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 children consisting of 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 at least 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 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.



35 responses

4 09 2012

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.

28 05 2015
Jacob Cornell

My name is Jacob Thomas Cornell. I live in Sandy Creek, NY, which is about 2 hrs miles from Ithica NY. I am a direct decedent of Erza. But my grandfather was the last to inherit the free tuition, although, he did not use it. William is the father of my Great Grandfather Donald Cornell, who is a Veteran of the Korean War. From there there is Jesse Cornell Sr. who is a ret. Soldier in the Vietnam era. Then my father Jesse Cornell II who is my father and a Ret. Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps and Iraq War veteran. Then my brother Jesse Cornell III. If you are interested in interviewing me and possibly having information about the background of my family please let me know. And if any distant relatives are reading this I would very much like to connect with you. I do know of another Cornell family in Sandy Creek who are distant cousins.

1 12 2015
Karen Kruger

Hi Jacob, I am a descendant of Ezra B Cornell’s youngest sister, Jane Cornell she married James Finch, my grandmothers father from Ithaca. My grandmother and her husband made their way to Michigan and then to Oregon where we are now. Did you know that Ezra’s 4th great grandmother was Benjamin Franklin’s grandmother?

11 01 2016
Ezra C Cornell

My name is Ezra C Cornell and I’m the 6th generation of Ezra Cornell with 3 sisters. We live in Ithaca NY too. My father you might know as Ezra Cornell, who is a trustee since he was 11 years old. One of my sisters had a 7th generation granddaughter!

3 11 2016
Patty Harshbarger

My mother’s family descended from James and Jane Finch. My mother, Mary Benham Bush (born 1921) was raised in Homer, Michigan. My middle name is after Jane Cornell Finch. I was surprised to find someone mention the Finch line!

17 12 2017
Carol Cornell Thomas

My grandfather’s name was Stephen Harper Cornell. His father was Jacob Cornell who married Gertrude Anderson. From what I hear, Jacob Cornell was put out of the family for marrying a “domestic” since Gertrude Anderson was the family’s domestic servant originally from Sweden. Could we be related?

18 12 2017

Yes my great great grandmothers name is Mary Emily Cornell Barker a niece of Ezra Cornell’s. Her name and her husbands was found in the Cornell Library via the Internet. Although my father always told me he could have attended Cornell free of charge also, he never went there. My great great grandmother and grandfather we both college graduates.

Marcia Radford Hoskins

Sent from my iPhone


10 10 2018

My great grandmother was a direct descendant of Ezra Cornell. Blanche Estelle Cornell, my ggm lived in Lewiston, NY, as many of my family. Blanche Cornell married Clinton Norton Daggett.

Mary Daggett

25 02 2019

Hello Jacob
My name is Kevin Peterson Grandson of Marjorie G Peterson (Cornell)
My Grandfather was Neil Clark Cornell. Just starting my search.

2 06 2015
Marcia Jean Hoskins

Jacob, nice to read your note. We are no doubt somehow related as my father’s maternal great grandmother was Emily Cornell Barker # 975. She married Robert Barker in New York on May 12, 1850. The Barker’s were also an old NY family. The Barkers had three children and one daughter, named Mary Emily Barker, married Burr Northrop my father’s grandparents. One son interestingly, worked for the telegraph company. The Northrop’s had a daughter named Mabelle Northrop Radford my grandmother.

The Barkers left NY and moved to Kentucky, as Prof.Barker became president of Paducah Women’s Seminary and later they moved to Lansing, Michigan, where Prof. Barker was the first president of The Michigan School for the Blind, and where our family have lived for 5 generations. The comment was made in their obituaries that Emily Cornell Barker was also a lady of fine education.

We have a long history in Lansing, Michigan and my father (Scott Erwin Radford) his father, Fred Lester Radford (my grandfather) was a mechanical engineer, who graduated from Michigan State College, in 1903 and helped RE Olds design the first REO car. I’m honored to belong to wonderful families and the DAR through both my grandparents family trees. It was interesting to read your comments! Thanks to all those who have served our country to make it free!
Marcia Radford Hoskins

5 09 2016
Jacqueline Christenson

Just another member of the Cornell family tree. My great-grandmother was Minno Lovina Cornell, daughter of Hiram Cornell and Katherine Thomas. She once said she was a niece of Ezra Cornell. She married a Wolfkeil. later spelled Wolfkill. They had sons who were well-known educators also.

31 01 2017
Addie Gardiner

Another member here! My grandfather is Bud Cornell and he is still around today in Bay Shore NY!

5 01 2019
Vern Cornell

Hi Addie, my name is Vern Cornell I live I live in Montana. My great grandfather Albert Cornell moved from Bay Shore, NY to Billings, MT in 1910. I was wondering how long your Grandfather Bud/family has lived there. I am just starting to piece together family tree. Ezra Cornell is supposed to be an uncle to me but I do not know which brother is my Grandfather

7 01 2019
Kenneth W CORNELL Jr

Vern may I suggest you look up Thomas Cornell and Rebecca Briggs and work from their colonial times to now you will find the answers

22 05 2017
Rod O'Dell

My Grandmother Elsie Cornell 3rd generation is related as I just learned this fact right before my mother passed away 2 1/2 months ago. I would love to have my daughter go To Cornell. She loves science & arts. I Rod O’Dell live in the Chicago land area. I guess Elsie’s mother was a seamstress.
take care all.

1 05 2018

I’ve found that Emily Cornell Barker is not Ezra Cornell’s niece, but rather his second cousin twice removed. She and Robert Barker married on May 12, 1850 according to these two sources:


According to the second source, her father was Stephen Cornell, who was not Ezra Cornell’s brother.

That source could be wrong, of course. What source gives Emily as Ezra’s niece?

2 05 2018
Marcia Radford Hoskins

Peter, Thank you for your note! Yes I know that Emily Cornell and Robert Barker were married May 12, 1850. I also have pictures of her with her daughter, (my grandmother) granddaughter, and my father as a small child and also have pictures of their four children. I was told by my father that Charles Saunders Barker, was employed by the Telegraph Company in Chicago. Emily died July 12,1914 in Lansing, MI. You may be correct about her relationship to Ezra Cornell, as all I have about them are obituaries from news papers,of cousins of my fathers and stating their relationship(great, great ? niece) to Ezra Cornell. Which as you know, may or may not be true! Her father was Steven Cornell and her mother was Mary Hendreyx, born in Steuben County, NY on November 24, 1829. I found Emily and Robert Barker’s names in the Cornell University Library, in the Genelogy of the Ezra Cornell Family.

The Barkers went to Ky after marriage and later came to Lansing, Mi in the mid 1860s where we have been ever since, for 6 generations. Robert Barker was the first president of the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing. I have Emily’s college diploma and also two diplomas of Robert’s. Now what do I do with old diplomas? Thanks again for your info!

Marcia Radford Hoskins

2 05 2018

Hi Marcia, I’ve found your profile on – you’re my wife’s first cousin twice removed’s wife’s second cousin once removed, so welcome to the family 🙂

I saw an obituary stating that Muriel Barker Jacobi was Ezra Cornell’s great-grand-niece, but when I tried to find the proof of that, I found the links above, which show what you already knew: that Emily Cornell Barker was the daughter of Stephen Cornell. And since Stephen isn’t Ezra’s brother, Emily isn’t Ezra’s niece. I guess it was probably a bit of family history passed down without checking to see if it was true or not!

As for what to do with the diplomas, scan them in and add them to their geni profiles!


23 05 2018
Kenneth W Cornell Jr

My name is Kenneth Cornell. I live in Owego NY. I am about a one hour drive from Ithaca. It would be awesome to see one of the living Cornell males take a Y DNA test. to see if our Cornell lines all match up.

29 09 2018
Celeste Cornell

I am married to Don Cornell, born in Connecticut in 1959. Don’s father was Arthur Cornell (now deceased). Story we were told is very vague and not validated. We are of understanding Don’s father Arthur Cornell born maybe late 1920’s possibly early 1930’s. Story we heard was father of Arthur Cornell was a diplomat who traveled to India and married an Indian woman. Upon a journey via ship from India to US (landed in Bridgeport, Connecticut) Indian mother passed away on ship. Story is father put Arthur into in orphanage (not so uncommon for the time due to no female in household). Don Cornell has no other information not even name of his grandfather aka Arthur Cornell’s father. Thinking there might be someone who knows about a related ‘Cornell’ who worked as a diplomat maybe back in late 1800’s early 1900’s? Perhaps there might even be a relationship to Ezra? Thank you.

8 10 2018
Joel Funk

Please ask Ezra who I worked with at Brookdale Cycle in Bloomfield NJ contact me. Thanks. Joel Funk

25 01 2019
Keith L. Cornell

Bless Each and Every One Of You! Us! …. You Are My Blood. I Do Favor Sir Ezra Cornell Very Much, I Am Of Native American, African and European Descent.

Bless You All Once Again and Blessed Goodnights,

Truly Indeed,

Keith L. Cornell

9 02 2019
Khala Cornell

I’m Khala Cornell I was told by my grandparents John Cornell and Ellen Cornell that on my grandfathers side of thw family we are related to Ezra Cornell I’d love to find out how we are related. Both my grandparents passed befpre I could get more information, so if anyone could help. I am from Cleveland Ohio.

16 12 2020
Kenneth W Cornell Jr

One way to possibly find out is if you have a male family member named Cornell TAKE A y DNA test. I am one of the admins of the Cornell/Cornwell worldwide Y DNA project. The connection to Ezra could be Thomas Cornell and Rebecca Briggs Cornell’s line.

21 03 2020
Matthew Ezra Cornell

Good Morning,

I am Matthew Ezra Cornell, my father is Ezra Cornell V, My grandfather was Ezra Cornell IV the son of a lawyer at White&Case (Ezra Cornell III), which was the son of Henry Watson Cornell, who was Alonzo B. Cornell’s eldest known son to have had children. I have just recently started looking into this but i am starting to think it may be worth looking into more thoroughly. I have always known that we are direct descendants of Ezra but i was not aware that we are likely the most direct descendants in regards to eldest born siblings throughout the family tree considering that would make my father the most direct lineal descendant.

16 12 2020
Kenneth W Cornell Jr

Hello Matthew, I’m Kenneth Cornell from Owego NY. There are many Cornell’s, Cornwell’s etc. Many of us have taken a Y DNA test to study our paternal lines. It’s believed you are descended from Thomas Cornell and Rebecca Briggs Cornell .I am one of the project admins on the Cornell/Cornwell worldwide Y DNA project. We are from the Haplo Group I M-170. We would love one of your males to test and join our group. Like Dr John Cornell we are trying to find our English ancestors currently we have 4 members from England who have tested. Would love you to join us Matthew.

15 11 2020
Cherri Kristine Willis

My name is Cherri Cheshire-Willis. My great grandfather was Charles Allen Cornell born in Attica Fountain County Indiana 6/20/1893. Grew up hearing stories of the Cornell family lineage. My paternal grandmother was Frances Cornell, a triplet, born to Charles and Elsie Beighly Cornell in 1920 in Freeborn Minnesota. Any information about my great-grandather?

16 12 2020
Kenneth W Cornell Jr

have you considered taking a Ancestry DNA test ??? I have taken one and a male Y DNA test. Have connected to many Cornell’s now. If you have an Uncle named Cornell or a male Cornell cousin they could help you by taking a Y DNA test.

15 12 2020
Tonya Sohm

Wow, so fun to read through this thread. My mother, whose maiden name is Cornell, is supposedly a great, great (not sure how many greats) granddaughter of Ezra Cornell, though I have no proof of that. But now I’m curious enough to put in some time to find out.

16 12 2020
Kenneth W Cornell Jr

have you considered a DNA test ??? We are a very very large family.

16 12 2020
Kenneth W Cornell Jr

The Cornell surname is a very large family. The line most of us are connected to goes back 27,000 years. As our line moved westward into Europe our ancestors mutated. At about 4,500 years ago we were known as I-L38 commonly known as Alpine Celtic. As our line progressed our line made it’s way through France, The Netherlands and finally England. Our line is connected also to the ancient Cheddar man of England. Most Cornell’s came from the South east region of England. Saffron Walden England supports many Cornell’s. I’ve been fortunate enough to communicate with some of them. My email is on the post if interested in contacting me.

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