A man drinking cider outside a pub by a river in Devon

Tracking Down my Cornish Ancestors in the West Country

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I’m part Cornish. I only found out last year when I started researching my Mum’s side of the family. I already knew I was part Northern Irish, part Gypsy, with distant French, Belgian and Dutch connections and family from Suffolk, Kent, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Lancashire but finding out I was part Cornish as well was a very pleasant revelation.

I’ve always liked the West Country, we used to go on holiday to Devon when I was a child and I feel connected to it. I was born and still live on the Isle of Wight, which in some ways is quite similar to Devon and Cornwall so in this way too, it feels a bit like home down there.

View of a village with a river in front and a rail and road bridge crossing to it
View of Saltash, Cornwall from the edge of Plymouth, Devon

The family in question had the surname Doble. They had lived in Cornwall since at least 1770 and the branch I’m descended from lived in and around the village of Saltash. This was my great, great grandmother’s family, (although she was actually born in Dublin). Her father was called William, born in Saltash, he spent seven and a half years in the Caribbean with the Royal Artillery, specifically in Grenada and Barbados, before returning to Cornwall after his discharge.

His brother George had an interesting life too. He also joined the Royal Artillery and was stationed on the tiny island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic for just over 8 years and then at Mauritius for almost 4 and a half years. He returned to Cornwall and during the 1870s and 1880s he ran a pub in Devon that still exists today. It was called the Ferry House Inn in Saltash Passage in the St. Budeaux area of Plymouth. It is right by the River Tamar which divides Devon from Cornwall and looks straight across to Saltash, the village of George’s birth. When I was on holiday in the West Country a few weeks ago I made a point of visiting the Ferry House Inn to see first hand somewhere my Cornish ancestors had lived and worked.

A man drinking cider outside a pub by a river in Devon
Drinking cider at the Ferry House Inn

It was a weird feeling, this was the pub owned by my great great grandmother’s uncle and her sister had worked there as a barmaid. It’s in an incredible location, the views are superb and I felt proud to see that sturdy stone pub still standing and still in business 140 years after it was run by a Doble. I had a cider, which felt appropriate, considering the West Country’s historic association with cider-making. A bit later I walked across the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall to see Saltash. Obviously, it’s changed a lot since my family lived there but there were still lots of old cottages away from the main street and I generally liked the place.

The Royal Albert Bridge over the Tamar River between Plymouth in Devon and Saltash in Cornwall with boats on the water
The Royal Albert Bridge linking Devon with Cornwall

Later in the day, I pushed further into Cornwall, visiting the little fishing town of Looe. This wasn’t somewhere with any family associations that I knew of but was still a very pleasant place to spend time. I wish I knew more about this branch of my family, I know they also had connections with the nearby village of St. Germans and much further back other ancestors who married into the Doble family came from Landrake and Egloshayle but I think it will be difficult to find out any more. I also really like the idea that some of this branch of my ancestors may have spoken the Cornish language, which is quite possible, the earliest record I have found for a direct Cornish relative of mine is a marriage record for 1654 and it is highly likely they go back even further than that.

A fishing harbour with boats and buoys and houses on a hill in the background
Looe, Cornwall

I’m very proud of my family, where they came from and what they achieved. One day I hope to be able to go to Grenada and Barbados where William Doble served with the Royal Artillery. My great, great grandmother married a man called John Patterson from Northern Ireland who served in India for 13 years, his first wife and four of his children died there and are still buried in Indian soil. John’s brother, George Thomas Patterson was also in the Royal Artillery and also saw a lot of the world. He was sent to Gibraltar for a year, then India for three years before being sent to Aden in Yemen for around a year. After this, he was stationed at numerous places in modern-day Pakistan including Attock, Rawalpindi and Karachi for over 15 years. I hope to be able to visit at least some of these places. I like to think I get my love of travel and adventure from this side of the family because they certainly left a trail right across the world.

A stone promontory at the fishing harbour of Looe in Cornwall, looking out into the English Channel
Looe, Cornwall
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