Recorded in various spellings including Barrowman, Borrowman, Bowerman, Burkman, Burman, and others, this is an English surname, but one also well recorded in Scotland. It derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century "burhmann", meaning "inhabitant of a fortified town". The first element "burh" is itself derived from the Old High German "burg", which was the usual Germanic word for a fortification. In the Middle Ages any sizeable habitation had to be fortified, but in England the term "burg" came to be specialized to denote the site of a prehistoric hill fort.However the terms burkman was used to identify a person holding land or buildings by "burgage" (from the Latin "burgagium". This involved the payment of a fixed money rent (as opposed to money in kind); in Scotland it involved payment in service, usually guarding the town. Early examples of the surname recording in the church registers include Alexander Borowman of Edinburgh in 1468 and in Greater London the marriage of Robert Burman and Elizabeth Griffen, on June 22nd 1570, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Burman (Burghman), which was dated 1221, witnesss in the "Assize Rolls of Gloucestershire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216-1272. 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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