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Introducing........The Purser Family.

The Purser family that we are descended from, come from an area of Bedfordshire to the west of Bedford City itself , around the villages of Pavenham, Turvey and Odell. There are still Pursers living in these villages, but our branch of the family moved away in the late 19th Century.


I had expected this line to be hard to trace, but this has not been the case at all. The ease of tracing is largely down to two things.

  1. They stayed put! over several hundreds of years the family stayed in a small patch of Bedfordshire.

  2. The amazing work of some obsessive compulsive vicar a couple of hundred years ago !! More of him later.

Starting with Grandma who was born in 1883, I have traced back through a further 16 generations to one Jacob Purser who at his death in 1381 during the reign of Richard II, was farming his small patch of land between the villages of Pavenham and Turvey. This would seem to be the same patch of land that 500 years later was being farmed by his. great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson William Purser in 1883.

The small patch of Bedfordshire mentioned above is  Northwest of Bedford City itself, consisting of the villages of Turvey, Pavenham, Odell, Oakley & Sharnbrook, click on the map to the right to enlarge it.


The family were remarkably static over a very long time with the direct father to son line not breaking. Few of these Pursers ever seemed to live outside of this area, most of them marrying girls from the same locality, few seemed to escape until the mid 19th Century when with the coming of the railways, people became more mobile.

Long Row Pavenham, the family home.

Bedfordshire Parish Map2.jpg

Bedfordshire parish map.

Turvey Abbey.

Rowley Purser, an unlucky man !!

Unlucky ? Click the button to see why.

The Amazing Vicar.

Some deemed him wondrous wise, and some  believed him mad.   (Beattie)


As to the amazing Vicar, his name seems to be lost but around 1830 this guy decided that the Parish Records in Bedfordshire were a mess and he was the man to sort them out.  Sort them he did, It seems to have taken him the next 20 years but he went through the records for every parish in Bedfordshire, (there are 125 parishes) and he summarised the records into an absolutely standard sort of shorthand, so that each entry was a single line but containing all of the required information. Here is a sample page, click on the image to enlarge.


This page is for baptisms in the Parish of Felmersham. The top line of the Left hand column reads.

Felmersham Baptisms

1742. March 2nd,    John son of John & Jane Hays

You quickly get the hang of the abbreviations but if stuck there is an index to the abbreviations at the beginning of each volume.

Sample page of summarised OPR

My Grandma, Helenor Eliza Purser married  my Grandad, Joseph David Duffin in 1906. I know very little about my Grandad, for some reason he was just never spoken of. When I think of conversations with my own children, all of their Grandparents  are frequently discussed even though one was dead long before they were even thought of. We tell anecdotes of things done by them, with them, to them even ! They are just a part of the fixed background of family life, this contrasts so sharply with both my Mum and Dad who virtually never referred to their fathers. I suppose in those days Father, as head of the household was a more distant figure with much less to do with his own children whom were dealt with by his wife.  Child rearing was not part of a man's job description.  Even accepting this I still think there is something odd about the fact that all I know of Grandad is that:-

  1. His own Father was also called Joseph. 

  2. His Father came from Ireland on a potato boat in mid 19th Century

  3. Grandad worked for the Metropolitan Railway in one of its power stations.

This is the sum total of my knowledge about him. I suspect literacy was not his strong point as Grandma ran the house and looked after the money 100%.

So that particular branch of the family tree is more of a stub that ain't goin nowhere,  Rather like that of Nanny of whose background I can find zilch. But that story is told elsewhere.

Grandma's family could not be more different and oh what fun they are to write about, we have scandal, manslaughter, arson, bigamy, bankruptcy, great wealth and its loss !!  So strap yourself in it may be a bumpy ride.

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