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.

2 Responses

  1. Hi, I can help with James Purnell if you have not already solved your mystery. James Purnell was born 1825 Meonstoke, Hampshire. He was the son of Mary Glover and William Purnell. He married Ann Allen on 26/6/1849 Meonstoke. Ann Allen was born in 1831 Exton, Hampshire. She was the illegitimate daughter of Mary Allen. James and Ann had two daughters. Fanny Purnell was born in September 1849 and died two months later aged fifteen weeks. They then had Mary Allen Purnell who was baptised 9//2/1851 Meonstoke. Ann Purnell, nee Allen, died in March 1852 and was buried in Meonstoke aged 21. In 1851 James, Ann and Mary were living in Meonstoke, Hampshire. James was a journeyman carpenter.

    James remarried on 22/11/1853 Meonstoke to Mary Laishley who was born in 1832 in Exton Hampshire. They must have decided to move up to Rotherham where James’ sister was living in about 1854. Mary Allen Purnell, his only surviving child from his first marriage, stayed with her maternal grandmother in Hampshire. James and Mary had eight children. The first child was Ellen, probably your Elena. There was no Clara. The James and Ann you found in Bristol are another couple, I was nearly misled by them too.

    James and Mary’s children were
    Ellen Purnell bn 1855 Rotherham. She did not marry and died in 1931.
    Ann Purnell bn 1857 Rotherham who married Samuel Walter Cooke in Rotherham.
    Emma Purnell bn 1860 and died 1865 Rotherham.
    Jane Purnell bn 1862 and died 1864 Rotherham
    Kate Purnell bn 1864 Rotherham and married Charles John Hobson.
    Lilley Purnell bn 1867 Rotherham. She did not marry and died in 1917.
    Walter Purnell bn and died 1871 Rotherham
    Arthur Purnell bn and died 1872 Rotherham.

    Mary died in 1909 Rotherham and james died in 1884 Rotherham.

    Hope this helps. If you want any more details on these families or want to know ab out James Purnell’s ancestors let me know.

    • The James and Ann you found in Bristol are another couple, I was nearly misled by them too.

      They are indeed another couple, but they are the couple I happen to be looking for.

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