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.

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