Keturah Blight – (1816 -1895)

Week 25 of the #52ancestors challenge and the theme is “unexpected

Like all genealogists and family historians I have made a fair few unexpected discoveries over the years, but my most recent was finding out my Cornish 3rd great grandmother Keturah Blight had emigrated to the United States in her late sixties.

Keturah Blight (1816 – 1895)

Keturah Blight was the sixth of fifteen children born to my 4th great grandparents, William Blight and Ann Knight in the village of Illogan on the West Coast of Cornwall.

Photo taken by Frederick Arcall from J. E. Palmer, Photographer, High Cross, Truro (Photoshopped to remove marks from original)

From the private collection of LF, Keturah’s 2nd Great granddaughter.

Born less than twelve months after Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, and in the same year as author Charlotte Bronte, Keturah was baptised in the parish church of St Illogan, Cornwall on 2nd March 1816.

Cornish Mining World Heritage Site

Cornwall was the worlds biggest producer of copper and tin at the time of Keturah’s birth and the village of Illogan, where she lived with her siblings and parents, William and Ann sits on the edge of the Camborne and Redruth, mining district which is now part of a group of World Heritage sites celebrating Cornwall’s rich mining history.

The area was also home to many renowned engineers and entrepreneurs including Richard Trevithick and the Tangye brothers who were Keturahs third cousins.

Keturah’s father William was a cordwainer (shoemaker) but her grandfather William and many others in the extended Blight family worked in the mines, surrounding Illogan.

“Mining was frequently a family affair. In the early 1800s, women and children were working in the mines as well. Young women took work as bal maidens, dressing ore at surface. Using special hammers, they would carefully select and crush the ore to a manageable size before further processing”.

Cornish Mining World Heritage Site

Her younger brother William was recorded on the 1841 census as a miner at the age of 14 and she may even have worked in the industry herself as a child or young woman before her marriage.

The decline of Cornish mining

By the time Keturah married my 3rd great grandfather in 1840, Cornish mining was beginning to decline due to increasing competition from other parts of the world.

This led increasing numbers of young Cornish men and women to seek out opportunities in other areas of the British Isles or overseas.

Amongst those to leave the ports of Falmouth and Plymouth for a new life abroad in the 1840’s were five of Keturahs siblings:

  • Ann and her husband James Chegwin left for Canada with their two young sons.
  • Catherine went to Wisconsin in the United States with her husband William Wallis and young family.
  • Mary, William and Joseph all separately headed to Australia.

The Next Generation

Keturah and her husband James Williams who was Sexton of the parish church chose to remain in Illogan after their marriage, settling in the Churchtown area where they raised a family of six including my 2nd Great Grandmother Mary Ann.

They remained living in the Churchtown area for thirty eight years until James died in 1878, but once old enough their children decided to follow in the footsteps of their Aunts and Uncles and leave the village for new lives elsewhere.

  • William Blight headed to Canada, settling in Wentworth, Ontario where his Aunt Ann Chegwin was living.
  • Philip, Elizabeth, and John Blight together with his wife Grace and child all found their way to Michigan in United States.
  • My Great grandmother Mary Ann stayed in the British Isles, but moved to Surrey.
  • James, I am a little unsure about but he may have moved to Durham.

Keturah Goes Missing

Keturah was still living in Illogan with her two youngest children three years after the death of her husband James but after that she goes missing.

She did not appear on the 1891 census and I could not find a death record for her anywhere.

I attempted to find her on numerous occasions over the years without success and wondered if I would ever find out what happened to her.

Then one day while randomy searching the British Newspaper archive I made that unexpected discovery.

Williams – at Ishpheming, Marquette County, Michigan, USA, Sept 11, Keturah, relict of James Williams (parish Sexton) of Illogan Churchtown, aged 79

Royal Cornwall Gazette published October 10 1895, accessed at Findmypast.

My 2nd Great Grandmother had emigrated to the United States very late in life with her youngest children sometime after the 1881 census had been taken.

I wonder if she had always yearned to travel and see the world like her siblings and children or did she feel she had no other choice because she could not afford to remain alone in Cornwall.

Whatever the reason she was certainly a brave lady to up-sticks and make the arduous journey across the pond at such a late stage in her life.

Sources and Citations

Other Resources

Cornish Mining World Heritage Site

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