Tuesday, September 18, 2012
The Purnell family line has been a brick wall for me with many missing pieces. My great-great-great grandfather Samuel Morris Purnell came from South Carolina as a little boy, apparently part of a migration from Abbeville District that included my Robinson and Emerson families as well as other related lines such as Kennedy and Stephenson (Stenson).
Fires at both the Abbeville District, South Carolina courthouse and the Marion County, Alabama courthouse created a big gap in the record history of most of my maternal and paternal lines, including the Purnell family.
One record that survives in the Abbeville County courthouse is an 1819 probate record for William "Parnal". William Barksdale was appointed administrator for Purnell's estate, with Matthew Robinson and John Burnett serving as his bondsmen.
In 1823, William Barksdale and Matthew Robinson were in Lawrence County, Alabama. Both men went to the courthouse on the same day - October 13th - to record power of attorneys. The record filed by William Barksdale noted that he was the administrator of the Estate of William Purnell who "died in the service of the United States." Barksdale gave William (yes, another William!) "Roberson" his power of attorney to recover $48 due the estate from the United States.
It seems then that William Purnell may have died in the War of 1812 although no service record has been found for him in the abstracted records for that War (Virgil White compiled an extensive index of names from the War of 1812 pension files.). Neither have I found a record of William's service in any of the Indian Wars (sometimes referred to as "Old Wars"). When I posted a query to the War of 1812 genforum site, the following response was received from an expert in this area:
"Many estates were not settled until long after the war ended, in fact, Congress had to pass the Settled Accounts Act of 6 April 1838 in order to get heirs to receive their benefits. The accounts settled in this act are called 'the lost pensions.' 55,000 accounts were settled under this act going back to the Revolutionary War. Parnell could have died in the First Seminole War, 20 Nov 1817 to 31 Oct 1818. Finding his service recod would prove this theory. There is a pension index for the wars between the War of 1812 and the Civil War. I do not have a copy of this list. Maybe Parnell is listed in this index."
"It appears that William Parnell died during the War of 1812 while serving with the South Carolina militia probably from disease or injuries and not from wounds. If he was serving with the US Army then the heirs would have been entitled to both the half pay and the land bounty. Since the administrator had to pick one or the other benefits, then William served in the militia. He served as a private since the heirs received the minimum of $48 per year which was the rate for the heirs of privates."
Alas, I've checked all printed pension lists for Parnell, Purnell, and Pernell and other various spellings of the surname and have come up empty. I also requested a record look-up from the National Archives for William Purnell in the "Old Wars, Indian Disturbances" records, but no luck there.
Even though I've yet to uncover records of William Purnell's service, the two probate records have yielded important information and, at the same time, created more questions.
Who was William Barksdale, and why was he the appointed administrator of William Purnell's estate? What was his relationship to the Purnell family? He may have been the brother of William Purnell's widow. Or was he married to William Purnell's sister? Possibly, Barksdale could have married Purnell's widow.
William Barksdale was listed on the 1830 census for Marion County, Alabama. The census record indicates William was born between 1790 and 1800, which would put him as a contemporary of the deceased William Purnell. The Barksdale household had two boys, age 15-20, who I believe to be Samuel Morris Purnell and his brother, Matthew Robert Purnell. Next door was the household of James L. Robertson who was probably the same "James Robison" who married "Patsey Purnell" in Lawrence County, Alabama on October 18, 1826.
The following census of 1840 is interesting in that the households of Morris Purnell and William Barksdale are enumerated next to each other. But.... the household of William Barksdale does not show an adult male, only two males age 5-10. In addition to the young boys, there were five young females and one female age 30-40. Did the census taker forget to make a mark for William? Who were the young children in the household?
I've searched high and low for William Barksdale in the 1850 census but have been unable to locate a household for him.
In 1860, there is a 68 year old Annie Barksdale living in the household of Matthew Robert Purnell, presumably the widow of William.
More later on the Bible records that helped tie these families together.
Posted by Mona Robinson Mills at 6:30 AM