Thomas Purnell immigrated to Virginia in 1635. Some believe him to be the son of a John Purnell d. 1622 at Gloucester, England, and that he was second cousin to the Richard Purnell, who arrived early at Talbot County, MD. These relationships are not proved and are included under "English Ancestors."

There appears to be a meshing of two different John Purnells and/or the assumption that a John Purnell 1715-1783 was the son of John Purnell d. 1742, of Thomas Purnell, the emigrant. These two John Purnells are explored further and separated in the following notes under "Two John Purnells."

This journal for the Purnell Family, descended from Thomas d. 1694 of Somerset Co., MD is being updated to include new information but also to dispel erroneous information which has been published over the years and correct information which was actually lifted from this Purnell journal, changed, and posted at a paid genealogy site.

I must express by sincere thanks to Vern Skinner, who provided much of the information on the Purnells of Talbot and Caroline Counties and who helped immensely in sorting out the two John Purnells, and finding the facts that confirm John Purnell d. 1765 as the son of John d. 1742, of Thomas, the emigrant. As always, the ghotes disclaimer applies and I welcome comments, additions and corrections.

Judy Marshall Stell, e-mail:

December, 2001


Two John Purnells: John Purnell, Son of John Purnell (d. 1742) of Thomas (d. 1694)

John Purnell, will dated April 15, 1741, probate March 3, 1742 Worcester Co., MD, named his son, John, and left him land at "Brothers Love," "Mattapony Marsh," and "Purnells Lot," in Worcester County. John was also called "youngest son" and named by his father as one of the five children by his wife, Martha.

John Purnell (d. 1742) was married three times. His first wife was Director Smith. His second wife, alive on January 3, 1716/7, was Tabitha, daughter of John Bailey. Tabitha was named in her father's will, as was her first husband, Parker Selby, and her children by Selby, and her then husband, John Purnell, who was appointed executor of Bailey's will in the event Bailey's wife died before his will was proved.1 John Purnell married his third wife Martha Bowen by March 13, 1735, when she was legatee of her father's estate and shown as daughter of William Bowen and wife of John Purnell.2 Among the five children named by John Purnell d. 1742 as his children by Martha Bowen were: Martha, Mary, Bathseba, Hezekiah, and John. Dates of birth are not known, other than all the children were born after 1716-17 and all were named as executors by their father in 1741, along with their mother, Martha. Martha Bowen Purnell Selby made her will February 13, 1780, and it was probated October 13, 1780, Worcester Co. MD. Martha named her grandsons Robert Purnell and Thomas Purnell Sturgis, granddaughter Martha Sturgis and daughter, Martha Sturgis, and grandchildren: John, Thomas Purnell, Joshua and Mary (no surnames).3

The Somerset County Tax Lists give an indication as to the birth of John Purnell, son of John (d. 1742), and show that John (d. 1742) had an older son, also named John: 1723, 1724 and 1725 Tax Lists show John Purnell as head of household at Mattapony Hundred, and that he had a John Purnell, Jr. in his household. By 1727, the John Purnell, Jr. is no longer in the household. Hezekiah Purnell does not appear on the 1740 Tax List; therefore, he was not yet age 16; meaning his younger brother John was also not yet 16 in 1740. From the Tax Lists, we see that there was a John Purnell, Jr. who was born prior to 1707, probably to Director Smith, the first wife of John (d. 1742). This John, Jr. either disappeared from the area or died between 1725 and 1727.4 Since he was at least 18, is not found with any family land, and is not named in any wills, it appears this John, Jr. died around 1725 and John (d. 1742) used the name, John, when his youngest son was born.5

John Purnell (d. 1742) gave 350 acres "Brother's Love" to his son John. The 1783 Tax List shows a John Purnell of John with 357 acres at Mattapony Hundred. In 1801, Robert Purnell gave his daughter Margaret 200 acres and named his son John. In 1808, Martha Purnell, widow of Major John Purnell sold "Mattapony Marsh". John Purnell (d. 1742) left "Mattapony Marsh" to his son John. Robert Purnell, son of John, sold "Mattapony Marsh" in 1806. "Purnell's Lot" is the third piece of property given by John (d. 1742) to his son John. A John Purnell patented another 100 acres in 1750; and in 1789, Robert Purnell, wife Nancy, and Elizabeth Purnell, widow of John, sold 5A ĎPurnellís Lot".6

There was a John Purnell who died intestate in 1765, when Mary Purnell, later the wife of William Holland, administered his estate on March 6, 1765, Worcester Co.7 The inventory for his estate was filed on June 21, 1765; the next of kin for the inventory were Martha Selby and Hezekiah Purnell.8 The accounts for his estate were filed on August 22, 1766; no heirs were cited.9 This was definitely, John, son of John d. 1742 & Martha Bowen and brother of Hezekiah. A John Purnell, will dated February 19, 1788, probated January 5, 1789, named his wife Elizabeth and brother, Robert.10 Robert Purnell and Betsey Purnell are shown in Orphans Court Records regarding the estate of John Purnell in 1790 and 1791.11 Robert Purnell signed his will March 12, 1801, naming children Peggy and John and wife Elizabeth. Margaret Lankford, daughter of Robert Purnell and wife of Kellam Lankford, sold "Purnell's Lot" in 1809.12

Matching up the dates and names and descent of properties, it would appear that John Purnell (d. 1742) and Martha Bowen's son, John Purnell, was born about 1725 and died by June 21 1765. His wife was Mary, who married 2nd William Holland. John Purnell (d. 1765) had two sons: John, born prior to 1765, died prior to January 5, 1789, married Elizabeth (N); and Robert, born prior to1765, died prior to March 27, 1807, maried first Nancy (N) before 1789, married second Betsy Reed in 1800.13 Robert Purnell had two children: Margaret, died after 1809, married Kellam Lankford in 1803; and Major John Purnell, died by 1808, married Patty/Martha Purnell (daughter of Elisha & Mary Ayres Purnell) in 1797.14,15

Two John Purnells: John Purnell (1715-1783)

A John Purnell (born January 6, 1715, died 1783 Worcester Co.) married Comfort Armistead (born June 22, 1724 in VA) on June 7, 1743 in Worcester Co. This John Purnell is shown as the son of John Purnell (d. 1742) & Martha Bowen, in the submission by Carrie Purnell Reynolds (b. 1868) to the National Society of Daughters of Founders & Patriots of America.16 The submission papers further cite William Purnell (born May 10, 1745, died February 27 1820 Caroline Co. MD), who married Ann Sylvester in 1770, as the son of John (1715-1783) & Comfort Armistead. Other researchers show John (1715-1783) had other children17:

1. Armistead, b.c. 1744, m. Julia Comfort Outten.

2. John, b.c. 1746, d. 1788 Worcester Co.

3. Malvina, b.c. 1747.

4. Frank, b.c. 1748.

5. Matthew, b.c. 1749, d. aft. 1806.

6. Louisa Purnell b.c. 1750.

7. Major James, d. 1842.

Except for the given name, John, none of the names of John (1715-1783)'s children were given in the will of Martha Bowen Purnell Selby in 1780, nor do they appear in any of the land abstracts for the three properties. There is no wife named Comfort attached to any of the abstracted records for properties given by John Purnell (d. 1742) to his son, John. This John (1715-1783) is not old enough to be the John, Jr. who's in the 1723-25 household of John (d. 1742), and he's too old to be the son of Martha Bowen.

I have not seen the "DE Bible Records" cited for descendants of John (1715-1783), but understand that they do not show a son named Robert. It is also reasonable that the John Purnell (d. 1788 Worcester), who is shown by some as a son of John (1715-1783), is misplaced--since we know that John (d. 1788 Worcester) was the brother of Robert and son of John (d. 1765). In a recent (2001) genealogy posted at a paid genealogy web site showing descendants of John (1715-1783), Robert Purnell is also shown as his son and the Purnell Journal posted at the ghote web site is cited as source. This appears to be a meshing of two separate families to place all as children of John (1715-1783), ignoring the father of Robert as shown in the Purnell Journal as John (d. 1766).

Two John Purnells: Conclusion

This Purnell Journal will show Thomas Purnell (d. 1694), father of John Purnell (d. 1742), father of Hezekiah Purnell (d. 1768) & John Purnell (d. 1766); and John Purnell (d. 1766) as the father of John (d. 1788) & Robert (d. 1807). John Purnell (1715-1783) remains "unplaced."


Richard Purnell18, 1649-1728, Will in Talbot Co., MD.

Issue by (N). She was widow of Thomas Wilson (d.c. 1690).34

Issue by Mary Banning, daughter of Thomas Banning & Hannah Jones. Hannah m. 2nd James Bell; Mary is probably the Mary Pornell who is cited as approver of inventory of James Bell in 1739.39

William Purnell44, brother of Richard Purnell, d. 1703.

Issue by Margaret Jump.52

Issue by Juliana (Young). She probably m2nd Samuel Leatherwood and died after 1784 when she is cited as Juleay Sanders.

Issue by Ann Sylvester.66


Issue by Catharine Hargardine. Married 7 June 1785 Caroline Co.

Issue by William Bell.

By Ann Hardcastle.

By Margaret (N).

Issue by John Banning.


Richard Purnell, b.c. 1660, d. May 7, 1698.

Issue by Mary Welsh.

with Ann Collin (late Ann Towgood) executors of Mary Towgood, and other executor, Richard Lane.

Issue by Rachel Potenger (b. Jun 20, 1700 Prince Georges Co., MD).

He is shown by some researchers as son; however, there is a 12-year gap since previous


He is shown by some researchers as son; however, there is a 12-year gap since

birth of Sarah. Montgomery County wasnít formed until 1776.


James Purnell b. 1768, d. March 19, 1843 Elkton, Cecil Co., MD98.

Issue by Elisabeth Neal. Married October 9, 1789 Caroline Co., MD. She was born in Caroline Co., MD.

Issue by Mary (N). Married by 1859.102, 103

Issue by Sarah Matilda Childs. Married on November 27, 1902 Cecil Co., MD. Sarah Matilda was born May 25, 1869 Anne Arundel Co., MD.106

(do not have proof the following are children of Greenbury Purnell:)

Miscellaneous Cecil Co. Purnells:

Harriet Purnell.

Henry Purnell.

Mary Purnell.

Obituaries from Cecil Whig:

Anna H. Purnell d. 3/31/1888.

Annie Purnell d. 6/14/1890.

Mary Purnell d. 12/27/1884.

Cecil Co. Marriages. [No Purnell Grooms.]

Elizabeth A. Purnell m. Charles Graham Blaney, no date.

Jessie Purnell m. Rufus D. Bowland, no date.

Martie Purnell m. Harry R. Pritchard 10/16/1884.


(notes from: W. Fred Allen, Purnell Family in England, 1928; Melanie A. Merryweather, The Purnell Family; Karen L. Robert & George Purnell; Descendants of Thomas Purnell; John C. Hotten, Hotten Lists 1600-1700; George I. Purnell, The Purnell Family Farm Tour)

William Purnell b. 1520, d. 1579, Gloucestershire, England. He had five children, two of whom were Thomas and William.

Issue by Margery (N). Married in 1548.

Issue by Margarthe Longe/Dorge, daughter of William Longe/Dorge. They were married in 1578. There were six children who married at North Nibley, one of whom was Thomas:

Issue by Margory/Margaret Partridge of Parish Cowly. They were married in 1605.


  • William Purnell of Snow Hill, father of Mary Purnell d. 1768, who m. 1724 John Dennis d. 1766 Somerset.
  • Purnell Henry Dryden b.c. 1810 s/o James Henry Dryden & Elizabeth.
  • Purnell Brittingham.
  • Mary Purnell Marshall daughter of (N).
  • Mary P. Marshall d. 1816, m. Thomas M. Purnell d. 1841.
  • Dryden Purnell and his relation to John Purnell, with whom he was living when filing Revolutionary Pension.
  • Cpt. Isaac Purnell m. Hetty Williams, father of William H. Purnell who m. Sarah M. Hudson.
  • Zadock Purnell m. Mary Davis, father of William H. Purnell m. 1869 Julia A. LeCompte.
  • John Purnell 1715-1783, m. Comfort Armistead. (there is a John Purnell on 1783 Worcester Co. MD Tax List who does not have any land and who cannot be placed as a descendant of Thomas, the emigrant.

Other Purnells Early to VA107:

  • William Purnell transported to VA, Henrico area, 1635. He is probably the same William in Westmoreland Co. VA in 1654.
  • John Purnell in Lancaster Co., VA in 1652.

Thomas Purnell b. before 1664.

  • This Thomas appears to be a different Thomas from Thomas d. 1694 Somerset; he could be a peer of or a generation older than Richard & William of Talbot-being an adult by 1685.
  • Cited on List of Debts of estate of Judith Brooke, Feb. 10, 1693. Talbot Co.108
  • NOTE: According to Matthew Wise, "The Littleton Heritage" and notes of F. Edward Wright, Thomas Purnell d. 1694 Somerset was in Northampton Co. VA and then in Talbot Co. MD by 1663, moving from Talbot to Somerset about 1666 and recording his cattle mark there in 1669.

Thomas Purnell. {Western Shore}

  • Appraiser est. of Thomas & Anne Cleverly Nov. 20, 1685, Calvert Co.109
  • Appraiser est. Henry McDowell Nov. 14, 1687, no county.110 [Probably Calvert Co.]
  • Appraiser est. John Hambleton Feb. 22, 1693, no county.111 [Probably Calvert Co.]

John Purnell b. bef. 1658.

  • This John appears to be a peer of Richard & William of Talbot, or a generation older-being an adult by 1679.
  • Cited on List of Debts, estate of William Parker March 4, 1679, Calvert Co., MD.112
  • Appraiser est. Robert B___; appraiser estate of Thomas Clifton, June 6, 1694, no county. This is most probably John Purnell d. 1742 of Somerset Co., MD.

John Purnell. 1715-1783, Worcester Co., MD. (Shown as "unplaced;" See Two John Purnells)

This John Purnell was shown by Carrie Purnell Reynolds, b. 1868, in her submission to Society of Daughters of Founders & Patriots as the son of John d. 1742 of Thomas d. 1694 the emigrant. Tax Lists, land abstracts and the administration of the estate of John Purnell d. 1765-6 indicate this John 1715-1783 was not a son of John Purnell d. 1742 & Martha Bowen d. 1780. The following descent for son, William, is taken from the Carrie Purnell submission (papers on file at DE Archives) with additional information on other children shown in the research of others. Information on Armistead Purnell is cited with DE Bible Records, with not cites or sources on the other children.

Issue by Comfort Armistead.

Issue by Ann Sylvester. They were married on May 1, 1770 in Worcester Co. Ann Sylvester, b. 6/3/1750 Queen Anne Co., d. 3/5/1804 Caroline Co.113


1731-1737, Libers 11-15.

Folio 149

Liber 55, Folio 87

Richard Purnell made will 8 March 1669, probated 11 April 1670. He left his entire estate to his wife Anne. A witness to this will is William Purnell. No county is cited, but he left "Purnellís Porches" for 100 acres on the Little Choptank River to his wife. No children were named. {Prerogative Court, Wills, Liber 1, Folio 384}

A Richard Purnell was granted a warrant for 100 acres in Talbot Co. 1628-9 (W. Fred Allen's Purnell Genealogy of 1928). No such warrant has been found; nor has a patent for "Purnellís Porches".

immigrated at the same time as Richard Purnell.




Vern Skinner.

Court, Liber 11A, Folio 32.

25, Folio 3.

28, Folio 233.

No. 2, 1991.

research of Joseph Smith.

Founders and Patriots of America.

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