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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

Where did the English Purnell family come from? What is the English Purnell family crest and coat of arms? When did the Purnell family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Purnell family history?

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.


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.

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.


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.


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


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


  • James Fred Purnell (1941-2003), American football (NFL) player
  • Thomas Richard Purnell (1847-1908), American lawyer, politician and judge
  • Jon Robert Purnell, American diplomat, Ambassador to Uzbekistan (2004-2007)
  • Keg Purnell (1915-1965), American swing jazz drummer
  • Alton Purnell (1911-1987), American jazz pianist
  • Fred Sampson Purnell (1882-1939), American politician, U.S. Representative from Indiana
  • Clyde Honeysett Purnell (1877-1934), English football player, winner of a gold medal at the 1908 Summer Olympics
  • James Mark Dakin Purnell (b. 1970), British politician


  • Lambie Genealogy by Hugh J. Purnell.

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  1. Sanders, Joanne McRee Edition. English Settlers in Barbados 1637-1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  2. 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.
  3. Bardsley, C.W. A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6).
  4. Thirsk, Joan. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  5. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  6. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  7. 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.
  8. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  9. Humble, Richard. The Fall of Saxon England. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-987-8).
  10. Marcharn, Frederick George. A Constitutional History of Modern England 1485 to the Present. London: Harper and Brothers, 1960. Print.
  11. ...

The Purnell Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com 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 14 December 2014 at 07:35.

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