This name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name deriving from the place called 'Birkenshaw' near Wakefield in West Yorkshire. The placename is recorded in 1274 as 'Birkenschawe', and means 'the birch grove', derived from the Old English pre 7th Century 'bircen', an adjective formed from 'birce', birch (tree), with 'sceaga', copse, shaw, or grove. There are a number of modern surnames derived from this placename, and in most of them the 'r' is transposed, giving the vernacular (Yorkshire) pronunciation and therefore spelling of the name; Brokenshire, Brockenshaw, Brokenshaw, Bruckshaw, and Brigginshaw, with Burkinshaw, Burtonshaw, Burtenshaw and Birtenshaw. The development of the surname includes the following: Roger Birchynshawe (1408, London), Richard Brekynshawe (1500, Yorkshire). Examples of the name recording include Will Burtinshaw, a witness at St Anne's Greyfriars, London on september 29th 1595, the marriage of Constance Brokenshire and John Bernard on January 9th 1685 at St. James's, Dukes Place, London, and Katherine Penelope Burtonshaw at St Nicholas, Cole Abbey, London, on August 20th 1797. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William del Birkenschawe, which was dated 1274, in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, Yorkshire, 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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