In the copper slump of the 1860s it was the mining parishes which were hardest hit by mass emigration. In the eighteen months ending December 1867, over 11,000 had lost their jobs in the mining districts of Cornwall and West Devon. Many were proud of their skills and emigrated to North and South America, South Africa or Australia. These 'Cousin Jacks' sent money to their families who remained at home. Others took their families with them, so that there are now Cornish communities in most of the metal mining centres of the world. There is much truth in the saying that wherever there is a mine there is a Cornishman at the bottom of it (Source - Cornwall’s Mining Heritage - Peter Stainer).

Meanwhile my ancestors found work in other mining districts in Britain.

My interest in genealogy began on the death of my mother JENNIE TAYLOR (nee MARTIN). JENNIE had a keen interest in her roots and had obviously questioned her close family. Amongst her possessions I discovered she had produced a handful of family trees handwritten on foolscap detailing her maternal line to four generations. These trees were punctuated with question marks and contained suggested maiden names along with several scribbled anecdotes; these have proved to be surprisingly accurate.

JENNIE’S knowledge of her paternal line however was quite limited and consisted of a handwritten note the main points of which follow.

  • 1. Granda JOHN I think MARTIN, married a Marske lady. She was rather like aunt Lib in looks Grandpa told Gran SWAINSON.
  • 2. JOHN had brothers and one of them GEORGE migrated to Australia where he died before 1926.
  • 3. Father GEORGE HENRY was born in a little village nr. Mount Snowdon in Wales.

A marriage certificate was also found which confirmed the following.


GEORGE HENRY MARTIN: Age 20: Miner: Moor’s Yard, Belmont Gate. Father JOHN MARTIN, Miner, married EDITH ELEANOR SWAINSON: Age 20: 15, Belmont Gate. Father JOSEPH SWAINSON, Mason. in The Parish Church of Guisborough, on Third December 1898.

A short time later I took my first genealogical steps and found the family on the 1891 census at Guisborough.


This was obviously the correct family and I then searched the 1871 and 1881 censuses for Great Ayton, Guisborough and Marske. With no success.

The computer then came to my aid. I purchased the 1881 British Census on CD from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

There it was:


From the above it would appear the family might have been in Camborne at the time of the 1871 census. i.e.
JOHN son age 9 born Camborne.

I had also discovered had a searchable 1871-census database for Cornwall so back to the computer and sure enough there they were

Parish Crowan; District 1; Schedule 052
Name Position Marital
In Family Status Age
MARTIN, HELLECE Daughter - 2

More info on above names:
MARTIN, ELIZ - 1846 BREAGE, Cornwall
MARTIN, HELLECE - 1869 MARSKE, Yorkshire

This is our family confirmed by Hellece's birth in Marske Yorkshire. Johns wife Elizabeth (Granda JOHN I think MARTIN, married a Marske lady) it was now apparent also hailed from Cornwall.

Back to conventional methods. Around this time I joined the Cornwall Family History Society. I ordered a copy of the 1871 Census entry and also the relevant 1851 Cornwall Census Surname Index Volumes covering Breage and Camborne Parishes. Followed by a request to Camborne Library for copies of the original transcripts.

I had also by this time consulted St Catherines Indexes for JOHN senior (too many registered at Redruth around this time to be sure), and GEORGE HENRY with no success.

Again computer genealogy came to my rescue. I had become aware of FREE BDM from a distant cousin researching my father’s line. After trying many names being researched (with limited success).

I entered the name of my Great Aunt BERTHA MARTIN and was presented with a very likely possibility Registered at Guisborough in the March Quarter of 1874. Living in Guisborough I paid an immediate visit to the Register Office and returned with a copy of BERTHA’S Birth Certificate dated 14th January 1874 giving the following information: At New Marske BERTHA Girl : Father JOHN MARTIN : Mother ELIZABETH MARTIN formerly DAW. Two days later I searched BDM again this time for the marriage of JOHN MARTIN at Guisborough and found it in the June Quarter of 1868 with an ELIZABETH DOW shown on the same page.


This certificate contains some incongruities. Firstly both parents are shown as Ironstone Miners. There is no evidence that either ever mined Ironstone although both were certainly miners. Secondly ELIZABETH’S maiden name is shown as DOW. Neither ELIZABETH nor SAMUEL DOW (presumably her brother born circa 1847) signed the register both leaving their marks. My speculation is their Cornish dialect was misinterpreted by Charles King the Registrar.
John MARTIN Elizabeth Stephen DAWE

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