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

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.


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.

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.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Purcell research. Another 185 words (13 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.


Another 159 words (11 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Purcell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


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

Purcell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Garrett Purcell, who landed in Virginia in 1701
  • Kath Purcell, who arrived in Virginia in 1705
  • Robert Purcell, who arrived in South Carolina in 1769
  • Henry Purcell, who arrived in South Carolina in 1770
  • Dominick Purcell, who arrived in New York in 1798

Purcell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Fanny Purcell, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816
  • William Purcell, who arrived in New York in 1822
  • John B Purcell, who arrived in Maryland in 1827
  • Michael Purcell, who landed in New York, NY in 1832
  • Lawrence Purcell, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1852

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

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

Purcell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • William Purcell, a furnace-man, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Eliza Purcell arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Delhi" in 1839
  • John Purcell, aged 22, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1849 aboard the ship "Constance"
  • Phillip Purcell, aged 27, arrived in South Australia in 1850 aboard the ship "British Empire"
  • Phillip Purcell, aged 32, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1853 aboard the ship "Olivia"

Purcell Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Catherine Purcell, aged 25, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alfred" in 1864
  • Philip Purcell, aged 23, a labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Eveline" in 1865
  • James Purcell, aged 22, a farm labourer, arrived in Hawkes Bay aboard the ship "Bebington" in 1874
  • Sarah Purcell, aged 29, arrived in Hawkes Bay aboard the ship "Bebington" in 1874
  • Kate Purcell, aged 7, arrived in Hawkes Bay aboard the ship "Bebington" in 1874


  • 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
  • Michael Peter Purcell (1945-2016), Australian rugby union player who played for the Wallabies in 1966



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.


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  1. ^ MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families Their Names, Arms and Origins 4th Edition. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-2364-7)

Other References

  1. Somerset Fry, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. A History of Ireland. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993. Print. (ISBN 1-56619-215-3).
  2. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Old Town Books, 1962. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-385-3).
  3. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  4. Woulfe, Rev. Patrick. Irish Names and Surnames Collected and Edited with Explanatory and Historical Notes. Kansas City: Genealogical Foundation, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-940134-403).
  5. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  6. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  7. Grehan, Ida. Dictionary of Irish Family Names. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, 1997. Print. (ISBN 1-57098-137-X).
  8. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  9. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  10. O'Hart, John. Irish Pedigress 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4).
  11. ...

The Purcell Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Purcell 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 9 March 2016 at 15:17.

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