Recorded as Beardon, Beerdon, Borden, Burden, Burdon, and possibly others, this is an ancient English surname. One of the very first hereditary surnames recorded anywhere in the world, it has several possible origins. It is probably locational from the village of Great Burdon, in County Durham, or Burdon Head, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Both derive from the pre 7th century Olde English "burh" meaning a castle or fortress, and "dun" a hill. As shown below, very early examples of the surname recording, are to be found in these counties. However other possibilities also apply. These include a derivation from the Old French word "bourdon", introduced after the 1066 Norman Conquest. This word described a pilgrim's staff, and almost certainly meant a person who had caried out a significant pilgrimage probably to the Holy Land. The famous Knights Templar, the Crusaders, who spent most of two centuries trying to "free" Palestine from the Muslims, were most definately regarded as pilgrims, and it is probably significant that three bourdons appear on the early coat of arms of the family. Another possibility it that the the surname could be a metonymic for an early transport contractor, one who who operated a train of pack animals. Here the derivation is from the pre 7th century Anglo-Saxon word "burdo", meaning a pack animal, a beast of burden. The creation of surnames from nicknames was a common practice in the Middle Ages, and it is estimated that at least 20% of all English surnames were originally nicknames. Examples of the surname recordings taken from early rolls, registers, and charters include: Hugelus Boerdeyn in the register of the abbey of Ramsey, Norfolk, in 1052, and Roger Burdun in the Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire in the year 1166.
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