PictureThe final project - all completed.
This is a prized piece of art and is roughly 20"x26". It represents about 400 years of our family's history and covers a cabin in the woods in late 19th century Manitoba to the shores of Cornwall, England in the 1600's.
When I was growing up, I loved to hear the story of how Grandma's grandparents met. John Erwin Moss Firby saw a group of girls cutting through the cemetery and told his friends he  was going to marry "the little dark-eyed girl." Around 1880, he did marry Jessie Nankivell. After they wed, he took her to his homestead in Woodlands, Manitoba where they started their family.

PictureA photocopy from Grandma's Nankivell collection.
Grandma was able to  connect with others tracing the Nankivell family and received a copy of the document (left). James Nankivell and Edith Nankivell were two people who provided a lot of insight into her reseach and I believe it was one of them who gave her this page.
Grandma's uncle, Jim Nankivell, wrote a letter in 1936 that outlined the history of the Nankivell family and it matches the details in the document. One other thing he mentions: Nankivell is Cornish for Valley of the Wild Horses. I don't know if it's true but my teenage imagination was enthralled. This story had it all: romance, cemeteries and horses!

PictureThe sculpture created from a photocopied page (see above).
This is an example of how a story can be brought to life in a single piece so that it can be discussed and shared with the whole family.
Geoff Sandhurst is a wonderful metal sculpture artist. In 1994, I took a copy of the page (see above) and asked him if he could recreate the fist holding the anchor. He did an incredible job as you can see!
You can check out more of Geoff's artwork at, http://sandhurstsculpture.blogspot.ca/.
I am also very grateful to Felicia at the Michael's on Deerfoot Trail who pulled together my vague ideas and a beautiful piece of art and then created a beautiful family heirloom.

Corinne Sandhurst
10/12/2013 10:30:12 am

Laura - I remember when you first brought a copy of the picture of the fist holding an anchor to our house. Geoff was delighted to work in this piece of art. I love the way that it is framed! It is such a remarkable symbol for your family. Thank you for sharing this story!

1/24/2014 06:32:52 am

Really neat to see the artwork. My mom Catherine Schoen who was Truro's daughter had a wooden carving hanging in our home growing up. Thanks for posting for all of us to enjoy.

Donald Richard Nankivel
11/16/2014 02:43:08 pm

I too am a Nankivel. Father is Wayne Sherwin, grandfather is Dr. David Wayne Nankivel. I have 4 brothers, no sisters. The Mailed fist with the anchor is our family coat of arms too,, I am told. And James is a Great Uncle.

T. Nankivell (AUS)
7/15/2016 10:20:23 pm

Where did the Coat of Arms document come from? Is it published anywhere?

Fascinating insight!

7/18/2016 07:58:00 am

Hi, I'm so glad you enjoyed the article and thank you for leaving a comment!

This particular document came to me through my Grandmother. I mentioned that she corresponded with Edith Nankivell and I've got letters from her collection from a James Nankivell, as well. The document probably came from either of them. Prior to that, I do not know. I have not yet followed up to see if the Coat of Arms is registered - it's on my lengthy To Do list!!

I know that Edith did an extraordinary amount of work compiling the Nankivell family tree and Grandma purchased copies of a few books from her which I now have. I seem to recall that she lived in Minnesota, as did James so there might be family there who would know more?

Thank you again!

T. Nankivell (AUS)
7/18/2016 09:56:43 pm

Thank you for your timely reply, Laura!

When you do find out more about the coat of arms would you mind letting me know? In the meantime, would you be able to email me a high resolution copy of the coat of arms? I am enamoured by it!

Great work on the article.

7/19/2016 09:02:56 am

LOL! I finally figured out how to get to the Reply option! I see your email address so will send you the image separately.

I know what you mean about being enamoured by it. I am, too. In particular, I find myself repeating the motto, Non Robore Sed Spe.

Thanks for the 'chat'!

dale nicol
3/2/2017 12:54:26 pm

The comment about" backwoods of Manitoba" caught my attention.
My grandmother's mother was Jessie Nankivell (born in Cornwall,emigrated to Canada and married John Ervin Moss Firby)
and for a while they lived and had children in Woodlands Manitoba.
She died in 1899 and her eldest daughter(Jessie Firby) largely raised the brood(6 others). I have letters about the Nankivell name
from Uncle Jim who lived in St Paul Minnesota and he sent copies of the crest to my grandmother.

3/6/2017 07:21:41 am

Hi Dale,
Wonderful to find more relatives!
Jessie Nankivell and JEM Firby had 9 children, one of which was Jessie Marilla Firby, my gr-grandmother. One of her daughters, my grandmother Isabel, is the one who got me hooked on this adventure. I am incredibly fortunate to have inherited all of her work. I am also fortunate that the family was pretty great about keeping in touch with each other.
The children were Jessie, Vida, John, Flora, Clifford, Ethel, Edna, Hugh and Russel. Which one is your mother?
I've got information on the family (articles, etc) that I am happy to share with you.

Louise Williams
11/1/2017 09:59:23 pm

Hello Laura,

Great website, thanks for sharing.

Another cousin here. Jessie Nankivell and JEM Firby were my gr grandparents. I began my journey into family genealogical research about 6 years ago. All so interesting! The family stories you have mentioned on this page were also passed down to me. Great to find more family connections!


Dale Nicol
12/20/2017 09:41:15 am

Hi Laura
The "john" in your kids list is actually Garnet.
Could you please respond to me by my direct e mail
address as it would make it easier for me to get info to you


Louise Williams
12/20/2017 05:59:02 pm

Hi Dale,

I believe that John Garnet Firby was always called Garnet by Family, but in official records would be John. He was my grandfather.


Dale Nicol
3/28/2018 01:02:31 pm

Hello Louise
Sorry this has taken so long to reply(I forgot about this page)
Yes, he was Garnet and I don't know much about him as my grandmother(Flossie Firby) lost touch. I have lots of Firby info
including about the Woodlands homestead. I have been working
on the Nankivell side and am sort of stumped.. I know that James Nankivell b.20 March 1842 in Kenwyn,,Cornwall married Elizabeth Grace Dyer b.7 September 1844. They married 24 January 1863 in Kenwyn Parish. They had Jessie and 3 other kids before emigrating
1st to Toronto, then to Winnipeg, then to St. Paul. Jessie married J.E.M. Firby and these were the parents of the Firby brood including my grandmother and Garnet(and all the rest.

I have more but.....

Please contact me directly if you have questions-I am


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