Purcell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Although the Irish had their own system of hereditary surnames and the Strongbow settlers brought with them their own Anglo-Norman naming practices, the two traditions generally worked well together. The name Purcell is an occupational surname, a form of hereditary name that existed in both cultures long before the invaders arrived, but more common to the Anglo-Norman culture. Occupational surnames were derived from a word describing the actual job done by the original name bearer. Early Strongbownian names of this type often used the prefix le, meaning the, in French, but the use of this prefix did not last in the language of the vernacular. The surname Purcell came from a common occupational name for a swineherd. The surname Purcell is derived from the Norman-French word porcel, which in turn comes from the Latin word porcus, which means pig or piglet. Occupational names such as Purcell frequently were derived from the principal object associated with the activity of the original bearer, such as tools or products. These types of occupational surnames are called metonymic surnames. The Gaelic form of the surname Purcell is Puirséil.

Early Origins of the Purcell family

The surname Purcell was first found in Surrey, England and later in County Tipperary. As many Norman families, they accompanied Strongbow in the Anglo- Norman invasion of Ireland in 1172. The English branch in Surrey continued their stronghold in Surrey for many years. As far as the Irish branch is concerned, it is generally believed that Sir Hugh Purcell, a Strongbow knight was the progenitor of the family in Ireland. His grandson, another Sir Hugh married Beatrix, daughter of Theobald FitzWalter, Chief Butler of Ireland about 1204 and received Loghmoe (Loughmore,) a village in North Tipperary as a wedding present. [1] A direct line of the family continued until 1722 with the death of Nicholas Purcell, 13th Baron of Loughmoe.

Early History of the Purcell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Purcell research. Another 93 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1172, 1665, 1660, 1665, 1659, 1695, 1664, 1717, 1651 and 1691 are included under the topic Early Purcell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Purcell Spelling Variations

During the Middle Ages, a single person often had their name recorded by church officials and scribes many different ways. Names were typically spelt as they sounded, which resulted in many different spelling variations. The many versions of the name Purcell to have been recorded over the years include: Purcell, Purcel, Pursell, Purcill, Purcells, Percell, Porcell, Percill, Persell, Percel, Pirsell, Porcill, Porsell, Purcelle, Purcele, Persells, Pursells, Purcels, Porcells, Purchell, Purscel, Purtill and many more.

Early Notables of the Purcell family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family up to this time was John Purcell (died 1665), Welsh politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1665; Henry Purcell (1659-1695), generally considered England's greatest composer of the Baroque era; his younger brother Daniel Purcell (1664-1717) was...
Another 44 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Purcell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Purcell migration to the United States +

A great number of Irish families left their homeland in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century, migrating to such far away lands as Australia and North America. The early settlers left after much planning and deliberation. They were generally well off but they desired a tract of land that they could farm solely for themselves. The great mass of immigrants to arrive on North American shores in the 1840s differed greatly from their predecessors because many of them were utterly destitute, selling all they had to gain a passage on a ship or having their way paid by a philanthropic society. These Irish people were trying to escape the aftermath of the Great Potato Famine: poverty, starvation, disease, and, for many, ultimately death. Those that arrived on North American shores were not warmly welcomed by the established population, but they were vital to the rapid development of the industry, agriculture, and infrastructure of the infant nations of the United States and what would become Canada. Early passenger and immigration lists reveal many Irish settlers bearing the name Purcell:

Purcell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • John Purcell, who arrived in Maryland in 1680 [2]
Purcell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Garrett Purcell, who landed in Virginia in 1701 [2]
  • Kath Purcell, who arrived in Virginia in 1705 [2]
  • Robert Purcell, who arrived in South Carolina in 1769 [2]
  • Henry Purcell, who arrived in South Carolina in 1770 [2]
  • Dominick Purcell, who arrived in New York in 1798 [2]
Purcell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Fanny Purcell, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816 [2]
  • William Purcell, who arrived in New York in 1822 [2]
  • John B Purcell, who arrived in Maryland in 1827 [2]
  • Michael Purcell, who landed in New York, NY in 1832 [2]
  • Lawrence Purcell, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1852 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Purcell migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Purcell Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Edmond Purcell, who landed in Quebec in 1784
  • Mr. William Purcell U.E. who settled in Parr Town, Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784 [3]
Purcell Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Nancy Purcell and her husband and seven children settled in Quebec in 1825
  • Philip Purcell, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1833
  • Bridget Purcell, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1844
  • Mr. Alexander Purcell, aged 2 who immigrated to Canada, arriving at the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec aboard the ship "Perseverance" departing from the port of Perseverance, Dublin but died on Grosse Isle on 21st May 1847 [4]
  • Mrs. Ellen Purcell, aged 50 who immigrated to Canada, arriving at the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec aboard the ship "Brothers" departing from the port of Brothers, Dublin but died on Grosse Isle in September 1847 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Purcell migration to Australia +

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

Purcell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • William Purcell, a furnace-man, who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Eliza Purcell, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Delhi" in 1839 [5]
  • John Purcell, aged 22, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Constance" [6]
  • Phillip Purcell, aged 27, who arrived in South Australia in 1850 aboard the ship "British Empire" [7]
  • Phillip Purcell, aged 32, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1853 aboard the ship "Olivia" [8]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Purcell migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Purcell Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Martin Purcell, British settler arriving as the 1st detachment of Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps travelling from Tilbury, Essex aboard the ship "Ramillies" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 6th August 1847 [9]
  • Mrs. Bridget Purcell née Kirwan, British settler travelling from Tilbury, Essex aboard the ship "Ramillies" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 6th August 1847 [9]
  • Mr. Patrick Purcell, British settler arriving as the 1st detachment of Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps travelling from Tilbury, Essex aboard the ship "Ramillies" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 6th August 1847 [9]
  • Miss Grace Purcell, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Tamar" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 28th January 1858 [9]
  • Catherine Purcell, aged 25, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alfred" in 1864 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Purcell (post 1700) +

  • Bennie Purcell (1929-2016), American basketball player who later became a tennis coach, eight-time OVC Men's Tennis Coach of the Year
  • Philip J. Purcell (b. 1943), American businessman, former Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley
  • Richard Gerald "Dick" Purcell (1908-1944), American actor best known for playing Marvel Comics' Captain America in the 1943 film serial
  • Lee Purcell (b. 1947), born Lee Jeune Williams, an American actress and writer-producer
  • Edward Mills Purcell (1912-1997), American physicist and co-winner of the 1952 Nobel Prize for Physics
  • Irene Mary Purcell (1896-1972), American film actress
  • Joe Edward Purcell (1923-1987), American politician, briefly the governor of Arkansas
  • Tadhg Purcell (b. 1985), Irish footballer
  • John Purcell (1814-1857), Irish soldier in the British Army who received the Victoria Cross for deeds during the Indian Mutiny
  • Mrs. Elizabeth Mary Brook Purcell M.B.E., British Chief Executive for Lewis Manning Hospice, was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire on 29th December 2018 for services to Palliative Care in Dorset [11]
  • ... (Another 5 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Halifax Explosion
  • Mr. Joseph Patrick  Purcell (1850-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who survived the explosion but later died due to injuries [12]
  • Mr. Charles S.  Purcell (1853-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [12]
  • Ms. Mary R. Purcell (1897-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [12]
  • Mrs. Margaret  Purcell (1898-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [12]
  • Mr. George  Purcell (1902-1917), Canadian resident from Portuguese Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [12]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Thomas H Purcell, British Able Bodied Seaman, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse and survived the sinking [13]


The Purcell 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: Aut vincam aut periam
Motto Translation: Either conquer or perish.


  1. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)
  2. ^ 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)
  3. ^ Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  4. ^ Charbonneau, André, and Doris Drolet-Dubé. A Register of Deceased Persons at Sea and on Grosse Île in 1847. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, 1997. ISBN: 0-660-198/1-1997E (p. 51)
  5. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) DELHI 1839. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1839Delhi.htm
  6. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) CONSTANCE 1849. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849Constance.htm
  7. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) BRITISH EMPIRE 1850. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1850BritishEmpire.htm
  8. ^ South Australian Register Tuesday 15 November 1853. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Olivia 1857. Retrieved http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/olivia1853.shtml.
  9. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  10. ^ Archives New Zealand Micro 5019. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Alfred. Retrieved from http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ourstuff/Alfred1864.htm
  11. ^ "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62507, 28 December 2018 | London Gazette, The Gazette, Dec. 2018, www.thegazette.co.uk/honours-lists
  12. ^ Halifax Explosion Book of Remembrance | Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (Retrieved 2014, June 23) . Retrieved from https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/what-see-do/halifax-explosion/halifax-explosion-book-remembrance
  13. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html


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