There are two possible sources of this interesting medieval English name, the first being that it is a variant of Birkett a topographical name for someone who lived by a grove of birch trees, and a derivative of the Old English pre 7th Century "bircett", "byrcett", a birch tree. However it may also be a dialectal variant of "Burkett", itself from an Old English personal name, Burgheard, which is composed of the elements "burh", "burg" a fort and "heard", hardy, strong. The name was reintroduced into the Middle English by the Normans after the Invasion of 1066, in the forms "Bocard", "Bou(r)chart" and "Burkhard", a popular medieval German name. These two surnames have long been confused. The following examples illustrate the name development after the first recording (below) William atte Burchett (1296, The Subsidy Rolls, Sussex), Adam Byrchet (1296 ibid.) The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph atte Birchett, which was dated circa 1280, in the Placenames of Surrey. during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "the Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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