This unusual and interesting name with variant spellings "Birkett" and "Birchett" is of Northern English Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a topographical surname which was used to denote residence by a grove of birch trees, or by a birch-covered headland. The name derives from the Old English pre 7th Century elements "brice", birch, with "heafod", headland, or from the word "bricett" or "byrcett", meaning birch grove, a derivative of "birce". Many of the earliest English surnames were topographical in origin since either natural or man-made features in the landscape provided obvious distinguishing names. Some minor places including Birkhead near Troutbeck in Westmorland are named with the above elements, and may, in some instances, have given rise to the surname. On June 21st 1585 Essabell Birkhead and John Atkinson were married in Troutbeck, and on January 22nd 1587 Elizabeth Birkhead, an infant, was christened in Crosthwaite, Cumberland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John de Birkhaved, which was dated 1301, The Yorkshire Subsidy Rolls, during the reign of King Edward 1, 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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