The surname Cornelius is an interesting one, because it is rather rare. There are a smattering of them in colonial militia lists, mostly in Surry County and Wilkes County, in the northwestern part of the state. You’ll find Roland and West Cornelius there in 1771 and 1772. But what about the northeastern part of the state? Or even Virginia? No such luck.
In 1804, though a Thomas Cornelius married Sukey Hall in Gates County, North Carolina. They dropped off the radar for, oh, a few decades until Thomas Cornelius reappears in Gates County in 1840. He’s white, born between 1781 and 1790 (right in line with the 1804 marriage date) but living with a woman who is between 20 and 29 who is deaf, dumb, and blind (a daughter?) and a female child between aged 5 and 9 (a granddaughter?). None of them can read or write, and Thomas Cornelius is engaged in agriculture. His neighbors are James Sears, Willis Sumner, David Cross, and William Cross.
He is probably the father of Richard Cornelius, born between 1801 and 1810, a farmer with four sons under the age of 5. Neither he nor his wife, also between ages 30 and 39 can write either. Their neighbors are Nathan Harrell and Elizabeth Cross.
In 1850, there is one Cornelius in Gates County — Frary, a black female, born in 1826. She lives in the household of Henning Boothe and his wife Jane Collins Boothe. Jane Collins is a relative of ours. The daughter of Thomas Russell Collins, and niece of Graham Russell Collins, our direct ancestor. But where are the other Corneliuses? At least one is across the river in Winton, Hertford County. Thomas Cornelius, aged 11 (one of Richard’s sons?) is in the household of William Wiggins, aged 60, in a neighborhood that includes the names Chavis, Bryant, Heathcock, Lang, Weaver, and Reynolds, some of whom are rendered white, others of whom are mulatto.
This seems to line up with another pattern seen previously, where Emmeline Lang (mulatto in the 1850 census, white in the 1860 census) was in the household of Thomas Russell Collins (father of Jane Collins Boothe) in both years. Who was she, and how were they all connected? These were poor, illiterate families, living in multiracial communities. Why do so many of them appear in each others’ households?
Cornelius was one of the more memorable names on the Tuscarora Indian Woods deeds in Bertie County in the 1770s. Charles, Billie, and Isaac Cornelius all signed away land at Indian Woods in 1777. Was Thomas Cornelius who married Sukey Hall in Gates County in 1804 the son of one of these men? Were these associated families — Collins, Wiggins, Reynolds, Lang — also of Tuscarora descent?