Recorded in many forms including Birch, Burch, Birk, and Burk (English & Irish), Birken, Birckmann, Birchner (German), Berckman and Van den Berch (Dutch and Flemish), Bjork, Bjorkan, Bjerkan and Bjorkman (Scandanavian & Swedish), this interesting surname is either topographical, occupational or locational. In England where most recordings are to be found, it may originate from a place called Birch in the county of Essex, the derivation being from the Olde English pre 7th century word "bryce" meaning breaking; and hence land made suitable for agriculture, or it may be from the villages of Birch Much and Birch Little in Herefordshire. These have a different derivation from the Olde English word "birce", meaning birch trees. Secondly, the name may be a topographical someone who lived by a birch tree or a birch wood, and thirdly occupational, either for a plowman or farmer, or a forester. Early recording examples include: Richard de Birches in the Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire in 1246; whilst in Germany we have the recording of Helmut Birkener of Engeltal in 1316. Recordings in other countries were much later, and in Scandanavia rarely before the 18th century. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Walter de la Birche. This was dated 1182, in the charters of King Henry 11nd, 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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