Burnell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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.

Early Origins of the Burnell family

The surname Burnell was 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. He was "descended from a knightly family in Shropshire, and was born at their seat of Acton Burnell, near Shrewsbury. After he became famous the monks of Buildwas forged a genealogy which traced his family back to the Conquest." [1]

"That this family has been of great antiquity here in England, an old Martyrologe (sometime belonging to the abbey of Buildewas, county Salop) doth plainly demonstrate: for thereby appeareth that Sir Robert Burnell, knt, died 15 November, 1087; Sir Philip, 14 December, 1107; Sir Roger, 5 February, 1140; Sir Hugh, 7 January, 1189; Sir Hugh, 12 May, 1242; and another Sir Robert, 6 December, 1249." [2]

However, another source disputes this entry and postulates: "This evidence is too minutely circumstantial as regards dates to be above suspicion; and with the exception of Robert and Philip, none of the Christian names given are found in the records, nor even these at the same periods. An Ingelram Burnell was living in 1165; and a William Burnell attested one of the charters of Wenlock Abbey in 1170. (Eyton's Salop.) They were seated in Shropshire, where they have left their name to the village of Acton Burnell, and Eudon Burnell. The first mention of them at Acton (Actune, the oak town) is found in the Testa de Nevill, where it is stated that William and Gerain Burnell held half a fee there. [3] A passage in the Hundred Rolls, evidently referable to the time of Henry III., proves that Robert Burnell then held it in fee of Thomas Corbet. William had joined the rebellious barons; but Robert, a churchman of remarkable ability, was the "secretary and confidential clerk" of Prince Edward, and his most trusted and valued counsellor when he became King." [4]

Another branch of the family was found in the parish of Sibthorpe in Nottinghamshire. "This place was anciently of some importance, and was the residence of the Burnell family, of whose spacious mansion, however, no remains now exist." [5]

The parish of Acton-Burnell is of great importance to the family too. "This place, which is of considerable antiquity, is on a branch of the Roman Watling-street. It takes the adjunct to its name from the family of Burnell, of whom Robert, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and Lord High Chancellor in the reign of Edward I., had a castle in the parish, of which there are still some remains. Nicholas Burnell, a distinguished warrior in the reign of Edward III., was born and buried here." [5]

Early History of the Burnell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Burnell research. Another 290 words (21 lines of text) covering the years 1272, 1274, 1292, 1283, 1571, 1542 and 1641 are included under the topic Early Burnell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Burnell Spelling Variations

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.

Early Notables of the Burnell family (pre 1700)

Distinguished members of the family include Edward Burnell ( fl. 1542), English professor of Greek at Rostock, Germany. [1] Henry Burnell (fl. 1641), the dramatist, belongs to the Anglo-Irish family of Burnell, which acquired considerable estates in Leinster...
Another 36 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Burnell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Burnell Ranking

In the United States, the name Burnell is the 6,451st most popular surname with an estimated 4,974 people with that name. [6]

Ireland Migration of the Burnell family to Ireland

Some of the Burnell family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 33 words (2 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Burnell migration to the United States +

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 United States in the 17th Century
  • William Burnell, who settled in Salem Massachusetts in 1630
  • William Burnell, who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1644 [7]
  • Francis Burnell, who arrived in Virginia in 1656 [7]
  • Henry Burnell, who landed in Virginia in 1656 [7]
  • Henry Burnell, who settled in Virginia in 1656 with his brothers Francis and Robert
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Burnell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Thomas Burnell, who landed in Virginia in 1713 [7]
Burnell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Miss Margaret Burnell, (b. 1809), aged 23, Cornish settler departing from Plymouth aboard the ship "Andromeda" arriving in the United States on 10th May 1832 [8]
  • William Burnell, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1847

Australia Burnell migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Burnell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Charles Burnell, English convict from London, who was transported aboard the "Anna Maria" on March 6, 1848, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia [9]
  • John Burnell, aged 42, a tanner, who arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Florentia" [10]

West Indies Burnell migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [11]
Burnell Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Mrs. Burnell who arrived in Barbados in 1680 with servants

Contemporary Notables of the name Burnell (post 1700) +

  • Brigadier-General Ray Lawrence Burnell (1891-1968), American Commanding Officer 409th Field Artillery Group (1943-) [12]
  • Brigadier-General Nathaniel Alanson Burnell (1897-1976), American Assistant Chief of Staff (G-4), 2nd Army (1947-1950) [13]
  • Barker Burnell (1798-1843), U.S. Representative from Massachusetts
  • Broughton Benjamin Pegge Burnell (1774-1850), English landowner who lived at Beauchief Abbey and Winkbourn Hall, High Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Derbyshire and a magistrate for Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire
  • William Fleet Burnell (b. 1984), English cricketer
  • Cerrie Burnell (b. 1979), English actress, singer, playwright, and television presenter
  • Robert Burnell (1239-1292), English bishop who served as Lord Chancellor of England
  • Richard "Dickie" Desborough Burnell (1917-1995), English rower
  • Joe Burnell (b. 1980), English professional footballer
  • Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE, FRS FRAS, Ph.D, (b. 1943), British (Northern Ireland born) astronomer
  • ... (Another 4 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

HMS Hood
  • Mr. Gordon R Burnell (b. 1920), English Ordinary Seaman serving for the Royal Navy from Kenn, Somerset, England, who sailed into battle and died in the sinking [14]


The Burnell Motto +

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.


  1. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  2. ^ Dugdale, William. The Antiquities of Warwickshire Illustrated London: Second Edition, 1730. Digital
  3. ^ Testa de Nevill or "Liber Feodorum" or "Book of Fees," thought to have been written by Ralph de Nevill, for King John (1199–1216)
  4. ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 1 of 3
  5. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  6. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  7. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  8. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, April 30). Emigrants to New York 1820 - 1891 [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/emigration_new_york_1820_1891.pdf
  9. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2015, January 8) Anna Maria voyage to Van Diemen's Land or Port Phillip, Australia in 1848 with 190 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/anna-maria/1848
  10. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) FLORENTIA 1849. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849Florentia.htm
  11. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  12. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2011, November 3) Ray Burnell. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Burnell/Ray_Lawrence/USA.html
  13. ^ Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2011, November 3) Nathaniel Burnell. Retrieved from http://generals.dk/general/Burnell/Nathaniel_Alanson/USA.html
  14. ^ H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from http://www.hmshood.com/crew/memorial/roh_24may41.htm


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