This is a northern form of the English topographical name "Birch", denoting someone who lived by a particular birch tree or by or in a birch wood. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "brice", meaning "birch (wood or tree), similar northern names survive in "Birkenhead" and "Birkbeck". The name development includes the forms "Johannes del Byrkes", (1372, Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire), "John del Byrches" (1394, Records Oxford University) and in 1741, Edward Birkes and Susanna Selby were married at St. Georges, Hanover Square. One Thomas Rawson Birks (1810 - 1883), was professor of moral philosophy at Cambridge from 1872, and wrote, among other works, "the Bible and Modern Thought", (1861). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard del Birkes. which was dated 1275, in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield. 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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