Could the Pursseys the missing link between the Purseys and the Percies?
There are plenty of Purseys who claim a link to the celebrated Percies of Northumberland. Currently, the evidence for such claims remains elusive. In the majority of records I have seen, Purseys are documented as just that. And rarely, if ever, have I seen a Percy mis-transcribed a Pursey.
But what about the Pursseys? Could they be the missing link between the Purseys and the Percies?
The earliest Purssey I have come across is one William Purssey, living with his wife Dorcas (Gilbert) in Taunton at the end of the seventeenth century. The distinctive spelling first appears in the will of Margery Gilbert of Taunton St Mary (mother of Dorcas), dated November 13, 1699. In it, she leaves her “daughter Dorcas, wife of William Purssey, one guinea”. To the grandchildren of “said Dorcas Purssey unto Hannah, Sarah, Mary, William, George and Elizabeth Purssey 5s”. (I have still to discover an irrefutable link but I believe it was grandson William’s son – also William – who left brother James, one shilling in his own will dated May 2, 1766. This latter William was noted a yeoman, “late of Stogumber”. In addition to the shilling, he left his wife Emlin, his bed and his house ‘Pattens’ – providing she stayed single! If not, he stipulated that the latter would go to his sons William and George.)
Thereafter, the Purssey name becomes more evident.
William Purssey of Stogumber, Somerset married Emlin Routley and raised children William, George and Elizabeth. The children of William and his brother George are for the most part referred to in the parish records as Pursseys, even if newspaper reporters of the time did not always take it on board. The families are well-documented: William and his descendants owned land whilst George and his, worked it – several becoming butchers.
Another big cluster of Pursseys are found in Kent. This line begins with Joseph Purssey, born 1785. He married Avice Seymour. Their family and numerous descendants are also well documented.
Purseys do not figure widely in the ranks of the English gentry. One who did was Ellen Amelia Purssey, wife of jam and pickle-maker Sir Thomas Pink.
Born in 1859, the eldest child of meat salesman Edmund Purssey and Amelia Frances Swan, Ellen married Sir Thomas when she was just 20 years of age. She died in Camberwell, London on 28 April 1917. In the probate registry, she is referred to as Dame Ellen Amelia of Thornton House, Clapham Park, Surrey.
Incidentally, Pink’s, an offshoot of the firm still exists. See here for more info.
Other early Pursseys:
John, born 1790 who married Mary Beal and lived in London
William, born 1788 who married Ann Prowse and lived in Wilton, Taunton. He is likely to be descended from William and Dorcas
The burning question is why did the Pursseys first emerge as such? Are they a distinct family line or simply Purseys like innumerable others emerging from Taunton. Or, are they – through insisting on this variant spelling – obliquely aligning themselves to the Percies? Time will tell!