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From Buryan to Bondi

The Dennis Family of West Penwith, Cornwall and some Australian Descendants


Description Readers' Comments News and Updates Publication Details To Purchase





Cover design by the
Newcastle artist Andrew Dennis [ email ]
The Dennis family has been recorded in the beautiful Land's End to Penzance region of Cornwall for nearly 450 years, since the middle of the sixteenth century. This quiet fishing, farming and mining region is saturated in history extending back to Celtic times. Its spectacular wild coastline, swept by Atlantic storms, has seen many shipwrecks and has harboured many teams of smugglers.
In this place so full of romantic imagery, the Dennis family can be tracked with some confidence from the time when three brothers named Sampson, Richard and George Dennis turned up in Saint Buryan parish records just after the 1664 Hearth Tax return. They were literate, owned property and two were Quakers.
This book follows the fortunes of George Dennis and his descendants through several centuries of their lives in Cornwall, as times grew progressively tougher. Family members lived in nearby parishes including St Levan, Sennen, St Just, Pendeen, Morvah, Sancreed, Madron, Newlyn and Paul. Appendices refer to other parts of the family.
In 1822 was born George Dennis, a g-g-g-grandson of the original George. Ten children were born before George Dennis died in 1866, leaving his young family to struggle through harsh economic times.
In 1874 his widow Susan Dennis, her five sons and two surviving daughters arrived in Sydney Harbour. They came as assisted migrants on two different ships, ready to start a new and better life in Australia. They joined Susan's other daughter Jane and her miner husband William Williams, who had left Cornwall in 1866.
Like so many immigrants from Cornwall, the older Dennis boys brought with them their mining skills. Susan's younger children, still of school age in 1874, enjoyed the benefit of some formal education and became teachers. Living first at mining settlements at Currawang near Goulburn, and Cow Flat near Bathurst, the Dennis family eventually settled in various parts of New South Wales.
The greatest contrast in lifestyles between their new and old homeland was achieved by Susan's son James Dennis, who learned to read back in Cornwall by the light of a miner's lamp. Within thirty years of arriving in Australia as a thirteen-year-old labourer, he was a headmaster, a Master of Arts from Sydney University and then Inspector of Schools for NSW. His two sons were amongst Australia's first lifesavers, at Bondi Beach. Son Spenser became a designing engineer for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and son Cleon was an Engineer Lieutenant on HMAS Sydney in its famous battle with the Emden.

Readers' Comments

Cornish Association of Victoria, Inc, Newsletter No 88, November 2008, Review by Lindsay Chapman - This very professionally produced publication is the result of many years of painstaking research by the author who in tracing her own Cornish background has provided a wealth of information for many other related families both in Cornwall and here in Australia. The format is A5, soft cover and of 386 pages.


The biography is most comprehensive, well structured and the text is supported by a number of ascendancy charts, early family photographs and present day images of West Cornwall. Louise lists and acknowledges all who have assisted in gathering detail and provides a full listing of sources chapter by chapter and this in itself is a most useful reference for others seeking their own Cornish heritage.


Whilst a reader who does not have any family connection may be overwhelmed by the amount of personal data given for the numerous descendants they will find all of the supportive information very interesting. One example of this was the naval career of Cleon Dennis during WW1, he served on HMAS Sydney at the time of the battle with the German cruiser Emden in 1914.


You should read the book yourself to follow the accounts of other members of this and the many related families who settled in Australia. Although this is a large volume, with chapters and charts being devoted to specific families and a comprehensive index, it is easy to select the family line or event that relates to your own interest. If you have any connection with a Dennis family in Cornwall or Australia this is your gold mine.


Mike Angove, UK - 'Well, there go all the household chores I was going to do at the weekend! Just when you think you're catching up, a book of fascinations appears through the post. A quick scan shows plenty to interest me. There is new information in the book, for example I never found the death/burial of Elizabeth Dennis (nee Chirgwin) in Pendeen in 1887. I had seen the death entry on GRO, age 83 in 1887 and thought a good possibility, but had never gone further. She lived in Trewellard, and I had lunch there 2 weeks ago as well! You have made me think again about my line.'


Sue Walther, Norfolk, UK - 'The book arrived safely. Thank you very very much. Enjoying it hugely. What an enormous amount of info you have collected. Love all the background stuff.'


Sarah Dennis, NSW - 'Finally have got round to thanking you for our family history Thoroughly enjoyed it. Was overawed by how much work you must have put in to discover which Sampson, which George (how many of those were there ??!!), which Sarah, which Mary etc. belonged where. Loved to discover that the bridge ("the Dennis bridge" over the Hastings River) - which I cross on a regular basis on our way to visit Grant's family in Grafton (just near Ulmarra) is my great Uncle Spenser's bridge design. I've been saying for the past 15 years, here's my bridge and guess what, it is!!!! The other amazing coincidence is that Grant did his first practicum at Ulmarra Public School where my Dad's namesake and my Grandfather was born (admittedly not the same building - still amazing just the same). I loved reading the stories of James Dennis, the teacher and laugh at how little, really has changed, except, thankfully the class sizes. Well done. I have relished telling anyone who will listen all about those little moments of fame (Charles Kingsford Smith etc.) and will continue to bore all and sundry. Thanks again.'


Frank Dennis, NSW - I found your book easy to read and full of fascinating facts -so much detail -about the Dennis family. It was a moving emotional experience while reading to relive the telling of some of the things mentioned in your book that were spoken about, by Gran in particular, around the table in the dining room at Farndale. Memories came flooding back -Golliwogs and Humpty Dumptys and all - but also many things that I was only very vaguely aware of or not at all, especially the Cornish history and the family connections. My eldest, Nick, was an avid reader and was very enthusiastically recounting things to me about the family from your book when I saw him at Christmas.


Ian Dennis, NZ - Uncle Bill went over to Cornwall like you did and researched our family in 1984. He of course did not have the time and/or expertise to research in detail as you have done. I must say that your research and the book was great and filled in a lot of gaps.


Brian Dennis, NSW - Have finished your book "Buryan to Bondi," which I found very interesting, particularly as it clears up a lot of the relatively near past involving my great grandfather George and grandfather Thomas Grenfell Dennis. The amount of detail in the book underlines the exhaustive (and probably exhausting) amount of research involved, and my congratulations on the result. George and his young brothers could not have found their early days in Australia much easier than conditions they left in Cornwall. But their hard work and perserverance are admirable - and in my particular line of Dennis each generation has seen a distinct improvement in living standards, education etc. I congratulate you too on the clear manner you have set out the events recorded in the book, particularly against the habit of the Dennis branches insisting on using family names over and over. My own line has five different generations of Georges. This habit has faded out apparently. Once again, my congratulations and my thanks for giving me a much clearer idea of how I came to be where I was in those earlier days.


Marilyn Shumack, NSW - I have recently bought your book Buryan to Bondi as my husband Keith is a grandson of Lily Alice Dennis. We were fascinated by the lineage, partly known, but fitting in perfectly with your book's details. We have discovered some unknown details, and heritage. We would like you to accept the enclosed information which may fill in some gaps in your knowledge of Lily and her family. (Refer to for details). I also was fascinated with the Cornish details in your book, as I have recently discovered that my Elizabeth Dennis of St Buryan happens to be (I think) the exact same Dennis family. Elizabeth Dennis married William Olds and eventually emigrated to South Australia on the Lincoln in December 1865, their youngest son Edward being my great grandfather. Your book has spurred new interest, as I could relate well with the areas you spoke of, as they, too, are my heritage.


Brad Crossman, NSW - Thank you, thank you, thank you! for writing your book "From Buryan to Bondi..." I was so excited to read the section in your book about Grace Dennis (1856-1927). I stumbled into learning about my family history after watching an episode of Who Do You Think You Are on Jack Thompson. It prompted me to have a little look back and what a rewarding experience this has turned out to be. I have not gathered a lot of information to date, but I have discovered that my great, great grandfather was George Crossman [husband of Grace]. I was so amazed to read about George in your book. I am proud to be related to him. I now have a passion to find out what life was like for George and Grace and others of that time. Again thank you for the book. It is a remarkable body of work, a true indication of your dedication and patience.


Andrew Burt, St Just, Cornwall - How strange, I have only been delving into my Gran's FH recently and over Christmas I came across your book.  I received 'Buryan to Bondi' last night and I have to say I spent the whole evening reading it!!  It's fab, informative and very helpful to me.  My link to your book is through William Henry Stone on page 96.


Neil Campbell, Canberra, ACT - Congratulations on researching, writing and publishing this wonderful book. Your hard work is certainly much appreciated by members of the extended Dennis family. I am a great-grandson of James Dennis and while I knew a little about him, your extensive work has provided a treasure of information that I would never have discovered. It also gives an incentive to travel to Cornwall at some stage to visit the locations you have highlighted. As an engineering graduate myself it was good to see an engineering connection in earlier generations.

News and Updates

Correction, page 93 - James Dennis Angove lived with his father and his paternal grandmother at Treen in 1861.
Correction, pages 127-131 - Descendant Narelle West has kindly provided additional details and several corrections about her forebear Jane Williams. The most important correction applies to page 130 - Jane's son George married Elizabeth Ann Cannon at Newcastle West on 6 September 1906.
Read an updated story of Cleon Dennis, RAN
BLOG: Please refer to  for additions of new information about the Dennis family, whenever they come to hand. Last updated 1 November 2014.

Publication Details


Louise Wilson, South Melbourne, VIC, May 2008
Paperback, perfect bound, 386 A5 pages, colour & black & white illustrations

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