Many people have asked about the origins of the Norvells.The family maintained that they were of Scots origin.Little, however, is known about their early history.The family may have from Scotland, but there were Norvells in England as well.Some sources seem to suggest that they were originally in Scotland, but moved to England in the 16th century.
George Black's book, The Surnames of Scotland, New York, 1946, p. 632-633, says that Norvell is a shortened form of the name de Normanville. It dates back to 1190 when John de Normanville witnessed a grant of land by Bernard de Hauden. In 1200, Hugh de Normanville and Alicia, his wife, exchanged land. Various other land transactions involving de Normanvilles were recorded over the next century. The name signifies someone who lived in or near de Normanville. Scotland had two towns with this name. The earliest Norvells appear in Scotland about 1373, when Robert Norvyle witnessed the transfer of lands in Fife by Sir David de Wemyss.
John Norvaile and George Norvil appear in Perth about 1471, and Adam Norwald was a witness inPerth about 1574. Others: William Norwell, who represented Sterling in the Scottish Parliament from1568-1586; John Norvell, who was a Burgess of Sterling in 1596; Gilbert Norvell, Burgess of Aberdeen in 1605; Jon Norwall, a merchant Burgess and guild brother of Glasgow in 1619; Alexander Norwall, a notary in Carlulie in 1656.
The Norvells appear to have been a small family, and there a only a few records that mention the name.They lived in the Sterling area where they were low-landers and farmers, and followers of John Calvin, Protestant reformer of the Sixteenth Century, Vestrymen of the early Presbyterian Church, and followed the belief and practice of a very stern moral code.The low-landers suffered much from the raids of the highlanders of Scotland.They also suffered for being Protestants in a Catholic Scotland, and, as a result, their loyalty was with the Kings and Queens of England instead of their native Scotland.Sometime in the late Sixteenth or early Seventeenth century, the family moved to England, where they became a part of the early group that settled the Colony of Virginia in the New World.
The earliest Norvell in the New World appears to be William Norvell whom in 1619 had a plantation on land that became Isle of Wight County, Virginia. There was a plantation called "Oyster Banks," owned by William Norvell near the boundary of Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties in 1656, when the boundary line between the counties was run. Other early arrivals included: Richard Norvell, 1638; William Norvell, 1639; Peeter Norvell, 1647; Walter Norvell, 1650; Mary Norvell, 1653; in Warwick County; and Thomas Nowell in 1654 in Charles City.
THOMASNORVELL(NOWELL) (born1591-died ca. 1635) came to Virginia on the ship Margaret and John on January 24, 1624 with "6 bushels of corne, 3 pounds of powder, 1 peece [sic], 1 armour, and 1 sword."He died in Warwick County before August 17, 1635 where he was an original proprietor. He is thought to have married Mary Frye, either the sister or daughter of William Frye of James City County; Thomas and Mary lived on Skiff's Creek in 1630.Source:Adventurers of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/5, Virginia N. Meyer and John Frederick Dorman.
Thomas received a land-grant of 700 acres in Warwick County on the James River and 357 acres of land in James City County on the James River's north side. This was subsequently sold to Mrs. Lydia Norvell (the wife of John Norvell) on April 16, 1683 as recorded in the Land Office at Richmond.This is the area on Skiff's Creek that is still undeveloped land and may be visited.