Purnell History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 added many new elements to an already vibrant culture.

"Petronilla, a feminine diminutive of the Latin Petronius, was the name of a saint much invoked against fevers and regarded as a daughter of St Peter. The name was accordingly considered to be a derivative of Peter and became one of the most popular of girls' names, the vernacular Parnell being still used as a christian name as late as the 18th century in Cornwall." [1]

"This surname is derived from the name of an ancestor. 'the son of Petronilla.' This was abbreviated to Paronel, and then to Parnel or Pernel." [2]

"Pernel, the pimpernel, a flower that always shuts up its blossoms before rain." [3]

Early Origins of the Purnell family

The surname Purnell was first found in Devon and Cornwall. "In this county the Parnells have their home in the Totnes district. William Parnell was a well - to - do Barnstaple townsman, in the reign of Charles I. (G.). The Parnells are now principally seated in Devon and Cornwall, but there are a few in Cambridgeshire." [4]

Early English rolls provide us a glimpse of the spelling variations used through Medieval times. Today we typically need to look beyond the spellings of these entries and concentrate on a phonetic appreciation of the names. Purnelle, Petronille, Peronelle Kepeherme were listed in 1249, 1250, 1253 at Oseney in Oxfordshire; Pernel was found in the Assize Rolls for Somerset in 1268 and later Parnell in the Assize Rolls for 1280. Johanna Peronele was listed in Cambridgeshire in 1250, Agnes Peronell in Yorkshire in 1274, Roger Pernel in Cambridgeshire in 1295, Edith Purnele in Wiltshire in 1297 and Robert Parnel in the Subsidy Rolls for Staffordshire in 1332. [1]

Early History of the Purnell family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Purnell research. Another 73 words (5 lines of text) covering the years 1666 and 1653 are included under the topic Early Purnell History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Purnell Spelling Variations

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.

Early Notables of the Purnell family (pre 1700)

Another 46 words (3 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Purnell Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Purnell Ranking

In the United States, the name Purnell is the 2,908th most popular surname with an estimated 9,948 people with that name. [5]


United States Purnell migration to the United States +

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
  • Thomas Purnell, who settled in Virginia in 1635
  • Arthur Purnell, who arrived in Virginia in 1637 [6]
  • William Purnell, who arrived in Virginia in 1638 [6]
  • John, Marg, and Richard Purnell who, who settled in Virginia in 1652
  • Mary Purnell, who arrived in Virginia in 1652 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Purnell Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • William Purnell, who 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 [6]
  • George Purnell, aged 22, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1823 [6]
  • Charles Purnell, who landed in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1844 [6]
  • George and James Purnell, who settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1866 and 1870 respectively

Australia Purnell migration to Australia +

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

Purnell Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. John Purnell, British Convict who was convicted in Somerset, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Coromandel" on 27th October 1819, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [7]
  • Mr. David Purnell, English convict who was convicted in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Chapman" on 12th April 1826, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [8]
  • 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 [9]

West Indies Purnell 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. [10]
Purnell Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Richard Purnell, aged 21, who arrived in Barbados in 1634 [6]
  • Mr. Richard Purnell, (b. 1607), aged 27, British settler travelling from Gravesend, UK aboard the ship "Hopewell" arriving in Barbados on 17th February 1634 [6]
  • William Purnell, who settled in Barbados in 1685

Contemporary Notables of the name Purnell (post 1700) +

  • 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
  • Marshall Purnell (b. 1950), American architect, President of the American Institute of Architects in 2008
  • William H. Purnell, American Republican politician, Postmaster at Ocean City, Maryland, 1881-91
  • William Henry Purnell (1826-1902), American Republican politician, Maryland state comptroller, 1856-61; Resigned 1861; Postmaster at Baltimore, Maryland, 1861-66; Colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War; College professor; President, Delaware College, 1870-85
  • Fred Sampson Purnell (1882-1939), American Republican politician, U.S. Representative from Indiana 9th District, 1917-33; Defeated, 1914
  • William C. Purnell, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Maryland, 1952, 1960 (alternate)
  • Frank Purnell, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Ohio, 1944
  • Charles Purnell, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Texas, 1972
  • 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)
  • ... (Another 23 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)


Suggested Readings for the name Purnell +

  • Lambie Genealogy by Hugh J. Purnell.

  1. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Halliwell, James Orchard. A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial WordsLondon: John Russel Smith, Old Compton Street, Soho, 1848, Digital, 2 Vols
  4. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  5. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  6. ^ 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)
  7. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 12th March 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/coromandel
  8. ^ Convict Records of Australia (Retreived 28th January 2021, retreived from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/chapman)
  9. ^ State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2014, November 17) Adelaide voyage to Van Diemen's Land and Port Phillip, Australia in 1849 with 303 passengers. Retrieved from http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/adelaide/1849
  10. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies


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