Updated 20 February 2015
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Project created 17 April 2014; Updated 1 August 2014
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Surname DNA testing is the the best "add-on" tool available to genealogists! The many advantages include:-
Surname tests (Y-DNA) enable genealogists to verify their father's father's...father's paternal ancestry. (The molecular (aka genetic) ancestry overrides the surname ancestry).
Molecular ancestry information can be very powerful when combined with traditional paper trails and can uncover family secrets!
This project is keen for people with the Brownell or Brownhill surname, whether from the United Kingdom, all the countries of Western Europe Northern and Eastern Europe, the United States of America, Canada, the Caribbean, South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (and anywhere else I have missed) to join it.
Like all surname projects, this one is intent upon proving connections using DNA. But it is NOT just surname ancestry. It is molecular (or as some prefer it, genetic) ancestry.
The best articles I have found to date for understanding just what 'DNA' is and how the results of testing can help you with your genealogy.
Here is a hint for you if you have tested FF.
Once you (or anyone) joins a project, you can go to your FTDNA Home Page and hover your mouse over the FF Drop-down menu visible in the blue tool bar. Then select "Advanced Matches" from that menu. Check FF and select whether you want to see your matches in either the full data base, or just in the specific projects that you have joined.Because it is a pain switching from one window to another, I have three browsers, so that I can get the same person’s Home page up showing different reports for the same tester all at the same time.
If you are reading this, then it is assumed you are hunting for details about your ancestors and extending your knowledge about your particular line.
DNA testing will certainly aid you in a number of ways but you must still have a paper trail if you want to name that ancestor when you find you have a match!
DNA testing will also inform you whether your paper trail is correct. (My favourite 'hobby-horse' is to tell you not to rely on the work of someone else UNLESS they have supplied you with references to enable you to check these for yourself).
The following is an extract from the start of a book written by a member ( John ) who has given permission to post it here. (There are some adjustments made by me to his original transcript). I hope you find it as informative as I did. Please do NOT copy and paste it elsewhere without getting his permission. (Through me, please - I am at firstname.lastname@example.org )
THE BROWNELL FAMILY
SOME CONTEXTUAL IRISH HISTORY
Hunter-gatherers are known to have roamed across Ireland from as early as 8000 BC and it was only around 300 BC that the Celtic warrior tribes from central Europe reached Ireland, bringing the Iron Age with them. The Romans called these people 'Galli' (Gauls) and the Greeks used the term 'Keltoi'. Both nations feared them for their brutality.
In Ireland the Celts established a sophisticated code of law - called the Brehon Law - which remained in use until the 17th Century. Under the Celts, the country was divided into five provinces: Leinster, Meath, Connaught, Ulster and Munster. (Meath later merged with Leinster.) Within the provinces there are thought to have been as many as a hundred minor kings and chieftains controlling different areas. Tara, in County Meath, was the base of Ireland's most powerful Celtic leaders. They controlled the country for a thousand years and left a legacy of language and culture which survive to this day in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Normandy and some remote parts of Europe. The swirling maze-like design style of Celtic art is considered to be distinctly Irish.
Christianity reached Ireland between the 3rd and 5th Centuries AD. While the Dark Ages engulfed much of the rest of Europe, Ireland became known as a land of saints and scholars. During the 7th and 8th Centuries Irish monks created beautiful objects in semi-precious metals. Many of their illuminated manuscripts, including the famous Book of Kells, were produced in County Meath which was later to become the home of the Brownell family documented in this account.
At the end of the 8th Century, Norse Vikings invaded parts of Ireland, plundering many of the monasteries and establishing a small Viking Kingdom called Dubh Linn, later to become the city of Dublin. Viking domination of Ireland was finally broken in 1014 when Brian Boru, King of Munster, defeated them in battle. Norsemen remained in many parts of Ireland and in 1169 they were joined by another group, the Normans, who were of both France and Normandy. It is their army that triumphed over England in 1066 at Battle in East Sussex. That conquest began a chain of events in which the English became progressively involved in Ireland, the consequences of which reverberate through Irish politics to this day.
In 1171 King Henry 11 of England started exerting control over Ireland. By 1366 that process had progressed to the stage where the English enacted the Statute of Kilkenny which outlawed intermarriage between English and Irish citizens and banned the Irish language and many Irish customs. Over the next two centuries English control gradually receded to an area around Dublin known as The Pale – from whence the expression, beyond the Pale, originates.
In the mid-16th Century King Henry X111, wary of a possible invasion through Ireland by the French or Spanish, moved to reinforce English authority and set out to destroy the defiant Anglo-Norman Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, who posed a serious threat to his supremacy. In a pattern of retribution which was to be repeated time and again in the centuries which followed, the Fitzgerald estates were confiscated and given to English settlers. Henry also plundered the monasteries in Ireland and in 1541 insisted that the Irish Parliament also declare him King of Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth 1, who reigned from 1558 to 1601, and her successor King James 1, expanded English power in Ireland and introduced a policy of colonisation known as the Plantation – the organised confiscation of land belonging to Irish citizens. Apart from the bitterness it brought to ordinary citizens, that policy also sowed the seeds for the present-day division of between the north and south of the country and set the scene for much of the tension and bitterness which still exists.
Huge swathes of land were taken from Irish landowners and peasants and were given to English gentlemen undertakers who carved it up and gave it to Scottish and English settlers. Unlike previous invaders who had assimilated with the local population, these Protestant landowners, who were sent to the country with a mandate to subjugate the local population, remained aloof from the angry and impoverished Anglo-Norman Catholics who made up the majority of the local population.
John Healy’s 1908 History of the Diocese of Meath shows that in 1604 the incumbent Rector of the little village of Stackallan, later ‘home’ to the Irish Brownell family was Edward Southeme, an English minister and preacher who was accommodated, for his own safety, in the nearby village of Navan – clear evidence of the degree of religious intolerance prevailing in the area at that time.
Between 1620 and 1640 small numbers of French Hugenots, who had fled their country as a result of religious persecution, settled in Ireland. One such group is known to have made its home at Duleek, just a few miles from the village of Stackallan. Although no direct link has been established, there are oral accounts which suggest a possible genetic link between the Brownell family in Stackallan and the French settlers in Duleek. However, there is also an oral tradition which links the Brownell family of Stackallan to the north of England where successive census returns for that country show significant numbers of citizens bearing that surname. It is to that home country that some of the earliest male members of the Brownell family are said to have returned in search of wives.
The Irish Rebellion of 1641 began as an attempted coup by Irish Catholic gentry who tried to seize control of the English administration in order to force concessions for Catholics living under English rule. The coup failed, but developed into ethnic conflict between native Irish Catholics on the one side, and English and Scottish Protestant settlers, on the other. Protestant inhabitants, being comparatively few, were made to feel the hostility of their neighbours and the little Protestant church at Stackallan was just one of the casualties of a conflict which ushered in decades of suffering and disorder for the Church of Ireland.
The process of land dispossession was accelerated after 1649 when seventeen thousand troops under the command of Oliver Cromwell sacked Drogheda, on the mouth of the River Boyne, and massacred some three thousand of its population. After that infamous victory, which also signaled the beginning of the end of the Rebellion, more than a quarter of Ireland was forfeited to Cromwell's supporters. Many of the dispossessed Irish landowners and peasants were simply chased from their land and were either exiled to the harsh and infertile soils of Connaught, or sold into slavery in the Caribbean.
Two landowners known to have incurred the wrath of the British Crown, and to have had their land confiscated, were Sir Richard and Walter Barnwell of Stackallen in County Meath. In terms of a decree signed on 22 March 1666, and recorded in the Hamilton Papers, they forfeited the Manor, Castle and town of Stackallan. Particular mention is made of the land forfeitures in and around Stackallan because it was in that village that the (Protestant) Brownell family first settled. Although no unambiguous link has yet been established, it seems probable that they did so either directly or indirectly as a result of the land dispossession policy introduced by the British Crown.
Barely forty years after Cromwell’s sacking of Drogheda, King James 11, a Scottish Catholic, was keen to return expropriated land to Irish Catholics. He also wanted to regain his throne from William of Orange, a Dutch Protestant. The matter came to a head in 1690 when King James’ army was defeated during the Battle of the Boyne, fought near the village of Stackallan. (The Protestant slogan, ‘no surrender’, which has acquired mythical status amongst Irish Protestants in the north of the country, dates from that time. The Protestant victory during that battle is still commemorated annually via divisive marches by the ‘Orange Men’, a society of Irish Protestants.)
In 1695 there followed further oppressive penal laws known collectively as the Property Code. These new statutes prohibited Catholics from owning land or entering any profession, banned Irish culture, music and education, and fanned the flames of hatred between the Catholics and Protestants. By the end of the 18th Century Catholics owned barely five percent of the land in Ireland.
One of King William’s commanders during the historic Battle of the Boyne was Brigadier Gustavus Hamilton, later Member of Parliament for Drogheda. In 1704 he was able to purchase, for £5,350, significant parcels of land in and around Stackallan, doubtless aided by his prior services to the Crown. (In 1715 Brigadier Hamilton was elevated to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Hamilton of Stackallan. Two years later he became Viscount Boyne. Since his son Frederick had predeceased him, he was succeeded, after his death in 1723, by his grandson Gustavus who died in 1746 without marrying. His cousin Frederick then assumed the title, but died without issue in 1772. He, in turn, was succeeded by his brother, Richard Hamilton, 4th Viscount Boyne. Particular mention is made of the Hamilton family of Stackallan because members of successive generations of the Brownell family were employed by them. St Mary’s church in Stackallan, destroyed at the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, was rebuilt during the life of the 1st Viscount Boyne – probably in about 1715. His remains were interred in the church after his death in 1723. The restoration of the building was, in all probability, financed by the Viscount.)
In 1704, when Brigadier Hamilton first purchased land in and around Stackallan, no member of the Brownell family was listed among his tenants. However, by 1767 there would appear to have been resident in and around that village at least nine male members of the Brownell family, extending over three generations. Two of these, Thomas and Joseph Brownell, were already tenants on the Boyne estate. In subsequent years, various parcels of land originally leased from the Lords Boyne by members of the Brownell family were purchased and consolidated by Jervis Brownell (1858 – 1935), direct ancestor of the branch of the family. In 1976, more than two centuries after the first members of the Brownell family are known to have been farming in Stackallan, Eddie Brownell, the last remaining descendant of the original settlers, sold his farm, 'The Hill', and left the area.
One of Ireland's worst tragedies, the Great Famine of 1845 to 1851 was as much attributable to human greed as it was to natural causes. Potatoes were the staple food of a rapidly growing and desperately poor population. When blight infected the crop, prices soared. The repressive penal laws introduced by the British Government meant that tenant farmers could not afford the small quantity of subsistence potatoes made available for their use. As a result, many fell into arrears with their rentals and were either evicted by landlords or sent to workhouses where conditions were dire. Three million Irish people starved to death or were forced to emigrate during that period. Mass emigration continued to reduce the population of Ireland for the next one hundred years. While its people died of starvation, Ireland was producing more than enough wheat and dairy products to feed its entire population, but was forced to export food to Britain and other countries! Many Irish citizens still harbour lasting bitterness against the British for the wrongs perpetrated against their people during that shameful episode of their history.
Disestablishment (withdrawal of State patronage) of the Church of Ireland in 1868 also led to a progressive drain of Protestants from the country. John Healy’s (1908) History of the Diocese of Meath shows that by 1905 there were greatly diminished Protestant congregations throughout the county. (When Fred Brownell was enrolled at the Stackallen National School in May 1903 there was only one other Protestant family with a child in the school.)
Among those who left the country for good between 1911 and 1927 were the five sons of Jervis and Leah Brownell of Stackallan. Economic conditions and the deeply ingrained sectarian attitudes prevalent in the country of their birth had a direct bearing on their decision to leave Ireland. George, Eddie and Gus left to build a new life in Alberta, Canada, and in 1924 Frederick George Brownell (1899 – 1982) sailed for South Africa where his brother, Tom, had settled in 1922.
The Home Rule Campaign, which had as its aim the unification of Ireland, steadily gained momentum during the nineteenth century. One organisation committed to unification was the Irish Republican Army (IRA) which had been established in the spring of 1919 with the specific aim of waging guerrilla warfare against the Crown forces. One of its main targets was the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and later the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) which replaced it in the North.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty, ratified on the 6th December 1921, gave self-governing dominion status to the twenty-six counties in the Irish Free State in the south of the country while retaining Ulster in the north as part of the United Kingdom. That treaty also stipulated that the British monarch would continue to be head of the Irish Free State, and that its Members of Parliament would be required to swear allegiance to the crown. This was totally unacceptable to the Republican 'hard liners' who refused to settle for anything less than a united, independent 'Republic'.
That aspiration was only partly realised after a general election in 1948. A year later the Irish Republic, which did not include the predominantly Protestant Ulster, cut its links with the British Commonwealth, and thus also with Northern Ireland. This schism between northern and southern parts of the country became the catalyst for a sustained period of significant conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ulster - a period euphemistically known as the Troubles.
On 10th April 1998 intensive negotiations culminated in the historic Good Friday Agreement which put the political future of Northern Ireland in the hands of the majority of voters in that part of the country. In simultaneous referendums held in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic on 22nd May 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed by Irish citizens on both sides of the border. Just over seventy-one percent of voters in Northern Ireland accepted devolved democracy, while a ninety-four percent 'Yes' vote in the Republic of Ireland heralded the end of Dublin's territorial claim to Ulster.
At the time of writing this account, life in Northern Ireland is more settled than for decades before. The IRA has given up its arms, renounced the armed struggle and is participating in the government of the North. Some splinter groups and individuals who have yet to come to terms with the new realities are still intent on continuing the struggle, but there is real hope for a lasting peace. There is also a growing belief among many that the north and south of the country will eventually be unified.
STACKALLAN, COUNTY MEATH: earliest known roots of the Irish Brownell family
County Meath has long been one of Ireland's leading agricultural areas and is known to have attracted hunter-gatherer settlers as long ago as 8000 BC. Farming was introduced to Ireland in about 4000 BC and those working the land moved along the banks of the River Boyne, in County Meath, transforming the landscape from forest to farmland. (There is an old Irish saying that a farm in Meath is worth two in any other Irish county.)
Bru na Boinne, an extensive prehistoric necropolis which dates from around 3000BC, predates the Egyptian pyramids and is a thousand years older than Stone Henge in England, lies close to the village of Stackallan in a meandering section of the River Boyne between Drogeda and Slane. Various spellings of the name of the village have been recorded over time: in the Civil Survey of 1650 the area is referred to as Stickallin; Sir William Petty's 1685 Atlas of Ireland denotes it as Stickallen; and Larken's 1812 map seems to show it as Stackallon. While debate about both the correct spelling and the origin of the name continues, Stackallan is the accepted English spelling. The Department of Education uses Stigh Collain as the Irish name, meaning St Collan's house. On this basis Stackallan is almost certainly an English corruption of the Irish place name, which will explain the spelling variations used over time. (There is apparently archaeological evidence suggesting that an ancient church, dedicated to St Collan, once stood on the same site as the Protestant church later dedicated to St Mary.)
It was in Stackallan that the earliest known Brownell ancestors settled on land leased from the Lords Boyne. Two of the original Indentures, signed on the same day, which record the lease of land from Richard Hamilton, 4th Viscount Boyne, have survived. They were written on vellum and signed by both lessor and lessee on 18th September 1767. One document is in the possession of the family of George Brownell of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, eldest son of Jervis Brownell (1858 – 1935), the last male bearing the surname to have owned the land recorded in the original lease. The other Indenture forms part of the Hamilton Papers which are in the safekeeping of the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin.
In order to ensure a measure of continuity, it was customary at that time for land to be indentured for a period of three nominated lives, that of the original beneficiary and usually two descendants, as is the case with both indentures bearing the Brownell name. A brief extract from one of the Indentures, which is singularly devoid of any meaningful punctuation and brim-full of pedantic legalese in use at the time, is reproduced below. It was transcribed as accurately as possible from a photocopy of the original held by Frederick Gordon Brownell:
….. during the said Thomas Brownel’s Natural life and for the natural lives of his two sons Edward Brownell and Charles Brownell from henceforth to be compleat and ended Yielding and paying therefore and thereout yearly and every year during the aforesaid lives of Thomas Edward and Charles Brownell at the rate of Twenty shillings for each and every acre amounting to thirty pounds eighteen shilling Sterling the same to be paid by two even and equal half yearly payments that is to say on Every first day of May and first day of Novemb Clear Rent over and above all Country Charges Taxes Impositions and payments whatsoever ordinary or Extraordinary charged or to be charged on the said premises or any part thereof during the said natural lives Quit Rent and Crown Rent only excepted together with Cariage home of Twenty Kishes of turf from the Bog that said Richard Hamelton usually cuts his turf onto the House of Stackallan on each and every year during the said natural lives, or to pay One pound ten shillings in Lieu therof and the said Richard Hamilton his heirs and assigns excepting and always reserveing out of said demise all Woods trees and Royalties growing or shall grow on said demised premises with the liberty to enter cut and cary away the same as they think proper Likewise the liberty of fishing Fowling and Hawking and Shooting……
In 1896 some of the Stackallan land owned by members of the Brownell family was bequeathed by the then owner, Michael Brownell, artist, to the offspring of his nephew, William H Brownell, then resident in Spokane in the United States, who had the following to say when interviewed for The Chronicle (Spokane) which appeared on 30th July 1896: I left Ireland in 1866 and my family, consisting of a daughter nineteen years of age and three sons sixteen, fourteen and seven of age respectively were all born and raised in this country. During the year 1887 I paid a visit to the old home in Ireland and while there my uncle who was very old seemed much impressed by my visit. He showed me over the old estate and reminded me that I was on historic ground. I was on ground that the Brownell’s had owned and trod for centuries. Leading me to an old, ruined mansion of which only two walls and a rafter remained standing he said: That old building which was the Brownell homestead was destroyed by the rebels during the Irish rebellion of 1798. [Also known as the United Irishmen Rebellion it was an uprising against British rule in Ireland lasting from May to September of that year. The United Irishmen, were a republican revolutionary group influenced by the ideas of the American and French revolutions.]
Samuel Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) describes the Parish of Stackallen (as opposed to the village) as a parish in the Barony of Upper Slane, containing 837 inhabitants. It comprises 2223 statute acres. Stackallen House is the handsome residence of Viscount Boyne, whose ancestor, Gustavus, first Viscount, commanded a regiment of King William’s army at the Battle of the Boyne . He was interred in the church of Stackallen [St Mary’s] in 1723, as have been many other branches of the family. The mansion is a spacious structure and stands in a fine, well-planted demesne…. The glebe-house, closely adjoining the church, was built in 1815. The church is a neat and plain edifice in good and permanent repair, built about 200 years since. The parochial [boys’] school is aided by an annual donation from the incumbent, and a female school is supported by the Hon. Mrs Hamilton [Lord Boyne’s wife]. In these schools about 110 children are taught.”
The Ordnance Surveyor of 1836 described Stackallan as a small village of some 10 ground-floor thatched cottages. A study of the map which accompanied that report shows that both the post office and the school house - where girls in the village received instruction – were either on or adjacent to land later owned by Jervis Brownell (1858 – 1935). [From the description given by Michael Brownell to his nephew, William, in 1896 (see above extract from the Spokane Chronicle) it is quite possible that the land in question was among that purchased by Jervis Brownell.] St Mary’s Church, the Protestant minister’s home (Glebe house), and Boyne House were all close by, while the local Blacksmith had his business south of the village on the road to Slane. The navigable River Boyne runs just south and east of the village.
BROWNELL: origin and meaning
The Brownell surname is thought to have originated from the locational name Brownhill - an old English name derived from ‘brun’ (brown) and ‘hyll’ (hill) – and many current bearers of the name could have geographic roots dating back to the 13th Century at Brownhill, in Sale, Cheshire.
The first known reference to the Brownell surname in England dates back to 1441 in Stannington, Yorkshire, near the present-day city of Sheffield, where, fittingly, an Adam Brownell is known to have owned land.
In Ireland, the earliest reference to the Brownell surname yet found is the baptism of a Mary Brownell in the Church of St Michan, Dublin, on the 18th October 1660, and the first reference to the Brownell family of Stackallan, County Meath, appears in the September 1767 indenture for the lease of a thirty acre farm signed by Richard Hamilton (lessor) and Edmond Brownell (lessee).
In the 1960’s, Harold Brownhill of Nova Scotia, Canada, employed, at considerable expense, professional researchers to go through old United Kingdom records in an attempt to locate the geographic origins of his surname.
From that study, the earliest record believed to be associated with the Brownhill family was located in Northenden, historically part of Cheshire, but now part of the city of Manchester in north west England, where a land transfer document was witnessed by a Richard de Brounhull in 1290. The next piece of evidence comes from Ashton upon Mersey, also historically part of Cheshire, but now part of the urban district of Sale, five miles south of Manchester city centre, where in 1315 Richard de Brownhill witnessed the sale of land by Richard de Sale to William, Lord of Baguley. (Whether or not this was the same Richard who put his hand to the earlier document is not clear, but variations in the spelling of names was common.)
Numerous references to possibly-related surnames dating back to the mid-1340’s were also found in Coventry, Warwickshire, Sheffield, Yorkshire, and in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was, however, in 1441 in Stannington, Yorkshire, near the present-day city of Sheffield, that the first reference to the Brownell surname was found in the person of Adam Brownell, a land owner in the area. It was also in Yorkshire that the earliest Brownell testament (will) was discovered. Dated March 1466 Richard Brownell’s will was apparently signed at Gretton Native Vire, a place which the writer has been unable to locate on any modern map.
In the late 1400’s and early 1500’s members of the Brownhill/Brownell families were still to be found in old Cheshire, today’s greater Manchester area. In Rotherham, to the east of Manchester, a few miles from Sheffield, Robert Brownell signed his will on 14th May 1521. His occupation, which is the earliest yet discovered for a member of the Brownell family, was recorded as a mercer (trader). Other places associated with the surname in the greater Sheffield area of today are Bradfield, in the Peak District, and Ecclesfield, where a Thomas Brownell married Margaret Gilberthorpe in 1559. In the nearby Norton, in Derbyshire, Henry, son of Robert Brownell was baptized in 1561. In the same year, in Sheffield, records were found of the marriage of an Agnes Brownell.
Further south, in Cople, Bedfordshire, Walter, son of Richard Brownell, was baptized in 1562 and in Coventry, Warwickshire, Edmund Brownell, a clothier, was mayor in 1565. (Elsewhere his surname is given as Brownhill.)
In Sheffield in 1569, a Richard Brownell witnessed a deed of sale between John Parker and London merchants, and in 1597 in Gawsworth, Cheshire, William Brownell was appointed rector of St James (Anglican) church, which dates from the 15th Century and is today a Grade 1 listed building. (This family apparently used both Brownell and Brownhill interchangeably.) In 1597 the Oxford-educated William Brownell was appointed rector of St James in Gawsworth, a position he held for thirty-three years.
If the Brownell families of Stackallan in County Meath, Ireland, had their geographic roots in England, then they are likely to be found within the present-day English counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Sheffield, Manchester and Yorkshire. However, despite the unambiguous evidence of English geographic roots for the Brownell surname, and an oral tradition suggesting that the Brownell families of Stackallan have both genetic and geographic roots in England, research by John Michael Brownell, a descendant of the Stackallan families, provides compelling evidence of possible geographic links to France in general, and genetic links to French Hugenot families, in particular.
The Hugenots fled their country on account of religious persecution and between 1620 and 1640 small numbers settled in Ireland, mainly via England. Others accompanied Cromwell to Ireland in 1649. Some settled in Dublin and, significantly, established a colony at Duleek, some twelve miles from Stackallan.
Some of the evidence pointing to possible genetic links to the Hugenots who settled in Ireland – and probably more specifically to those who settled in Duleek - may be summarised as follows: William Darlington Brownell, who was born in Dublin in 1849 and died in Spokane, Washington State in 1920, claimed that his Stackallan family settled in Ireland from France in about 1600; in 1922 his niece recorded that she had been told by her mother, Johanna Brownell, that the family was of English and French ancestry; French Lane in Stackallan is said to owe its name to the Hugenot link; and the village cemetery, where members of the Brownell family have their final resting place, was apparently referred to within the community as the Frenchmen’s cemetery.
With the passage of time, and in the absence of unambiguous supporting evidence, any claim to a pure French or pure English ancestry is, at best, tenuous. If, indeed, the Brownell family has both French and English blood coursing through its veins, it is simply something extra to celebrate.