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.
As for the daughters, they tend to be less easy to track, since they take the names of their husbands. There was Mary Emily Cornell 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.