When I left off my hunt for John Purcell in the 2017 Vol 46 No 4 Journal in November, I had found how my brick wall, Elizabeth Purcell, 1767-1853, fit into the Purcell family. She was the daughter of John and Susan Purcell, and the granddaughter of John and Jane Purcell of Prince William County, Virginia. But I wanted to go further back – where did the Purcells come from? On one of my visits to the PWC library, Don Wilson, genealogist at the PWC RELIC library, gave me the reconstructed 1740 Virginia census to look through. There was an entry for “Purcell, John; Prince William Hamilton” (Parish) which referred to a Northumberland County Record Book 1738-1743. Don found a Northumberland County book which abstracted a deed in 1739, where John and Jane, ”now of Hammilton Parish, Prince William Co” sold land in Northumberland to William Fallin. There was also a deed from Northumberland County in which land was sold “formerly belonging to Tobias Purcell.” There were similar neighbors in both abstracts, so I knew there must be a connection between John and Tobias. On my next visit to the Library of Virginia, I looked up John Purcell’s 1739 deed, but did not see too much useful information other that the neighbors of the property (Northumberland Co Record Book 1739-1743, pgs 70-71). It was the third deed book on the microfilm reel, so I decided to see if there was anything of interest in the two prior books on the reel. Low and behold, in the first book, paydirt!!! In 1725 Tobias Purcell sold his property, and many of the same neighbors as in John’s deed were listed (Northumberland Co Record Book 1712-1726, pg 417). Also, Tobias’ deed took the ownership of the land back to the original headright grant in 1657 and stated that he had gotten the land from his father, also named Tobias. Back home, I researched Tobias Sr. online and found an extract of his 1710 will from Lancaster County, which I retrieved the next time I went to the Library of Virginia. In the 1710 will Tobias Sr. gave his land in Northumberland County to his sons, Tobias and John (Lancaster Co Will Book 10 Pt 1, 1709-1727, pgs 40-41). He also said that the land could be rented until the boys came of age. The Northumberland County courthouse burned down in 1710, so in 1712 Tobias’ widow presented Tobias Sr.’s original 1705 deed of purchase, which was re-recorded in 1712 (Northumberland County Record Book 1712-1726, pgs 192-193).
Once I got back to Tobias Sr, d. 1710, the path became much easier. In discussions with Judy (mentioned in the Nov 2017 Journal article), whom I had met online through a proof on Ancestry, as well as Ancestry DNA matches, she mentioned that she had distant cousin matches leading back to an “Isabella Purcell” in Isle of Wight County. My family showed these matches as well. Isabella links to the family of Tobias Sr’s brother Arthur. The family has been written about in the book, History and Genealogy of the Pearsall Family in England and America, edited by Clarence E. Pearsall in 1928 (available on Ancestry). Tobias Sr. was the son of Samuel Pearsall and grandson to Thomas Pearsall, who both came to Maryland in 1638. The family ran a tobacco exporting business from their station on Kent Island, Maryland. As Samuel’s three sons, Tobias Sr., Arthur and John, grew up, the family expanded its business from the Kent Island hub to Virginia: Tobias Sr. to Lancaster County, Arthur to Isle of Wight County and John remaining in Talbot County, Maryland. The three sons were the first who apparently changed their surname from “Pearsall” to variations of “Purcell.”
So….. I have learned the broad outline of my Purcell/Pearsall family. There is still much to explore and many blanks to fill in. I’ll be looking to discover more about the Kent Island, Maryland link and the tobacco business. I also need to look into the families of the wives of my 2 Prince William County John’s - their maiden names are as yet unknown, but I have some ideas. To be continued…..
(If anyone has further information or questions, please contact me (Carol Rush) at firstname.lastname@example.org)