Recorded in the usual spellings of Birbeck and Birkbeck, this is an English locational surname. It derives from the tiny hamlet of Birkbeck Fells, near Appleby in the former county of Cumberland. This place was originally a Norse-Viking settlement of the 8th century, the village name deriving from the Norse 'birki - bekr' or the birch woods by the stream. Birbeck village is first recorded in 1496 during attempts by King Henry V11 to subdue the 'Border Country', and as part of the parish of Oxton its occupants were required to register there from 1595.However it maybe that the village suffered from 'clearance' in the late 16th century, whether this was a result of the continual border fighting or agriculture is not known, but in 1604 the name is suddenly registered in Newbiggin, see below. It is also shortly afterwards recorded in London, where over the years a wide variety of spellings developed, although these are all thought to be extinct. These variants included Andrew Burbeck who married at Tottenham on July 28th 1616, Michael Boarback, christened at St Botolophs Bishopgate in 1618, and George Birbrick at St Stephens, Coleman Street, in 1690. Other recordings include Jane Birkbeck of Kirkby Stephen on June 16th 1656, and James Birbick, of Bolton, Cumberland on June 21st 1704. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Christopher Birbeck, which was dated April 23rd 1604, a witness at Newbiggin, Near Appleby, during the reign of King James 1st of England and V1 of Scotland, 1603 - 1625. 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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