This most interesting and unusual surname may have derived from two possible origins, one Anglo-Saxon, the other Old French. It may be of English locational origin as a variant of "Birches", a hamlet in Cheshire and a seat (The Birches) in Worcestershire. The name may also be of Anglo-Saxon origin, as a topographical name for "a dweller by the birches". Both of these derive from the same Olde English pre 7th Century element "birce, byrce", a birch tree. Alternatively the name may be a variant of "Burges, Burgess", which derives from the Old French "burgeis", Middle English "burge(i)s", an inhabitant and freeman of a town, especially one with municipal rights and duties. They also usually had tenure of land or buildings from a landlord by "burgage". In medieval England this involved payment of a fixed money rent; while in Scotland it involved payment in service, guarding a town. Ralph le Burgeis is recorded in 1195 in the Pipe Rolls of Sussex, while Richard de Birches is mentioned in 1246 in the Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire. Margerie Burchess married Thomas Handie on January 20th 1616 at Blockley in Gloucestershire. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey Burgeis, which was dated 1115, in the "Book of Winton", Hampshire, during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. 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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