Eustace Families Association

From Cornwall They Came

By: Dawna (Eustice) Lund

Many of our namesakes – Eustace, Eustice, Eustis – can trace their ancestry to Cornwall . Cornwall is a duchy (county) occupying the southwestern most area of England .  It is a peninsula bounded by the English Channel on the south and the Atlantic Ocean on the west and north and terminates in a point on the west called Land’s End . It shares a border with only one other county, namely Devon to the east. The Scilly Islands , located just offshore to the west, are also part of Cornwall .  Anciently, the Cornish were a Celtic people, related to the ancient Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Britons, who lived in Cornwall since the introduction of farming around 3000 B.C and had their own language.  The old Cornish name for Cornwall was Curnow. Cornwall has also been occupied and influenced by the Romans, Saxons and Normans .

The Eustis (and variants) family in Cornwall divides historically into two main groups. The first family group spans the Cornwall-Devon border of which there are occasional records from the 13th century to the 15th. There are wills of the Cornish family in Morval and Menheniot as early as 1578-1594. From the end of that century, the parish registers show the presence of the family at St. Sampson and Bodmin. The l8th century records a number of marriages at Pillaton.  The parish church of Tavistock is dedicated to St. Eustachius (the largest of only three so dedicated in England ). A family in St. Budeaux prospered in Elizabethan times and expanded their land holdings far into north Cornwall .

The second group, which may or may not be related to the first, can be found in western Cornwall , in the parish of Crowan and surrounding parishes. The earliest documented ancestor of this branch was Richard Eustis. According to the Protestation Returns of 1641, a Richard Yestes and William Yestes were living in Crowan parish. The Protestation was an oath of allegiance to the Church of England. A bill was passed in Parliament in July 1641 requiring those over age 18 to sign. Church wardens, ministers, constables and overseers of the poor first took the oath then oversaw the taking of the Protestation oath by their parishioners.

The relationship of William to Richard is uncertain but he was probably either his father or brother. He is likely the William Eustis of Crowan who married Jane Brothes in Breage parish in 1639. The Hearth Tax of 1660-1664 shows Richard Ustes and John Ustes living in Crowan. As William is not listed in this roll, it can be assumed that he had died, moved away or was exempt from the tax.

The seating plan of the parish church of Crowan for the year 1666 provides further insight into the family’s structure and social status. Churchgoers were seated according to social rank, whether by assignment or purchase. The highest ranking pews were closest to the pulpit, the lowest furthest from the pulpit. Richard Yestes was seated in the second row in the south aisle, with John Yestes seated in the row behind him.  From this it can be inferred that both were adults by 1666 and that Richard had a higher social rank than John, suggesting a father/son relationship. Richard’s wife was seated on the north side in the fourth seat of the middle row and John’s wife on the south side of the same row.

Richard and Mary (surname unknown) had a son named John, who was christened on 30 May 1624 at Crowan. The surname is written as Ustos in the christening record.

(John did not sign the Protestation as he was not yet 18.)  John resided at Kerthen Wood (alternately Kirthen Wood), a settlement or village in Crowan parish near Townshend, and was married to Elizabeth (surname unknown).  John died there between 15 August 1692 , when he made his will, and 7 May 1694 , when the will was probated. Elizabeth was buried in the Crowan churchyard cemetery on 5 Oct 1700 . John and Elizabeth and had 5 known children, one daughter and four sons, John, Eleanor, George, Henry and Richard. Many, perhaps most, of today’s Cornish namesakes descend from one of these four sons, which accounts for the strong DNA matches among different branches of the Cornish families.  Eustis was the most common spelling of the surname in earlier times, but by the mid-1800s the Eustice and Eustace spellings appeared more frequently.  Whether still in Cornwall or elsewhere in the world, descendants today include those with all three spellings, though Eustice seems to be the most common of the three.

It is being circulated that the aforementioned Richard Eustis was a son of Richard Eustes and Alice Hornabrooke of the parish of Morval and grandson of yet another Richard.  This is an unsubstantiated leap.  There is no documentary evidence to support such a connection – nevertheless the dubious ancestry is spreading rapidly and becoming incorporated into more and more family trees.  Richard’s ancestors were most probably also from Crowan or nearby, but due to a dearth of records for this early time period, it is doubtful his ancestry will be traced further with any confidence.

If Richard did move into Crowan from elsewhere, there is no evidence that it was from Morval, which is a great distance from Crowan. Morval parish is located in eastern Cornwall not far from the Devon border.  Crowan parish is in western Cornwall – there are at least 20 parishes between them. He more likely would have come from a nearer parish, as traveling any distance, particularly for the working poor, was difficult. Even if Richard and Alice of Morval had a son Richard, there is no evidence he was the Richard of Crowan.  Some have assigned Richard a birth year, but it is an arbitrary guess.  Richard could have been any age between say 16 and 70 when his son was born in 1624 and thus could have been born anytime between 1554 and 1608.  Even if the all the registers of every parish in Cornwall survived for this period – very few do – there would likely be many Richards born in this time period. Even if Richard’s exact birth year were known, it could well have occurred in a parish where the register does not survive – most don’t for this period.

If anyone has documentary evidence to clearly establish that Richard of Crowan was, in fact, the son of Richard and Alice of Morval or to document a birth year (from an age at a dated event), please contact the author or editor and it will be published in a future issue for everyone’s benefit.  Until then, all should avoid perpetuation of the dubious or fabricated ancestry by not including the Morval connection in their family tree.

It has also been asserted that Richard was the brother (rather than the father) of John and that both were sons of William Eustis who married Jane Brothes in Breage parish in 1639.  However, fragmentary portions of the bishop’s transcripts (copies of parish registers made yearly for the bishop) for Crowan for the early 1600’s are available on microfilm.  These were examined and the baptism of John Eustis, son of Richard and Mary was found recorded on 30 May 1624 .  This, coupled with the 1666 Crowan parish seating plan satisfactorily establishes the father-son relationship. The relationship of Richard and John to William, if any, has not been established with any certainty.   

For more information on the descendants of Richard Eustis of Crowan and other Cornwall Eustis (all spellings) families not yet connected, contact:

Dawna J. Lund

Box 10583, San Bernardino, CA 92423 USA

or Email Me


These pages Ronald & Margaret Eustice, 2013