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An excerpt from archives copyright 2000 - 2016

The name Purnell arrived in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Purnell family lived in Gloucestershire, where the family was found since the early Middle Ages.


The surname Purnell was first found in Gloucestershire where they held a family seat as Lords of the manor of Wickwar from very ancient times. Wickwar was shown in the Domesday Book in 1086, a census initiated by Duke William of Normandy after his conquest of England in 1066. The holder of Wickwar at this time is not known to us but we do know that the Queen gave the village to Humphrey the Chamberlain.

A multitude of spelling variations characterize Norman surnames. Many variations occurred because Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules. The introduction of Norman French to England also had a pronounced effect, as did the court languages of Latin and French. Therefore, one person was often referred to by several different spellings in a single lifetime. The various spellings include Purnel, Purnell, Pernel, Pernell and others.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Purnell research. Another 189 words (14 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Purnell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


More information is included under the topic Early Purnell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Many English families left England, to avoid the chaos of their homeland and migrated to the many British colonies abroad. Although the conditions on the ships were extremely cramped, and some travelers arrived diseased, starving, and destitute, once in the colonies, many of the families prospered and made valuable contributions to the cultures of what would become the United States and Canada. Research into the origins of individual families in North America has revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Purnell or a variant listed above:

Purnell Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Richard Purnell, aged 21, arrived in Barbados in 1634
  • Thomas Purnell settled in Virginia in 1635
  • Arthur Purnell, who arrived in Virginia in 1637
  • William Purnell, who arrived in Virginia in 1638
  • John, Marg, and Richard Purnell who settled in Virginia in 1652
  • ...

Purnell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • William Purnell settled in South Carolina in 1728

Purnell Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Edward Purnell, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1822
  • George Purnell, aged 22, landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1823
  • Charles Purnell, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1844
  • George and James Purnell settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1866 and 1870 respectively

Purnell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • John Purnell, English convict from Wiltshire, who was transported aboard the "Adelaide" on August 08, 1849, settling in Van Diemen's Land and Port Phillip, Australia

  • Louis Rayfield Purnell Sr. (1920-2001), American curator and Tuskegee Airman, the first African-American to become a curator at the Smithsonian Institution, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Rear Admiral William Reynolds Purnell (1886-1955), American Naval officer who captained destroyers during World War I, awarded the Navy Cross and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
  • William Henry Purnell (1826-1902), American politician, Comptroller of Maryland (1856-1861)
  • Russ Purnell (b. 1948), American NFL football coach for the Carolina Panthers
  • Oliver Gordon Purnell Jr. (b. 1953), American college basketball head coach for Clemson University, the University of Dayton, Old Dominion University, and Radford University
  • Marshall Purnell (b. 1950), African-American architect, President of the American Institute of Architects in 2008
  • Lovett Shaizer Purnell (b. 1972), former American NFL football tight end
  • James Fred Purnell (1941-2003), American former NFL football linebacker who played from 1964 to 1972
  • Jesse Rhoades Purnell (1881-1966), American Major League Baseball third baseman who played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1904
  • Thomas Richard Purnell (1847-1908), American lawyer, politician and jurist, Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (1897-1908)
  • ...

  • Lambie Genealogy by Hugh J. Purnell.

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    Other References

    1. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
    2. Thirsk, Joan. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
    3. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
    4. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
    5. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
    6. Shirley, Evelyn Philip. Noble and Gentle Men of England Or Notes Touching The Arms and Descendants of the Ancient Knightley and Gentle Houses of England Arranged in their Respective Counties 3rd Edition. Westminster: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, 1866. Print.
    7. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
    8. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of England and Wales. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1971. Print.
    9. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
    10. Leeson, Francis L. Dictionary of British Peerages. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1121-5).
    11. ...

    The Purnell Family Crest was acquired from the archives. The Purnell 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 1 June 2016 at 09:01.

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