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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Where did the English Burnell family come from? What is the English Burnell family crest and coat of arms? When did the Burnell family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Burnell family history?

The name Burnell has a history dating as far back as the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. It was a name for a person with brown hair or a dark complexion. The surname Burnell is derived from the Old English word burnel. This word comes from the Old French word brunel, which is a diminutive of the Old French word brun. Normally a nickname, Burnell was also used as a personal name.

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Spelling variations in names were a common occurrence before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, even the literate spelled their names differently as the English language incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other European languages. Many variations of the name Burnell have been found, including Burnell, Burnhill, Byrnell and others.

First found in Shropshire where they were a family of great antiquity. They held a family seat at Acton Burnell in the county of Salop where they were found as early as 1087 according to Dugdale. They also acquired Holgate in the same shire and one of the first on record was Lesire le Burnell, whose son Robert Burnell (1239-1292) was Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1275 and Lord Chancellor of England from 1274-1292.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Burnell research. Another 233 words(17 lines of text) covering the year 1571 is included under the topic Early Burnell History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Burnell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Burnell family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 120 words(9 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Families began migrating abroad in enormous numbers because of the political and religious discontent in England. Often faced with persecution and starvation in England, the possibilities of the New World attracted many English people. Although the ocean trips took many lives, those who did get to North America were instrumental in building the necessary groundwork for what would become for new powerful nations. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America bore the name Burnell, or a variant listed above:

Burnell Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • William Burnell settled in Salem Massachusetts in 1630
  • William Burnell, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1644
  • Henry Burnell settled in Virginia in 1656 with his brothers Francis and Robert
  • Francis Burnell, who arrived in Virginia in 1656
  • Henry Burnell, who landed in Virginia in 1656


Burnell Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Thos Burnell, who landed in Virginia in 1713

Burnell Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • William Burnell arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1847

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  • Barker Burnell (1798-1843), U.S. Representative from Massachusetts
  • Brigadier-General Nathaniel Alanson Burnell (1897-1976), American Assistant Chief of Staff (G-4), 2nd Army (1947-1950)
  • Brigadier-General Ray Lawrence Burnell (1891-1968), American Commanding Officer 409th Field Artillery Group (1943-)
  • Joe Burnell (b. 1980), English professional footballer
  • Richard "Dickie" Desborough Burnell (1917-1995), English rower
  • Robert Burnell (1239-1292), English bishop who served as Lord Chancellor of England
  • Cerrie Burnell (b. 1979), English actress, singer, playwright, and television presenter
  • William Fleet Burnell (b. 1984), English cricketer
  • Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (b. 1943), DBE, FRS FRAS, Ph.D, British (Northern Ireland born) astronomer
  • D Jean Burnell, Professor of Chemistry at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

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The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Caritas fructum habet
Motto Translation: Charity bears fruit.

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  1. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  2. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin . Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  3. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  4. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  5. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  6. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  7. Bede, The Venerable. Historia Ecclesiatica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History Of the English People). Available through Internet Medieval Sourcebook the Fordham University Centre for Medieval Studies. Print.
  8. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  9. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  10. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of England and Wales. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1971. Print.
  11. ...

The Burnell Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Burnell Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 3 November 2011 at 11:06.

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