Our family bible tells me that my gx2 grandfathe3 Robert Chapman was born in Cornwall in 1811 but despite searching for 20 years (and building up a tree containing 7,000+ ancestors I can't locate him in Cornwall in birth or baptism records.

However, I can find matches born in other counties. How likely is it that someone born in, say Norfolk, 1811 would 'migrate' to Cornwall (where I know he got married in Werrington, Cornwall in 1828 aged 17) presumably looking for work (he was a joiner/carpenter)?

By that time we were experiencing the industrial revolution - canals were thriving from around 1777 but soon started to decline with the advent of the railways. How extensive were rail connections around 1825 - where there ways to get from Norfolk to Cornwall? Does anyone know were I might view such records?

2 Answers 2


Regarding transport:

  • Around 1825, about the only railway offering passenger transport was the Stockton & Darlington in the North-East of England, and that was primarily a coal route. Reasonable coverage of the country by rail passenger routes doesn't come until the early 1850s after the Railway Mania of the previous decade.
  • Far more likely is that people simply walk - I've read of people walking 20 miles to watch a court case in which they had an interest. That's 20 miles each way.
  • For Cornwall / Norfolk, another possibility is coastal shipping. Somewhere I remember reading of a group of families who migrated from the South West to East Anglia (I can't be any more accurate than that from memory) and they did this because they were involved in fishing.

You can see that there will be no specific records of this sort of thing - it's just what you happen to come across in journals and articles.


Regarding how you can possibly know they migrated:

You do not state where you find these other matches, so I'll guess that they are in FamilySearch (FS). The problem is that FS's coverage in England is far from complete, so there could be lots more people of that name who don't appear in FS - never mind those who weren't baptised in the CofE.

There are 2 sites that give explicit information about what's in FS. The original is Hugh Wallis' site and there is a later update from Archer Software. Both sites cover only the original IGI data and do not cover the later stuff that has been added to FS - e.g. Cheshire has now been indexed virtually 100% for Cheshire Record Office. Neither site is helpful for telling you what could have been indexed. For that, you need to try something like the GENUKI pages for the counties in question, list off all the parishes and chapels, and see what their coverage is. Occasionally you'll find a Record Office has done something like that for you, or they list all their own holdings, which tend to be complete for their assigned area, and can serve as an easier basis for checking simply because of their format.

The truth is that picking up someone who moves any distance can only be done if you have explicit indication of their origin. Classically this will be in the census for those alive 1851 onwards. Before that, it's very rare indeed to pick up such a move. I know my 6G Grandfather Purdy moved from Blaydon, County Durham, to Bristol via London in the 1730s but that's only because his son got in touch with his relatives in the North-East, kept the letters (he's described as an accountant) describing the move, and was sufficiently interesting in his own right for the letters to be copied for Bristol Record Office.

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