This unusual name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and may be either a topographical or a locational surname. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "bircen", the genitive case of "birce", birch tree, with "halh", nook, recess, hollow, or valley; thus, "the hollow of the birches". In the northern counties of England, where this name is chiefly found, the latter element, "halh", developed a special meaning of "a piece of flat alluvial land by the side of a river, originally one deposited in a bend", and the term developed into the form of "haugh". The surname forms vary between this peculiarly northern and north Midlands term and the usually southern "hale", giving such variants as Birchenhaugh (1575, Cheshire); Byrchenhalghe (1584, ibid.); and Birchinall (1583, Nottinghamshire). As a topographical surname, Birtchnell denoted residence by or in "the birch hollow", and as a locational surname was derived from some minor, unrecorded, or now "lost" place, believed to have been situated in Cheshire. Examples of the surname from Church Registers include: the marriage of Mary Birtchnell and William Briggs on July 16th 1763, at Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire, and the marriage of George Birtchnell and Elizabeth Jelley at St. Martin in the Fields, London, on September 16th 1827. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Isaac Birchenough, which was dated August 9th 1527, witness to the christening of his daughter, Sarah, at Worth, Cheshire, during the reign of King Henry V111, known as "Bluff King Hal", 1509 - 1547. 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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