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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016


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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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. 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." [1] 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." [1]

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.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Burnell research. Another 95 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 157 and 1571 are 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 55 words (4 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 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 United States in the 18th Century


  • Thos Burnell, who landed in Virginia in 1713

Burnell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • William Burnell arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1847

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
  • John Burnell, aged 42, a tanner, arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Florentia"

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  • Brigadier-General Ray Lawrence Burnell (1891-1968), American Commanding Officer 409th Field Artillery Group (1943-)
  • Brigadier-General Nathaniel Alanson Burnell (1897-1976), American Assistant Chief of Staff (G-4), 2nd Army (1947-1950)
  • Barker Burnell (1798-1843), U.S. Representative from Massachusetts
  • 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
  • Justin Burnell, Welsh former rugby footballer and now a rugby union coach
  • Charles Desborough Burnell (1876-1969), British rower

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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. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  2. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  3. Humble, Richard. The Fall of Saxon England. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-987-8).
  4. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  5. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  6. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  7. Fairbairn. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  8. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  9. Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4).
  10. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds. Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  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 8 March 2016 at 14:07.

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