Most of the branches of the family I've been looking at recently hailed from Cornwall...they were the forebears of the Plymouth Brethren who sailed to America...so many of the trees on Ancestry are from American people tracing their roots...
And it's possible to go way back as far as the early 1100's...many were smugglers...a few were pirates...some dealt in stolen goods which had been looted from ship wrecks. Most of them were the landed gentry of their day, living in fortified houses and small castles...and they'd have spoken Cornish.
There has been a recent revival of the Cornish language...even a pre-school which only speaks Cornish among the staff and the children...
Of course language is fluid and constantly changing but it is interesting to think of people reviving a centuries old language and using it in daily life.
Cornwall...for those who may not know...is at the southern tip of England. A county of narrow winding lanes and pretty cottages, with a rugged and rocky coastline with many hidden coves and beaches...ideal smuggler country.
It is said that literally hundreds of village people would run along the cliff tops watching the progress of a ship in trouble...just waiting for the moment when they finally came to grief on the rocks. The sailors were usually treated well...rescued from a watery grave and helped ashore to be given a bed for the night...but there were also the less scrupulous who thought little of murdering the sodden and battered sailors for the cargo they carried.
The Irish were much the same...some of the Spaniards wrecked on the coast of Kerry were welcomed and absorbed into the local community...you can see their influence today in the dark complexions and brilliant blue eyes of many Kerrymen...but others fared badly. One incident in particular, when all the surviving sailors from a wreck were taken under guard to a nearby church and simply slaughtered...
All cargoes were fair game...from expensive French brandy to bolts of fine linen and in later days, arms and armoury. Cornishmen would hide the most valuable items on the beach to be retrieved later, out of sight of their compatriots. Though occasionally there would be a public auction of the goods found...held on the beach and conducted by a local dignitary, everything must go and sold to the highest bidder.
There were penalties to be paid if you were caught of course...even back in the 1100's it was considered to be a crime to steal wreckage and a ships contents...and being a deliberate wrecker...there were many...who would light torches to lure foreign vessels onto the rocks...if you were accused of doing that, then you could expect to be punished.
If you were lucky, it'd be a straightforward hanging...
I'd always thought of pirates and piracy as being a crime committed on the high seas...but you'd be considered to be a pirate even if you never set sail in a boat but looted the cargo of a wrecked ship...hence my ancestor Elizabeth and her daughters and daughters-in-law...and her sons...and her husband...were described as pirates.
Elizabeth's husband actually fortified their house to keep the goods the family had acquired safe...then they 'fenced' them and made a considerable amount of money...
There seems to be a general understanding that Elizabeth herself didn't actually go onto the beaches and take the cargoes...she sent her servants to do that, but that didn't stop her from being charged with piracy and imprisoned at the behest of Elizabeth 1st...the sons paid hefty bribes and their mother was released after a short period...don't know what happened to the servants.
I've always thought of pirates as being swash-buckling chaps with gold earrings and a dagger held between their teeth...though there were actual female pirates...Anne Bonny was infamous in Ireland. I haven't investigated her any further than knowing her name so her story will need to come at another time...
Pirates and Vikings...staid Victorians and the Tudors with their wonderful topsy turvy houses...the occasional King and some rather unpleasant Puritans...throw in a tailor or three and many ag labs...an ale house keeper and a girl who was a mother at fourteen...old Irish kings and their Icelandic brides...a man who died from a bee sting and another who cut his own throat in a moment of despair...little Alice who was sent to Canada and made her way home again and many who died in abject poverty in a Workhouse...
All those people, and many more, are my family.