Purnell and Allen families of Somerset

Several years ago, when looking at HAYES family records I found the 1851 census entry for John Hayes, at 11 North Street, Bedminster, Bristol. He was my great great grandfather’s brother, and he and his wife Margaret had been born at Winscombe, as had their son William. There was a daughter, Mary, and his mother Rachel, aged 64. Then an Elena PURNELL, listed as a cousin, a dressmaker aged 17, who was born in Bedminster.

For a long time I puzzled about this Elena Purnell, until a transcription of the Winscombe parish registers became available, and revealed that an Ann PURNELL, daughter of James and Ann had been baptised in Winscombe in 1827.

Rachel HAYES’s maiden name was ALLEN, and she had a younger sister Ann, who thus could have been the wife of James PURNELL, though there was no record of their marriage, and no sign of Elena.

This was confirmed by the 1841 census of Bedminster, where Ann PURNELL was listed as the head of the house, with a daughter Ann aged 13 (thus the right age to be born in 1827) and with them were Simon and Rachel Hayes. But no Elena. Nevertheless, it did show that John HAYES (son of Simon and Rachel) did have PURNELL cousins.

I then saw a transcription of the 1851 census entry, where the transcriber had listed Elena PURNELL as Clara TURNEL. I checked the original again, and yes, what I took to be Elena could be Clara. So I checked the IGI, and found a Clara Purnell baptised at St Philip and St Jacob in Bristol on 21 July 1833, with parents James and Ann. It was a patron-submitted record, with no source provided, but seems plausible enough.

That solved my original mystery — where did John HAYES and his brothers get a cousin “Elena” from. The answer was from their mother’s sister, and she wasn’t “Elena” but Clara.

But it still leaves, or rather raises, some more questions — like

  • When and where did James PURNELL and Ann ALLEN marry?
  • Where was Clara at the 1841 census (when she would have been 7)?
  • Where did the mysterious James PURNELL hang out, or did he just pop into existence to beget kids, and then disappear again?
  • Where were the elder and younger Ann Purnell in the 1851 and later censuses?

If anyone spots them in the wild, please let me know.

More here, with a family group sheet.

Miscellaneous family and research information

Today I moved 367 records of people from one genealogical program to another. Most of them were in material sent by cousins, quite a lot relating to the Nipper and Benoke families (descended from William and Ann Allen of Winscombe, Somerset). I hope to have a kind of consolidated pool of information about the descendants of William and Ann Allen to share with any members of the family who are interested. There are some related families about which we have very little information — Purnell and Hill, for example.

There was also some information sent by Diana Richter on the Beningfield and Grice families of Durban.

The other day I met John Sutherland of Australia, who was looking for his grandfather Robert Sutherland, some of whose children were born in Pilgrim’s Rest. I showed him how to look in the archives, but unfortunately there wasn’t much. There was a cryptic reference to a Robert Sutherland who had died in Mozambique, but not enough information to show that he was related.

We’re still having bandwidth problems, so if anyone writes e-mails and they bounce, try again at the end of the month, in case we’ve run out of bandwidth. In the mean time I’ll try to be sparing about looking at other people’s blogs and web pages, to try to make the e-mail last until the end of the month.

Benoke family – Allen descendants

June Murphy has just sent me a lot of information on the family of her great grandfather Hooper Scott Benoke, and from it I’ve been able to to work out that June and I are 5th cousins, and we are both descended from William and Ann Allen of Winscombe, Somerset.

The Allen family seems to have been quite prolific. At various times I’ve discovered mysterious cousins staying with Hayes relatives in censuses in Bristol, and have gradually been tracking them down, and most have turned out to be Allen descendants. Some of the surnames of descendants are Hayes, Williams, Hill, Purnell, Nipper, Benoke and there are probably many more to be discovered.

Allen, Williams, Benoke, and Nipper families of Somerset

June Murphy replied to a query I had left on the RootsWeb message boards, about the Allen, Williams, Benoke and Nipper families of Somerset. She is descended from Hooper Scott Benoke, who was staying with his grandfather Giles Williams in the 1861 census.

June also left a message in our message forum (see sidebar), that Hooper Scott Benoke is her great grandfather, and descended from Ann Williams. She notes that he was married three times, and I only had information about one of his marriages, to Louisa Nipper, who I suspected may have been related to Joseph Nipper and Mary Williams. June confirmed that Louisa was their daughter, and so first cousin to Hooper Scott Benoke, as their mothers were sisters. So now I’m hoping to hear more from June on Hooper Scott Benoke’s other marriages, and his descendants.

My great great grandmother was Rachel Allen of Winscombe, Somerset, who married Simon Hayes or Hays. Rachel’s sister Hannah married Giles Williams, hence the link between the families. Giles Williams and Hannah Allen had four children, one of whom died young. Hannah appears to have been dead before 1834, though i have not found a record of her death or burial. In 1834 Giles Williams married Sidonia Sweet.

Hayes, Allen, Williams, Purnell

Today I spent quite a lot of time making use of the OriginsNet free offer for 4 July, and seeing what I could find. The most useful things were the 1841 and 1871 censuses, though they are not fully indexed, and some of the images did not display properly.

But they seemed to have Bristol and Somerset fairly well covered, and I looked up my great great great grandparents, Simon and Rachel Hayes, in the 1841 census, and think I may have found a clue to a long-standing mystery.

Ages ago one of the first censuses we found (Bedminster 1851) showed John Hayes (son of Simon and Rachel) and a cousin staying with him, Elena Purnell, aged 17.

Ever since then we’ve looked for a Purnell connection, but have never found it in more than 20 years of searching.

But in 1841 Simon and Rachel were staying in a household that included Ann Purnell, aged 45, and two younger Purnells, and an Emily Tripp aged 4. This was in Paul Street, Bedminster, Bristol. It seems possible, then, that Ann was Rachel’s sister. We know what happened to her other two sisters — one married Giles Williams, and the other married George Hill, but what happened to Ann was a mystery. So now we have to find her marriage to a Purnell, to confirm this, and also that she had a daughter Elena, and another loose end will be tied up.

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