The Descendants of Ezra

4 09 2012

The inspiration for this entry comes from a recent Sun article detailing the rescue of a woman from the gorge, in which the first responder was a Cornell student, and descendant of Ezra Cornell.

Some famous people, like William Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln, have no living direct descendants. Ezra Cornell, who is at least famous to those who have spent four or more years in Ithaca, is quite the contrary.

Ezra Cornell had either nine or eleven children, which sounds prodigious until you realize that couples had as many children as possible back in the mid-19th century simply to ensure that nature and probability would allow at least a few of them to survive into adulthood. Indeed, four of Cornell’s children died before the age of 25. However, that leaves behinds seven children – three boys and four girls (or five, three boys and two girls, depending on which source is correct).

The most famous of Ezra’s direct descendants is likely his son Alonzo, who served as governor of New York from 1880 to 1882, and was married twice. The wikipedia article claims he had four boys. One of them, Charles Ezra Cornell (d. 1947), served as trustee and had three children of his own, of which one, William Cornell, survived to adulthood. So plenty of possibilities for descendants here.

Regarding Ezra’s other surviving children, Franklin Cornell, a banker, passed away in 1908, and at that time, three of his four children were still alive – one boy, Franklin Cornell, and two daughters, Ms. Dorothy Cornell and Mrs. Eunice Cornell Taylor.

Oliver Perry Cornell, the third son of Ezra, survived well into his mature years (d. 1911). He married and had at least one son.

As for the daughters, they tend to be less easy to track, since they take the names of their husbands. There was Mary Emily CornellĀ  and Emma Pettit Cornell Blair (d. 1914), of which I can be certain. A Dorothy and Emma Cornell also appear in one of the sources, but this could be a repeat, someone’s wife, or some other error (and this is why I would never wish to be a genealogist). Mary went to Vassar, passed away at the age of 87 in 1935 (making her the last of the first generation), and appears to have remained unmarried. But Emma did marry, and had three boys, Charles, Cornell, and Hamilton Blair.

So, given this illustration, it is likely that there are Cornell descendants sill kicking around today, many of whom still live near the Ithaca area. Among those, Ezra Cornell IV (class of 1970), and the kid from the Sun article. Thomas Ezra Cornell Collum ’14.

On a final note, in the early days of the university, direct descendants could attend free of charge. However, with the proliferation of descendants, this practice was discontinued beyond the fourth generation, by order of the Board of Trustees in 1932. The university notes that the last folks eligible were of college-age around sixty years ago. So even if you find out you’re a seventh-generation progeny of Ezra, it won’t help your pocketbook if you attend the Big Red. But I’m sure it would make a nice conversation piece.

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5 responses

4 09 2012
mfc3

There is also the provision that the eldest lineal descendant of Ezra Cornell is entitled to life tenure on the Board of Trustees. I believe this is currently Ezra Cornell IV ’70 (and that he took his seat while still an undergraduate).

15 01 2013
Brandy Heineman

That story about free tuition to Cornell University made it to my branch of the family tree, and we are very (very very!) far removed from Ezra Cornell. I can understand why the Trustees ended it! I enjoyed this post. :)

15 01 2013
A Genealogist’s Guide to Storytelling: Facts, Clues, and the In-Between Bits | Brandy Heineman

[...] could attend school there for free. (The blog Ithacating in Cornell Heights has the scoop on that here.) Still, it was definitely a story to take with a grain of salt, especially since [...]

5 05 2014
Roger Wolsey

I believe this is all to have been true. I also believe with the research that Cornell university money stems from the great grand mother Rebecca Cornell and her mother Rebecca Briggs married to George Wolsey, 4th descendant of the Cardinal Wolsey who served as Henry the VIII advisor through this era. I think following this linage. I think it may be difficult to find deeper source than the cardinal as record keeping prior is quite poor prior to this era do late 1400 early 1500’s . I say this Cornell Family thank god firstly and the Wolsey heritage secondly.

5 05 2014
B. C.

Mmm, I have to disagree with the source of money. Ezra Cornell grew up in modest means, and made his fortune by being a co-founder of Western Union.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezra_Cornell

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