emigrants’ Facebook group we have a spreadsheet for sharing details. This shows who in the group is associated with which kit. It also lists the Cornish surnames in our family tree and details of our forebears who emigrated from Cornwall.
Surnames worksheet on Cornish Emigrants spreadsheet
One of the sheets from the Cornish Emigrants project shared spreadsheet
People in the group can run a report in GEDMatch to see which kits match their own and then begin a conversation to find connections.
An example of a report from the Cornish GEDMatch Ancestor Project
The group started at the beginning of August. It has already gained 119 users and 182 kits.
Not everybody in the GEDMatch group is connected to Facebook and the discussion there but most members are.
I hope that by connecting with this project’s group members I will be able to extend our family tree and learn more about our family history.
AncestryDNA has identified that Greg has Cornish DNA. Working on a GEDMatch project helps to find people with Cornish DNA and also an interest in following up on their family history from Cornwall.
The plaque was to honour Reverend Francis Tuckfield (1808 – 1865) and his wife, Sarah Tuckfield nee Gilbart (1808 – 1854), who threw their house open to passengers from the Larpent who had been afflicted by fever.
Francis Tuckfield, portrait in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia
Sarah Tuckfield, portrait in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia
The Larpent had arrived in Geelong on 28 June 1849. Among the passengers was James Oddie (1824 – 1911) with his wife and child. The Larpent’s emigrants had been selected by the Presbyterian minister John Dunmore Lang, a promoter of emigration. During the voyage many passengers became ill with what was thought to be typhoid. Sadly both Oddie’s wife and child died.
James Oddie was among the earliest gold miners arriving at the newly opened Ballarat diggings in August 1851. He became very rich and was later a great philanthropist. He founded the Art Gallery of Ballarat. His portrait hangs there.
On 1 May we drove to Fowey (rhymes with ‘joy’). To get there from Looe we took the Boddinick Ferry across the River Fowey. It was nice to be close to the sea and the weather was cheerful.
We parked at the top of the town and walked down.
In a shop I bumped into my cousin. I hadn’t seen her since we were both children, but we recognised each other. She took me to see her parents. We had already planned to have lunch together in Staffordshire a week later.
After Fowey we drove on to Lanhydrock, a National Trust property. When we visited 30 years ago we put it down as a ‘must revisit’.
We also enjoyed revisiting Trerice, another National Trust house.
Members of the congregation also generously took us to a house on Battery Mill Lane nearby built by Greg’s 4th great grandfather, John Gilbart (1760 – 1837). We also walked around the Anglican churchyard where John and his wife Elizabeth are buried.
In the afternoon we had lunch at Penzance then drove to Land’s End and the Lizard. We intended to visit Helston too but got delayed by a traffic accident and ran out of time.
Our final destination was Looe in Cornwall. We had been warned about the narrow lane :
As you can see from the photos, we are lucky enough to enjoy a stunning view of the picturesque harbour from all the rooms on the front of the house and the front decking. However, it’s necessary to negotiate a very steep,narrowand windy privatelaneto access the house (you have to pay for those views one way or another!). … This very typically ‘Cornish’lane [is] very tight and not for the faint-hearted.
The views were terrific but the warning was serious, our dashboard lit up and the warning sounds were very musical.
My husband’s fourth great grandfather John Gilbart, born about 1760, was a Cornish Copper Company (CCC) employee, promoted from Copperhouse near Hayle in West Cornwall to manager at the Rolling Mills at St Erth.
Cornish copper mining was at its most productive in the nineteenth century, declining as copper prices fell, from the mid-nineteenth century on. The Cornish Copper Company commenced smelting at Camborne in 1754. From 1758 it was located on the Hayle estuary, ten miles to the southwest. The mills at St Erth used water power to roll copper into thin sheets.
These sheets were used mainly to plate the bottoms of wooden ships. Coppering helped to prevent barnacles growing. This increased a ship’s speed and its lifespan. It also prevented worms from burrowing into the wood and weakening it. Sheathing with copper significantly increased the time a ship could remain in service between overhauls. It was held copper sheathing could double the number of ships at sea at any time”. In 1779 each ship on average required 15 tonnes of copper applied on average as 300 plates. The 14 tons of metal required to copper a 74-gunthird-rateship of the line still cost £1500, compared to £262 for wood. The benefits of increased speed and time at sea were deemed to justify the costs involved.
The ‘Royal Caroline’ painted by John Cleveley and in the collection of National Maritime Museum Greenwich. HMS ‘Alderney’ (1757) was built to the same shape and dimensions. In 1784 the ‘Alderney’ was described on Lloyd’s Register as being copper sheathed.
The Battery Mill ceased in 1809 when the Cornish Copper Company closed.
The chapel includes a monument to Francis Tuckfield (1808-1865), who was one of the first of the few missionaries who attempted to convert Australian Aboriginals to Christian belief.
In 1837 Francis Tuckfield married Sarah Gilbart of Battery Mill, the daughter of John Gilbart. They departed for Australia less than a month later.
Picture of plaque kindly sent to me by the St Erth Methodist Church
The chapel also includes a monument to James Gilbart (1825 – 1923), grandson of John Gilbart. The plaque mentions John Gilbart “who built the first chapel at St Erth in 1783”.
John Gilbart died in 1837.
Row of houses in Battery Mill Lane The three houses were probably the count house and managers’ houses for the former Battery Mill (which used water power to roll copper). Image from https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3106054
In 1841 my husband Greg’s fourth great grandmother Elizabeth Gilbart nee Huthnance (1774-1847) was living in Battery Mill, St Erth. Her age was stated to be 65. Her occupation was given as ‘independent means’. In the same household were six of her 13 children, at the time all six unmarried:
John Gilbart aged 40.
Thomasine Gilbart aged 30.
Margerey Gilbart aged 25.
William Gilbart aged 25, iron factor.
Thomas Gilbart aged 25, farmer.
Jane Gilbart aged 20.
In the same household was Elizabeth Gilbart’s grand-daughter, Elizabeth Edwards, aged 9. Elizabeth Edwards was the daughter of Mary Edwards nee Gilbart, Greg’s 3rd great grandmother. The Edwards family which included five other children lived in Bridge Terrace St Erth. Perhaps Elizabeth was just visiting her grandmother overnight.
The household also included a female servant, Elizabeth Davey, aged 15.
James Gilbart, an iron factor, the son of Elizabeth Gilbart, lived in the adjacent cottage with his wife Ann Gilbart nee Ellis, aged 50, and two daughters, Ann Gilbart aged 14 and Maria Gilbart aged 10.
(These ages may not be strictly correct. In the 1841 census the census takers were instructed to give the exact ages of children but to round the ages of those older than 15 down to a lower multiple of 5. For example, a 59-year-old person would be listed as 55.)
Elizabeth Gilbart died on 1 July 1847, leaving a will that was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 18 December 1847. Her will mentioned annuities to be provided for various children, specific books and furniture
Pascoe, W. H CCC, the history of the Cornish Copper Company. Truran, Redruth, Cornwall, 1982.
1841 census viewed through ancestry.com: Elizabeth Gilbart: Class: HO107; Piece: 144; Book: 1; Civil Parish: St Erth; County: Cornwall; Enumeration District: 5; Folio: 72; Page: 19; Line: 12; GSU roll: 241266 ; Mary Edwards Class: HO107; Piece: 144; Book: 1; Civil Parish: St Erth; County: Cornwall; Enumeration District: 5; Folio: 69; Page: 13; Line: 1; GSU roll: 241266
Will of Elizabeth Gilbart proved 18 December 1847 viewed through ancestry.com The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 2066
I was surprised to find that in the eighteenth century my Fonnereau forebears had owned Lizard Point and my that 7th great uncle Thomas Fonnereau (1699 – 1779) had built the lighthouse there.
Thomas Fonnereau was the brother of my 6th great grandmother Anne Champion de Crespigny nee Fonnereau (1704 – 1782). They were the children of Huguenot refugees, Claude Fonnereau (1677 – 1740) and Elizabeth Fonnereau nee Bureau (1670 – 1735). Both Claude and Elizabeth were born in La Rochelle and came to England as children; they married in London in 1698. Claude Fonnereau was a Hamburg merchant who made his fortune in the linen trade. He left large landed estates to Thomas, and considerable monetary legacies to him and the other children.
A lighthouse was first built on Lizard Point in 1619. Sir John Killigrew of Arwenack obtained a patent from James I and built it the same year. Local people objected : “The inabytants neer by,” wrote Killigrew, “think they suffer by this erection. They affirme I take away God’s grace from them. Their English meaning is that now they shall receve no more benefitt by shipwreck, for this will prevent yt. They have been so long used to repe profitt by the calamyties of the ruin of shipping that they clayme it heredytarye, and heavely complayne on me.” Trinity House, which at that time was enabled to set up sea marks but did not have a monopoly on maintaining lighthouses, is said to have strenuously opposed the lighthouse, alleging it was both useless and objectionable. Trinity House’s concerns apparently included that “the light will be a Pilot to a forrayne enymie to carrye them to a place of safe landynge”. It may also be relevant that Killegrew had been accused of piracy.
The light was maintained by Sir John for a number of years with the assistance of some voluntary contributions. It appears his patent was not entered in the rolls and in 1623 the patent was questioned in the Star Chamber and probably failed. By 1631 the light had gone.
There were several petitions to erect lights on the Lizard in the 1660s. One, in 1664 by Sir John Coryton, was to erect lighthouses at the Isle of Wight, Portland Road, Rame Head, and the Lizard Point. Sir John was to “receive 6d. Per ton on all strangers’ vessels anchoring between the Isle of Wight and Mounts Bay.” His petition, as with many others, did not succeed.
Thomas Fonnereau was successful in being granted a patent to build a lighthouse at the Lizard. The patent is dated 22 May 1751 and the light was first shown on 22 August 1752.
Fonnereau erected the lighthouse and paid an annual lease. In return he received dues from shipping that benefitted from the lighthouse. The patent gave permission for the building of the lighthouse, set the lease and authorised the collection and remittance of dues. In this period, the erection of a lighthouse was purely a business proposition, not a generous gesture of disinterested help to passing vessels.
In his 1838 Parochial History of Cornwall Gilbert Davies wrote of Thomas Fonnereau: “Mr Fonnereau came into Cornwall as an adventurer chiefly for the purpose of constructing Lighthouses on the Lizard Point, under one of the improvident grants which were frequently made in those times.”
Fonnereau’s initial lease was for 61 years but Trinity House took over responsibility for the lighthouse in 1771.
To distinguish it from the Scilly light which had one tower and later the Guernsey lighthouses which had three towers, the Lizard light had two towers These are 61 feet high, with bases 168 feet above sea level. In 1870 the lights could be seen at a distance of 21 miles.
Until 1813, the Lizard lights were coal fired. An overlooker from a vantage point between the two towers would supervise the brightness of the fires. His contribution was to remind the bellows workers of their duties by sounding a cow horn if the fires dimmed.
In 1813 oil replaced coal, and in 1878 coal in turn was replaced by electricity. Around 1902 the lights were reduced to one powerful revolving electric beam, said to be the strongest in the world, which was visible for twenty-three miles. It showed once in every three seconds. It is aided in foggy weather by foghorns, said to have a very dismal call. The Lizard lighthouse was automated in 1998 and now displays a flashing white light visible for 26 miles.
Davies, Gilbert. “The Parochial History of Cornwall, Founded on the Manuscript Histories of Mr. Hals and Mr. Tonkin; with Additions and Various Appendices : Gilbert, Davies, 1767-1839 : first published 1838.”
digitised by Archive.org, retrieved from archive.org/details/parochialhistory02gilbuoft/page/358.