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 1600s 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.

There is a saying that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and a look in the 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 the Morrab Library from overseas seeking information on their ancestors. Whilst the Library would like to help, unfortunately we do not have the staff available to get involved in research of this kind. Instead, we have made some information available on this web site.

If you are therefore unable to travel to the library, you will find a link here giving information on some Cornish parishes. In some of these you will find links to people who have volunteered to act as the On Line Parish Clerk for that particular parish. The Online Parish Clerks scheme was started in Cornwall and is the most advanced, however, please remember that they are volunteers and whilst they make no charge a word of thanks is always appreciated. We must point out that whilst this scheme is not directly linked to the Library we are grateful for the help they provide. The OPC’s are now making transcripts of later records available to the Library and these will be available on disk for those who wish to use the libraries computer or who bring their laptop with them.

You will also find a Family History Link page where we have again tried to provide you with links to information on researching your family tree. Here you will find links which will enable you to search on-line for your ancestors free of charge.

Some of you may live within travelling distance of the Library. If so, it is well worth becoming a member with the yearly 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 searches can only be done by appointment in order that a member of the library staff can be present. To make an appointment please telephone the library on +44 ( 0) 1736 364474.

If you are able to visit the Library there are lots of documents and books which you can use for researching the lifestyle of your ancestors, 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. There are seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Parliamentary Reports, nineteenth-century Blue Books and Historic Manuscript Commission Reports.

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. These can be viewed only on a Thursday: please book in advance.

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 the Morrab Library are books, manuscripts and newspapers which will give you that information, and what is more our staff and volunteers will make you welcome.