Do you have Cornish ancestors?

It is well-known migrants from Cornwall came in large numbers to work in South Australian copper mines, especially in Kapunda, Burra and on Yorke Peninsula. These migrants were energetic, hard-working and resilient people, bringing income from mining and other activities to what in the 1840s had become an almost bankrupt colony. 

Residents of these areas today cannot help but be aware of the importance of the 19th Century Cornish settlers who made their lives in South Australia’s mining areas – cottages, churches, other buildings, mine remnants, historic trails and museums, as well as hundreds of gravestones in the cemeteries remind us of SA’s Cornish heritage.

Even nowadays, more than 10 per cent of SA’s population is of Cornish descent, more than the percentage in any other Australian state or territory. And, of course, the percentages in the Burra and Copper Coast regions are higher than that.

To add further recognition to the contributions of Cornish people to our state, the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society, now more usually known as Genealogy SA, has launched a major project – the CBSA project.

Its aim is to construct a comprehensive database of people who were born in Cornwall before 1900 and came from there to South Australia (even if they went somewhere else on the way).

Many families in Burra today are likely to be descended from one or more of these Cornish migrants. No matter where you now live, if an ancestor of yours fits this description, Genealogy SA wants to know about them, their spouse and their first generation children.

There is a specially-designed form to fill in, showing the type of information needed for the project.

You can download the form and a guide on how to complete it from the website under the Resources tab and then Handouts.

The Guide also explains where to send your contribution when you have finished entering your ancestor’s details. There are also some worked examples to help you.

If you need more explanation about the form or the project, you may contact the project leader at

The result of this project is expected to be a very valuable resource for historians in South Australia and also from well beyond our borders.