Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Journey of John Albert Berryman Wills, Part the First, from a Tin Mining town in Cornwall, England, to a Copper Mine in Bolton, Québec.

Remember there's an Englishman in this story of FrancoAmerican Gravy.  I think of the English in our family as the gravy on top of the FrancoAmerican basics.  Actually, this great grandfather is not from England, he is from a small town in Cornwall called  Lelant or St.Unys Lelant.  Cornish folk, who called themselves Kernow in their language, are pretty proud people and don't like to be reminded that the English came in and took over in 838 AD or some time thereabouts.

St. Uny Lelant appears to be a bucolic town and historically, it was full of tin miners including the father of John Albert who was William Wills. GENUKI states that "The parish of Lelant, (Cornish: Lannanta), Uny-Lelant, Lelant-Euny, or Lanant, is situated in the Deanery of Penwith, and in the eastern division of the Hundred of Penwith. It is bounded on the north by St Ives and St Ives Bay, on the east by the estuary of the River Hayle and St Erth, on the south by Ludgvan and on the west by Towednack."

"Lelant is not mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086. In the twelfth century the area was named Lanata, meaning 'Church site of Anta'. All that is known about this saint is that she had a chapel on the rocks at the entrance to Hayle River. Lelant is an attractive village on the west bank of the Hayle estuary about 3 miles from St Ives. One of the oldest houses in the village is The Abbey, which was owned by the monks on St Michael's Mount. It was used as a rest house by the monks."

 John Albert Berryman Wills was born in  Lelant in 1843 and baptized in the church called St Unys Lelant, probably on the baptismal font pictured here.

Birth certificate of John Albert Berryman Wills

Below is a picture of St Uny Lelant Church

and the graveyard

another perspective of the church....

Here is a link to some copyright protected images of Lelant: Photographs of Lelant by Adams

John Albert was raised in a large family. His father, William Wills, was listed as a  tin miner in the 1851 census:


Tin mining has a long history in Cornwall beginning in the Bronze age and continuing until the last mine closed in 1999. The work was grueling and the life of a miner and his family was harsh.  John Albert's father died in 1860 when he was sixty years old leaving Elystra a widow.  The following year, John Albert is eighteen years old and working in the tin mines according to the 1861 census. He is the only son left in the household although one of his sisters, Lystra,  and her husband is living in the household with their 61 year old widowed mother.  Lystra's husband, Joseph Clinton is also laboring as a tin miner.

Five years later, on the 14th of August 1866, John A. B. Wills married Anne Reed in St George's Church in Truro, Cornwall. He is listed a a railroad worker on the marriage certificate.  Apparently he was able to find work outside the mine.  Here is a picture of St. George's Church circa 2005:

and here is an image of the marriage certificate:

Soon John Albert Berryman Wills with his wife, Anne, followed his older brother, William Henry Wills to North America.  Exactly when he left Cornwall, we do not know but it was after his 1866 marriage in Truro, Cornwall and before the birth of his first child in Bolton, Québec in April 1868.

Here's the complete sequence of stories about John Albert Berryman Wills and Anne Reed:

1 comment:

  1. It would have been polite of you to contact me for permission to use or to at least mention that you have used MY images of St Uny Lelant Church and that of the graveyard copied from my website at
    Christine Uphill