The Cornish in Latin America

Entrance gate to the Gongo Soco Cemetery Brazil, where many Cornish are buried. Courtesy Marshall Eakin 1997

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Archives and Libraries
The Royal Institution of Cornwall is an archive and reference library based at Truro. The archive contains letter books dating from the early 1830s, written by Alfred Jenkin, Cornish Agent to the Cobre Mining Company (Cuba). Details of recruitment, transportation of men and materials, wage and remittance rates, labour disputes and conditions at Cobre are discussed. The archive has probably the best collection of nineteenth century Cornish photographs, including many mining scenes. 

Cornwall Record Office
at Truro is home to the Harvey Papers, a collection of the incoming correspondence of one of Cornwall's greatest foundries that supplied mining equipment world wide, including Latin America. The letters span the years 1839-1880, but there is a gap during the 1870s. The letters contain orders for a variety of mining machinery and tools, lists of remittances of Cornish workers in Mexico, discussions of miners' contracts, requests for personnel recommendations and workers' wage rates. In addition, there are photocopy transcriptions of some of the work records of the St John del Rey Mining Company, a diary of a Cornish engineer at Cobre, numerous wills, as well as deposited volumes of the Cornish parochial records and some Cornish census returns.

The Cornish Studies Library at Redruth contains the world's best collection of printed and published items relating to the history, geography, customs, industries, language and other aspects of Cornish life. Additional items include Cornish newspapers (on microfilm), the Enumerators Returns for Cornwall of 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881,  1891 and 1901. These are available on microfilm, as are the General Register Office Indexes of Births, Marriages and Deaths from 1837 to 1939. The library has a good collection of Cornish photographs and an almost complete run of the Mining Journal.

The archive of the Trevithick Society, an organisation for everybody interested in industrial archaeology and all aspects of the industrial past in Cornwall, holds the original agreements between Richard Trevithick and the Pasco Mining Company, and Trevithick's contract with Francisco Uville.

The Cornwall Family History Society was formed in 1976 and now has over 5,000 members worldwide. The society maintains a well resourced reading room in Truro and produces a quarterly journal that includes a help page for those looking to track down missing ancestors. 

The National Archives has miscellaneous reports of British births, marriages and deaths that  include Cornish entries, as well as some Foreign Office correspondence which mentions Cornish miners in Cuba. 

The British Library has the world's largest collection of domestic and overseas newspapers that include the Cornish published West Briton, Cornubian and Cornish Post and Mining News, as well as many Latin American newspapers on microfilm.

Archivo Histórico de la Compañía de Minas de Real del Monte y Pachuca holds an extensive collection of material relating to the Cornish. In addition to a fine collection of photographs, the archive contains remittance ledgers, annual reports, work records, share certificates, mining maps and plans dating from the colonial period to the twentieth century.

Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas contains the Alan and Lillie Probert Collection (1687-1987) that includes administrative records and correspondence of the Real del Monte Mines and financial, legal, and technical reports, 1800-1907 which mentions much of Cornish interest. There are also Bolanos mine photographs, maps, and reports as well as Probert articles and extensive research materials on colonial and nineteenth-century mining. In addition, the archive of the St John del Rey Mining Co. Brazil contains records of this British mining company and its town in Minas Gerais, 1830-1960 where the majority of the workforce were Cornish during most of the nineteenth century. It includes annual reports, board minutes, share registers, account books, administrative correspondence, mining reports, maps, plans, contracts, deeds, 1900 photographs, and employee records (wills, baptisms, marriages, deaths).

The Lilly Library Indiana University contains The Illingworth MSS., 1816-1880. In the collection are one hundred and fifteen letters from British engineer Robert Stephenson to Illingworth, mostly written from Mariquita Colombia, between September 1824 and November 1828 on the management of mining affairs in Colombia, mining laws in general and how they could be adapted to conditions in Colombia. Of Cornish interest are fifteen diaries written by Illingworth, kept between 1816 and 1842, on the location of mines, including small sketches and positions of mines, reports, conditions in Colombia in 1829, a list of the staff and miners with comments on their work and character, supplies required, calculations and cost of mines and detailed mining information on the selection and treatment of ores.
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Interesting Web Links
The Cornish Mining Heritage Programme is a new research strategy set up at the Institute of Cornish Studies to
attract academic research funding for projects related to mining history and to build links and enhance synergy with mining heritage organisations both within the UK and overseas in order to deliver quality research.

For an in-depth overview of the international significance of Cornish mining in the C19th and early C20th, visit the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Bid website. This excellent website contains maps generated from a GIS that depict the impact of mining on the landscape of Cornwall and west Devon, as well as detailed information on the socio-economic and cultural impact of rapid industrialisation and de-industrailisation, a selection of photographs, and histories about sites of interest in the proposed bid areas.

The Mining History Network contains a discussion forum, links to other sites and details of conferences. The King Edward Mine and Museum and the Carn Brea Mining Society sites are also worth a visit.

Europamines, the European Mining Heritage Network, exists to advance knowledge, awareness and appreciation of the contributions that mining and quarrying have made to the development of all European nations and cultures.

A website dedicated to the the mining district of Linares-La Carolina is well worth a visit. The Arrayanes Project seeks to protect, conserve, recover and celebrate the mining culture and heritage of this lead mining district of Spain where many Cornish miners worked in the mid nineteenth century and which has one of the most stunning 'Cornish' landscapes anywhere in Europe.

If you are in Cornwall, why not visit one of the country's top mining attractions, the Poldark Mine near Helston. This is a genuine eighteenth century tin mine offering underground access. There are also many items of industrial archaeological interest at the surface of the mine.

The Museo Virtual of the Universidad de Atacama, Copiapó, Chile is maintained by Dr Wolfgang Griem. Although in Spanish and German, is highly recommended as it contains many fascinating facts about the history, geology and location of the old mining areas of Copiapó, Tres Puntas and Chañarcillo, and of the miners who worked them. 

For a wonderful vignette of migration from Cornwall to South America, visit Alan Taylor's superb site, Daffodils Never Hear comprising extracts from his great grandfather's diary, a Cornish miner who went to work in a silver mine in Bolivia in the late nineteenth century.

The Cornish Communities Programme, is a new research initiative at the Institute of Cornish Studies, that details three new projects that focus on migration in many interesting ways: Contrasting Communities, Cornish Transnational Communities and Cornish Language Communities.

For comparative work on British emigration to Latin America, there are many excellent websites. Jeremy Howat's Studies in C19th emigration containing monumental inscriptions, rites of life registers, shipping lists and a section on the Welsh settlers to Patagonia is well worth a visit.  

Genealogists searching for their Cornish ancestors will find the following link of use: Family Trees Online

Neil Hampshire's excellent database of Brits in South America is very useful. The South AmericanGenWeb Project  is an on-line data repository for queries, family histories, and source records as well as being resource center to identify other on-line databases and resources to assist researchers.  It is the regional branch of the WorldGenWeb Project.

The Irish Argentine Historical Society website details passenger lists, general information, biographies, photographs and much more. there is also a site devoted to the Scots in Argentina.

You can subscribe to a discussion list dedicated to South America, putting subscribe in the subject line. 

An excellent new web-site in Spanish is dedicated to the Celts and Celtic activities in South America, created by Susana Shanahan and Rolando Rios, that links the different Celtic communities from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

There are many Cornish associations worldwide with dedicated websites. 
See the New Zealand Cornish Association  and the Cornish Association of Western Australia.

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Educational Links
If you want to learn more about Cornwall and its history, the Institute of Cornish Studies of the University of Exeter in Cornwall runs numerous distance courses, including an MA in Cornish Studies.

Camborne School of Mines, School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources, University of Exeter, offers a unique portfolio of undergraduate, postgraduate and research degree programmes related to the understanding of and management of the Earth’s natural processes, resources and the environment.

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