|HARNWELL is a very rare name that originates in the
Norfolk-Suffolk border area of East Anglia in England. The earliest references I have found to date
appear already with the advent of English parish record keeping in the 16th century. Prior
to the middle of the 19th century, I have found no Harnwells outside of East Anglia. I
have rarely found a Harnwell anywhere in the world (England, US, Canada,
France and Australia)
that couldn't be traced back to this area. This appears to go against one of the basic
rules of genealogy; and anyone named HARNWELL really is probably related.
There are numerous East Anglia spelling variants - i.e. HARNEWELL, ARNELL, and earlier, HARMOLD. There is one suggestion that the name is derived from the Dutch name ARDVELDT. Up to the early years of the 19th century, there is frequent interchanging with the name ARNOLD in the Norfolk-Suffolk border area records. In the areas where the Harnwells were numerous and known, there is less confusion. However, Harnwells who moved out of the area were often registered as "Arnold" in the days when the clerics had to spell a name as they thought they were hearing it. The country dialect prevalent in that East Anglia area would pronounce "Harnwell" and "Arnold" very much the same.
In 1849, the parish priest of Welney, NFK, started to note the baptismal record of James Christian Harnwell as "Arnold". Clearly, his father, John Harnwell, could read letters well enough to correct the cleric, who scratched through "Arnold" and wrote it as "Harnwell". But one has to wonder how many Harnwells departed from East Anglia and melted into the great number of Arnolds. Conversely, anyone who traces an Arnold into East Anglia should certainly check the possibility that it may originally have been Harnwell.
There are two main branches of HARNWELLs, and they are indicated with different icons here. For clarity, I refer to them by their principal location -- West Walton ( ) and Bressingham ( ). The Bressingham Harnwells are more numerous and the line can be traced fairly reliably back into the 16th century. There are several other people actively working on these lines, and much of their work can be seen here.
The West Walton Harnwells begin with the birth of John Barnes HARNWELL in Cotton Parish, Suffolk, in 1814 - the base born son of Sarah ARNOLD and John BARNES (of Wattisfield).
Since the line of march between Cotton Parish, Suffolk, and West Walton, Norfolk, runs pretty much directly through the Bressingham area, it is very possible that Sarah "Arnold" was originally a "Bressingham Harnwell". She is also referred to in the bastardy bond as Sarah ARMWILL. There are no "Arnold" or "Harnwell" entries in the Cotton Parish records for 20 years on either side of that 1814 birth. Clearly Sarah came from somewhere else and went away to somewhere else.
In 1840, John Barnes Harnwell married in Upwell, Norfolk, and his family name was clearly established as "Harnwell". But where was he during those 26 years? Who were his maternal grandparents? What happened to his mother? How did he learn to spell his name as "Harnwell"? Anyone who can fill in some of these blanks will earn my undying gratitude.
If you are a HARNWELL, or if you have references to any HARNWELL in your family records, I hope you will contact me.
|Original photo by Susan of a cottage in Little Shelford, CAM, England and Graphic Design copyright 1999 by Susan L. Harnwell.|