Recorded as Birkett, Birkhead and the southern spelling of Brickett, this is an English medieval surname. Originally recorded in Northern England, it was either locational for somebody from the now diminished village known as Birket Houses, near Bowness on Windermere, Lancashire, or topographical for a person who lived on a headland covered by birch trees. The derivation is from either the pre 7th century "bircheneuet" or the similar "birce headfod", and the surname was first recorded in the early 14th Century (see below). Residential surnames of this style were amongst the first to be created as the easiest way to identify a person was to call him or sometimes her, after a local feature in the landscape. In this case other early recordings include John Birkehede, in the Register of the Freemen of the City of York, dated 1442, and Henry Brykett, recorded in the Subsidy Rolls of Suffolk in 1524, whilst in 1646, Miles Birkett of Winster, Lancashire, died and was entered in the Lancashire Wills Records, which were held in Richmond, Yorkshire, then the records depository for most of the north. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John de Birkhaved. This was dated 1301, in the Subsidy Tax rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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