The Clan/Sept History
Although the Irish had their own system of hereditary surnames and the Strongbow
settlers brought with them their own Anglo-Norman naming practices, the two
traditions generally worked well together. The name Purcell is an occupational
surname, a form of hereditary name that existed in both cultures long before the
invaders arrived, but more common to the Anglo-Norman culture. Occupational
surnames were derived from a word describing the actual job done by the original
name bearer. Early Strongbownian names of this type often used the prefix le,
meaning the, in French, but the use of this prefix did not last in the language
of the vernacular. The surname Purcell came from a common occupational name for
a swineherd. The surname Purcell is derived from the Norman-French word porcel,
which in turn comes from the Latin word porcus, which means pig or piglet.
Occupational names such as Purcell frequently were derived from the principal
object associated with the activity of the original bearer, such as tools or
products. These types of occupational surnames are called metonymic surnames.
The Gaelic form of the surname Purcell is Puirséil.
Names were simply spelled as they sounded by medieval scribes and church
officials. Therefore, during the lifetime of a single person, his name was often
spelt in many different ways, explaining the many spelling variations
encountered while researching the name Purcell. Some of these variations
included: Purcell, Purcel, Pursell, Purcill, Purcells, Percell, Porcell,
Percill, Persell, Percel, Pirsell, Porcill, Porsell, Purcelle, Purcele,
Persells, Pursells, Purcels, Porcells, Purchell, Purscel, Purtill and many more.
First found in Surrey, where they were seated from very early times and were
granted lands by Duke William of Normandy, their liege Lord, for their
distinguished assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 A.D.
During the middle of the 19th century, Irish Families often experienced extreme
poverty and racial discrimination in their own homeland under English rule.
Record numbers died of disease and starvation and many others, deciding against
such a fate, boarded ships bound for North America. The largest influx of Irish
settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Unfortunately,
many of those Irish that arrived in Canada or the United States still
experienced economic and racial discrimination. Although often maligned, these
Irish people were essential to the rapid development of these countries because
they provided the cheap labor required for the many canals, roads, railways, and
other projects required for strong national infrastructures. Eventually the
Irish went on to make contributions in the less backbreaking and more
intellectual arenas of commerce, education, and the arts. Research early
immigration and passenger lists revealed many early immigrants bearing the name
Purcell: Joseph Purcel, who settled at Barstable in Massachusetts in 1822; Nancy
Purcell and her husband and seven children settled in Quebec in 1825; Andrew,
Edward, James, John, Martin, Mathew, Michael, Patrick, Peter Purcell all arrived
in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1870..
Motto Translated: Either conquer or perish.
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