’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: September

Sometimes, You Don’t Have to be Searching to Make a Fascinating Family Find

Family Tree

I work at an educational institution and my department hires student tour guides. Because many students take 2 year programs, we will usually have guides for about a year and then they move on.

One guide in particular, Andrew Leaman, took several programs in a row so he was with us for a few years.  In the beginning, assuming he would be with us a short time, I only made small talk with him and smiled when I saw him since I didn’t expect to know him long.  As he became more of a familiar face sticking around over the course of his various programs, conversations lasted longer and my team got to know him a bit more.  Come to find out, he was a graduate of the same high school as me and came from my home town. That, of course, led to chat about what we had in common from old haunts to people we knew.  He brought in treats once in a while and we all developed a respect for him as he grew as a tour guide.  Later, he became a student ambassador speaking on panels to prospective students of his pathway to success.

As I was thinking about a gravestone discovery for my husband’s great aunt one day in my office, Andrew stopped by to say “hello”.  The great aunt’s name of my stone discovery was Cora Leaman and it occurred to me that Andrew’s last name was Leaman also.  I knew since I first met him that his name was Leaman but at that moment it was like I heard it in my head for the first time.

Andrew Leaman, branch on the Cornish tree

“Andrew!”  I said.  “You’re a Leaman!”  He responded with “Last time I checked”.

“My husband’s great aunt was a Leaman.  Any chance there might be a connection since you are from my area?”

He said it was possible since he knew of there being Cornishes in his family line.  I pulled up my  online family tree and instantly he pointed out “Hey, that’s my grandfather!” and from there we had quite the conversation filling in the gaps of our shared family tree. His great grandmother, Cora (Cornish) Leaman, was the same Cora whose grave stone I was looking for the week prior; my husband’s great aunt.  She was a sister to my husband’s great grandfather Ken Cornish (the same Kenneth Verne Cornish I mentioned in last month’s Crestleaf’s entry).   That makes Andrew a 3rd cousin through marriage. Incredible!

I’m always amazed at how small the world is sometimes but it seemed to be even smaller that day.   The fact that the woman, whose stone I was in search of, was the great grandmother of this student, who I worked alongside for almost 2 years without making the connection, astounded me.  And the timing of the two discoveries was equally astounding.  Synchronicity at its best.  Sometimes, you don’t have to be actively searching for something to make a fascinating find.  Sometimes, you discover something fascinating right there in front of you and you didn’t even realize it was there the whole time.

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds


Cornish Comes to Canada

Having some time off over the holidays has allowed me to some family history research. I’ve been delving into my husband’s family because there are long and heritage-rich ties to Cornwall, England. With a name like “Cornish”, there was no doubt that there would be lots of history to explore.

Thomas James Cornish on his farm
Thomas James Cornish on his farm

The “Cornish” history as far as my husband’s family is concerned, began in Ontario sometime around 1843.  It  was then that 18-year-old Thomas James Cornish, a native of Poundstock, Cornwall, England, came to Canada.  He was born September 8, 1925 in Pounstock, the only son of Saul Cornish and Eleanor Suiter.  According to Cornish Genealogy, written by Cora (Cornish) Leaman in 1967, he had learned the tailor’s trade at which he spent seven years apprenticing for as a boy.  He had one sister, Mary Ann, who also came to Canada and settled in North Dorchester with her husband, Andrew Venning.  Thomas and Mary Ann’s parents are buried in Trewan, Cornwall, England.  According to online records, Saul was a resident of Piper’s Pool, a small hamlet in North Cornwall.

Thomas and Mary Ann Cornish
Thomas and Mary Ann Cornish

In 1847, it was recorded that Thomas married Mary Ann Varnum, in Whitby, Ontario.  By 1848, he had moved his bride and their first son, Albert to a farm located on the 4th concession of North Dorchester, one mile west of Crampton, Ontario.  Ultimately, Thomas and Mary Ann raised a family of 7 sons and 5 daughters in North Dorchester.  Ten of their children remained in the area of the now called, Middlesex County in Ontario but 2 children moved to the United States.  Saul, to Iowa and then to South Dakota in 1879 and Ellen to Iowa and later to Kansas City.  Many of Saul’s and Ellen’s descendants have remained in Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas City.

Standing: Eunice, Ellen Seated Middle: Mrs. Cornish, Mary Ann, Nancy Seated Front: Janie
Standing: Eunice, Ellen
Seated Middle: Mrs. Cornish, Mary Ann, Nancy
Seated Front: Janie
Back: Wesley, Martin, Tom, Arthur Front: Albert, Thomas James Sr., Saul, Porter
Back: Wesley, Martin, Tom, Arthur
Front: Albert, Thomas James Sr., Saul, Porter

Thomas and Mary Ann remained in North Dorchester.  It was here that Thomas died at 81 and Mary Ann at 91.  They are buried in the Dorchester Union Cemetery, a cemetery where many of their descendants are still buried to this day.

Original Cornish Headstone in Dorchester Union Cemetery
Original Cornish Headstone in Dorchester Union Cemetery